Thursday, May 6, 2010

Can Milton Bradley change?

I'm not into calling guys "good" or "bad". I leave that to preachers and politicians. What Milton Bradley does show is a narcissistic streak -- and what I mean by that is that in his eyes, he is at the center of the world. Umpires are out to get him. The media are out to get him. Everything is personal. Everything, in other words, is about him -- except when it comes to personal responsibility. He is unable to accept personal responsibility because it would mean that mistakes are somehow his fault. Given his inflated views of himself and his importance ("I'm the Kanye West of baseball"), taking the blame is not an option. It's the fans' fault. It's racism. It's pressure. It's unfair expectations.

The "positive" things you hear about Bradley also stem from this narcissm. You always hear how "he just wants to win". And he probably does. Narcissists are often ultra-competitive. And he lets everyone know just how hard he's trying and how badly he wants to win. He needs people to know. And because it seems like he's only being competitive, he can appear to be one of the guys when things are going well -- but when the team doesn't win, it cannot be his fault. So who's fault is it when the team loses? Everybody else's. He feels like he's trying but nobody else is -- or at least, nobody is trying as hard as he is. Eventually that kind of thing is going to alienate his teammates. If you follow Seattle, pay attention to Bradley's hyper-senstiveness to criticism, whether it's real or perceived (i.e. his reaction at getting taken out of the ballgame after striking out). Note his sense of entitlement. The Seattle organization has gone out of it's way to protect him. Yet he doesn't believe this is extraordinary. He believes (for now, anyway) that Seattle is the only team that has treated him "right". As if he somehow deserves this special attention. He's a handful, and in my opinion those kind of personalities are a drain on any organization they are a part of -- including, of course, a baseball team. This is true even when they are producing. And when they aren't producing, as the Cubs and other teams have had the misfortune to witness firsthand, they become a destructive force for the entire team.

Now Milton Bradley has finally asked for help. The temptation is to see hope that he has taken that first step but, given his narcissm, you have to be skeptical. Is he only doing this for his self-survival? He's an intelligent guy. Surely he realizes this may be his last chance. Is he sincerely asking for help or is he buying time? Is he just trying to give the impression that he is trying to change? My guess is that Bradley is only interested in seeking help because he wants to keep playing baseball. Sadly, it's not help he's seeking but, once again, he seeks the image of a guy who's "trying"; he seeks to let everyone know that once again he's "doing his best" -- and that, in my opinon, will be enough for him. Narcissm cannot be cured. At best, it can be managed. But given Bradley's history I have doubts as to whether he'll be able to manage himself effectively. And if he should fail once again, don't expect him to take the blame.

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