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Bradley Is Sorry, but He's Suspended

Outfielder won't appeal penalty, which keeps him out for the rest of regular season. Dodgers say he would play in the postseason.

September 30, 2004|Jason Reid | Times Staff Writer

Major League Baseball acted swiftly Wednesday in response to Milton Bradley's latest anger-management incident, suspending the Dodger outfielder for the remainder of the regular season.

Bradley apologized to fans and announced he would seek help to control his emotions.

Bob Watson, baseball's administrator in charge of on-field discipline, handed down a significant penalty against Bradley for the second time in 2004, prohibiting him from participating in the Dodgers' final five games after the veteran threw back a plastic bottle into the stands and directed an expletive-laced tirade at fans Tuesday during a 5-4 victory over the Colorado Rockies.

Bradley, 26, also took off his cap and jersey while walking in from right field after having been ejected, arguing with fans behind the Dodger dugout before eventually leaving the field. Dodger security personnel detained the man who allegedly threw the bottle. He was turned over to Los Angeles police officers, cited for throwing a plastic bottle on a field at a sporting event, an infraction punishable by fine, and released, officials said.

"This office obviously feels the ruling was appropriate or it wouldn't have been made," said Watson, who accelerated his usual investigation timetable. "As far as the ruling, I'm not going to comment on that now. This office will probably issue a statement on all of this in a few days."

Watson moved quickly to mete out punishment in the wake of the recent incident involving members of the Texas Ranger bullpen and fans in Oakland, suspending one of the Dodgers' key players with the team on the verge of winning its first National League West title in nine years. Bradley said he would not appeal the suspension, which he began serving Wednesday night as the Dodgers played the Rockies.

Bradley, also fined $15,000, does not forfeit pay from his $1.73-million contract. He would be available to play in postseason games if the team qualifies for the playoffs, and Manager Jim Tracy indicated the Dodgers plan to have Bradley back in the lineup as soon as possible.

"I want to apologize to the fans. I wish I could say I'm sorry to every one of them individually," said Bradley, surrounded by reporters and TV cameramen before Wednesday's game.

"From the bottom of my heart, I apologize for the outburst. I thought that I could deal with it by myself and that I had it all under control. Everything in my life, I've always just been able to handle it. An anger problem is just one of the things I can't handle by myself. I have to take the steps to get help with that so I can continue to be productive for the Dodgers, and just for myself in my life to be a productive person.

"Being upset has caused me to hurt my family, hurt my friends, hurt my team and the fans out there. I grew up a Dodger fan and rooting for the Dodgers. To allow myself to get out of my right frame of mind and confront someone that is just as passionate as me about the Dodgers is just very unfortunate."

The commissioner's office apparently ruled quickly because of its concern about fan-player confrontations and Bradley's history of on-field incidents, including four ejections this season. Although Dodger owner Frank McCourt denounced Bradley's actions, he applauded the switch-hitter's "courageous decision" to seek help.

"I think that that's a harsh penalty but I understand, on the other hand, the severity of the infraction," McCourt said. "We're not going to tolerate this from any player who wears a Dodger uniform. Having said that, we're here to support our players, particularly when they want the support and they want the help.

"Milton apologized. He recognized what he did was wrong and he is going to do something about it..... None of us are perfect. I know in my own life whenever I've needed help, and I've reached out and there's been somebody there to help me, I've benefited from it."

Although supportive, some of Bradley's teammates said they had grown weary of the distractions caused by his temper.

"Besides a teammate, I consider him my friend, and I want to sit down with him and talk to him if he'll let me," pitcher Jose Lima said. "I want to explain to him how this business is because what happened last night can't happen again.

"It's a distraction for us and we don't want him to get in trouble like this. What happened last night better stop or it's going to end his career and people are probably going to hate him. You don't want have your teammates against you."

Bradley was suspended for four games in June because of an on-field tirade in a game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Bradley has also broken numerous bats in anger after striking out.

"We need Milton on the field," closer Eric Gagne said. "Milton is a big reason why we're where we're at right now. We know he's trying really hard and he's matured a lot and learned a lot, but we need him out there."

Said third baseman Adrian Beltre: "You can't go over to the stands. You just can't do that."

Management defended Bradley after each incident, blaming his ejections on umpires who held grudges against Bradley, misunderstandings, opponents, etc. Tracy maintained things were fine when often questioned about whether anger counseling had been suggested to Bradley. Tracy revealed Wednesday he "had six to seven meetings" with Bradley about his temper.

"Until an individual, whatever the situation might be that they're dealing with, reaches the bottom and realizes that, 'Hey, there's obviously something else I need to do,' and is completely committed to wanting to do that, how successful is he going to be?" Tracy said. "It was wrong. He embarrassed himself and he embarrassed the organization. He realizes that and he admits as much. And now you have to move on."

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