MESA, Ariz. — Cubs general manager Jim Hendry says Milton Bradley should stop blaming the team, manager and fans for his failure to produce during his tumultuous season in Chicago.
“I think it’s time maybe Milton looked himself in the mirror,” an agitated Hendry said Wednesday in response to Bradley’s latest charges that he was mistreated by the Cubs.
“He just didn’t swing the bat,” Hendry said. “He didn’t get the job done. It’s really unfortunate that you … try to use the other areas for excuses.”
Hendry said signing Bradley to a three-year, $30 million contract before last season was “a mistake.” He added the atmosphere of the entire organization has improved since the outfielder was traded to Seattle in December. Several players have said clubhouse chemistry has improved.
Bradley, who batted .257 with 12 homers and 40 RBIs last season, was regularly booed at Wrigley Field. He told ESPN in an interview that aired Tuesday that he was fearful of racist fans in Chicago and was “a prisoner in my own home.”
Bradley said Chicago was a difficult place for black players “unless you’re Superman, you’re Andre Dawson, you’re Ernie Banks, you’re in the Hall of Fame.”
He also said manager Lou Piniella should have apologized in front of the team instead of in private for a disparaging remark Piniella made during a game in June.
“I apologized to Milton,” Piniella said Wednesday. “I did the best I could. I’m human like everybody else. I bent over backward to make it as comfortable as I possibly could.
“I don’t know why we’re revisiting these things. I’m very pleased with the personnel we have here, with the chemistry we have here, and I’m looking forward to a really good season.”
The Cubs, who won 97 games and the NL Central title in 2008, went 83-78 and missed the playoffs in 2009. Hendry suspended Bradley for last season’s final two weeks after a verbal altercation with hitting coach Von Joshua.
Asked by ESPN if some of the hate mail he received while in Chicago might have come from within the organization, Bradley said: “I would hope not. Who knows? I don’t know.”
Hendry said the notion was “absolutely ridiculous.” In his numerous discussions with Bradley last season, the GM said the player never once voiced concerns about hate mail from within.
Bradley said that one of the few times he ventured out into the city, he was at a restaurant and overheard “a guy badmouthing myself and (Alfonso) Soriano, saying how bad we were … and that we should go back to the ghetto we came from.”
Soriano, a Dominican in his fourth season with the Cubs after signing a $136 million contract, has been booed at games when he’s struggled but otherwise said he hasn’t been confronted by fans.
Soriano criticized Bradley several times last season and said Wednesday his ex-teammate should stop talking about the Cubs.
“You can’t bring the past back to the present,” Soriano said. “Move on. 2010 is here.”
Ryan Dempster, a white pitcher, was booed mercilessly when he was blowing saves as the closer in 2007. As a successful starter the last two years, he has become a fan favorite.
“They’re fans. They pay for their tickets and have every right to boo,” Dempster said. “At the same time, they love their Cubs and they’re very forgiving people. They just want you to do well because if you’re doing well, the team’s doing well.”
Although other recent black players such as LaTroy Hawkins and Jacque Jones said they felt uncomfortable at Wrigley Field, Hendry said the Cubs have a long history of being popular with players of all races and nationalities.
Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez recently told reporters they hope to sign new contracts with the Cubs. Hendry also noted that new Cubs Marlon Byrd and Kevin Millar have the same agent as Bradley. Lee and Byrd are black, Ramirez is Latino and Millar is white.
Byrd said he talked at length with Bradley, a good friend, before signing a three-year contract. Byrd nonetheless said he expects to have a great time in Chicago.