I talked to Dodger outfielder Milton Bradley on Tuesday.
I got the full conflicting treatment. I got the Milton Bradley that I like, smart and engaging, and the Milton Bradley, handcuffed and arrested on the edge of throwing away his baseball career, who thinks everyone is out to get him, especially the police, umpires and the media.
I got the Milton Bradley who said, "I don't have an anger-management problem," and the Milton Bradley who told me 10 minutes later that he not only had an anger-management problem and spoke regularly to a counselor, but that it was something he'd have to work on for "months and years."
I got the Milton Bradley who always has an excuse for losing control of his emotions, and the Milton Bradley who becomes upset when told the obvious: "You cannot put yourself in the position ever again where you're singled out for causing a problem."
Mt. Bradley's testy response: "This is what irritates the hell out of me -- you explaining to me that I can't do that. I know that. I don't need you to tell me that. You're the last person I really care about. I listen to my mother or someone close to me -- not an average journalist in the paper."
And we get along. He agreed to talk with me, and apparently no one else, because we've had these little chats periodically and I was the first to ask him why he's such a jerk at times. I told him Tuesday I thought he was a "dunderhead" for interfering with the police in Ohio, and he said, "I do too."
A few minutes earlier, he had described himself in almost noble terms, defending himself and explaining why he had gotten into the hassle with the police.
At one moment he's agreeable to being called a dunderhead, the next he's defiant in explaining why everyone has him all wrong. "The perfect imperfection," as Bradley described himself.
BY NOW, it's pretty well documented that Bradley has been bedeviled by his emotions. The latest incident occurred last week in Ohio after a traffic stop. Bradley said a female friend of his was riding as a passenger in the car behind him, which had been stopped by the police.
Copley Township Police Chief Michael Mier said the woman had been driving the car when stopped by one of his officers.
"There was one female in the car, by herself," Mier said in disputing the story Bradley had told the Dodgers.
Everyone agrees the woman had been drinking. Bradley said that she was a Columbia Law School student, a friend, and that he didn't want her to get in trouble and jeopardize her future. So he got out of his car to help.
"I came out with my arms outstretched to show the cops they didn't need to pull their weapons or anything like that, and I yelled, because I was 30 yards away, it was raining and there were cars whizzing by," he said. "The cop told me to get back in the car, and I didn't get in the car.
"I should have gotten back in the car; I know that," he said, the human teeter-totter leaning toward repentance this time. "But I didn't lose my cool. It was a very calculated scheme on my part. I had a friend, and she needed help. You help out a friend, regardless of the consequences."
Mier said Bradley used obscenity and "was somewhat challenging as he got closer" to the officer.
Bradley said, "I didn't break any law." And yes, he said, he told the officer to go ahead and arrest him. "Why not?"
I tried answering his stupid question, but he didn't want to hear it.
"I told him to arrest me," he said, "and you might think that's the dumbest thing, but it let me get my friend out of trouble. And it did."
He said he was heroic that night, while everyone else reading the newspaper was reminded of the ticking bomb playing for the Dodgers.
"There really shouldn't have been any headlines, because it was so ridiculously minor," he said. "I was speaking up as Milton Bradley, a friend, and not Milton Bradley the baseball player. My friends will be there long after baseball, and that's what is important to me.
"Morally, I don't believe I did wrong. Legally, I did the wrong thing."
Bradley said he would not have to appear in court -- he will be represented by counsel -- and all he must do is pay a small fine. The police did not believe the woman was intoxicated, and so she was not charged.
IF IT had been anyone else, it probably would have been treated as something ridiculously minor, but it's Bradley, a tightly wound stick of Dodger dynamite, who every once in a while explodes.
"Who is my anger hurting?" he asked. "Don't put me in the Ron Artest category or the Mike Tyson category. I was playing poker the other night with Marty McSorley, and I don't hit people over the head with a stick. Those are serious problems, biting people and running into the stands.