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Inquiry Launched in Bradley Incident

Dodger center fielder, who Tracy says was provoked into exchange with umpire, could face suspension.

June 03, 2004|Jason Reid and Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writers

Milton Bradley's latest on-field altercation with an umpire has drawn the attention of the commissioner's office, which is investigating the Dodger center fielder's conduct in an incident in Tuesday's 4-1 loss to Milwaukee at Dodger Stadium.

Bob Watson, baseball's administrator in charge of on-field discipline, said Bradley could face disciplinary action for his behavior during and after a heated exchange with home plate umpire Terry Craft that followed a sixth-inning ejection. Among other things, Bradley retrieved a bag of balls from the dugout and dumped them near the third-base bag, delaying the game for several minutes.

Dodger Manager Jim Tracy said Tuesday the umpire crew, headed by chief Joe West, provoked Bradley, trying to assert its authority over a player who has had numerous run-ins with umpires in the minors and majors.

"I'm looking into everything," Watson said Wednesday. "I'm going to talk to everyone involved, and really look at what precipitated all of this. I want to see what led to the young man's actions during the game."

Watson declined comment on whether Bradley might be suspended but did not rule it out. Bradley was ejected earlier this season after disputing a called third strike and nearly was tossed after another argument.

Watson, who in 1999 selected Bradley to play for an Olympic qualifying team, said he planned to interview West, Craft, General Manager Paul DePodesta and Tracy as well as review the umpires' report and a videotape of the incident. Bradley was not on Watson's list because players cannot be interviewed without a union representative, Watson said.

Watson said he hoped to complete the investigation and announce a decision today or Friday.

"Obviously, this is something that would get the attention of this office," Watson said.

Bradley yelled at Craft after being ejected before his at-bat, prompting Tracy to race from the dugout and shield Craft from the increasingly heated Bradley, who repeatedly pointed at the umpire across Tracy's body.

Tracy contended that Craft had instigated the incident, but Craft said Bradley brought the ejection upon himself after yelling about calls from the dugout while the Dodgers batted in the fifth inning.

"When [Bradley] came to bat in the sixth inning," Craft said, "I simply walked up to him and I said, 'Milton, was that you yelling at me from the dugout? If it was, I would think twice next time about doing that.' That's all I said. He didn't answer. And then he went into this tirade about balls and strikes, so I ejected him."

Bradley removed his helmet and batting gloves, placing them with his bat near home plate. West, working at second base, confiscated the equipment, prompting Tracy to engage West in a fiery exchange that resulted in Tracy's first ejection of the season.

Several Dodger players took exception to West's request to speak with Bradley in the top of the inning. West motioned for Bradley to come to him as Bradley jogged from his spot in center to the dugout, players said, but Bradley ignored West.

The Dodgers said West confiscated Bradley's equipment in West's ongoing effort to "show up" Bradley. West and Craft returned Bradley's bat, batting gloves and helmet to co-clubhouse manager Mitch Poole before Wednesday's game against Milwaukee.

West said he took the equipment for evidence purposes only, adding Bradley would be subject to a fine for an "equipment violation."

"We confiscated the bat because no one went to pick it up, No. 1," West said. "And the way the players association has been handling the appeals and everything, we wanted the office to know that we had fined him for an equipment violation, and we had the equipment if they wanted it in their office. We called the office and they said, 'No, we have a film on it, give it back to him.' "

The Dodgers said Craft appeared to force the issue as Bradley went to bat in the sixth, dusting off the plate and waiting for Bradley in the batter's box. Bradley and DePodesta declined to comment. Tracy spoke generally about the situation, saying he made his views clear to Watson.

"I saw a number of things take place that, to me, was very definitely out of the ordinary from what I've seen over the course of four years managing this team with any of the other umpiring crews that you would like to mention," Tracy said. "I told the [commissioner's office] how I viewed it, how I saw it, what took place, how I was involved in it."

Craft, who had ejected Bradley for arguing balls and strikes when Bradley played for Montreal, expressed disappointment about Tracy's comments.

"For Jimmy to accuse me of setting him up, I disagree with that; that wasn't my intention," Craft said. "I even told Jimmy when he came out, I said, 'Jimmy, I wasn't trying to set the guy up.' I was just trying to make my point that yelling from the dugout is not acceptable.

"[Bradley] had some choices there. He could have chose to ignore me, and that would have been fine. He could have chosen to apologize, he could have chosen to say, 'Well, I disagree with your call, but it's behind us.' There's a lot of things he could have said other than what he did that wouldn't have warranted an ejection."

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