For whatever reason, I'm something of a Milton Bradley fan. I've been following his career since he was a prospect back with the Expos (remember when there was a team called the Expos?). Milton has bounced around a bit (more than a young player of his skills normally would.
That movement has been driven by some well-documented incidents. However, Bradley seems to have changed his ways. Read this story and if your perception of Bradley doesn't change, I'll be surprised.
That's why last night was so interesting for me. Bradley, like every other center fielder who has come into town to play the Marlins, was jeered and goaded throughout the game. Fans in the Fish Tank rode him harder than any other opponent all year. Their smack wasn't particularly clever (mostly just "MIL-TON" and "Milton sucks"), but it was loud and consistent. Another fan in the club section (towards left-center) was also apparently giving Mr. Bradley an earful. From my seats he couldn't be heard, but Bradley turned and gestured to him a few times - and the screaming fan seemed to be thinking of climbing over from his seats to go down to the field to discuss some matter with Bradley face to face (which would have been interesting, as the man was looking at a twenty foot drop - at least - from his seats to the field level; he was just above the scoreboard).
It figures that fans would ride Bradley harder than the others. Bradley is an interesting player with an interesting past. However, I would have been more impressed with the fans who taunted Bradley if they had come up with something more creative. If you're going to scream and yell all night, there are easy opportunities to make Milton Bradley board game manufacturer jokes. No one went there. No one went after Bradley's much publicized incident last year with fans in the crowd at Dodger Stadium. No one went after Bradley's tantrum with Indians management which led to him being shipped out West. No one mocked Bradley for his long history of arguments with umpires, which led to him spending more time in the minors (back when he was an Expo) than a player of his talents would normally serve. Instead, fans just kept it simple and chanted his name. Pretty vanilla.
But Bradley had fun with it all the same. He tipped his cap to the fans regularly. He turned and waved when folks screamed that they wanted to take his picture.
Late in the game, when Bradley made a catch right in front of the fence (and thousands of fans), the booing and chanting became particularly loud. Before he returned to his position in the outfield, Bradley stood there for a moment and soaked in the jeers. A moment later he turned around and mockingly glared (with his arms folded across his chest). Bradley couldn't hold the pose for long though and quickly turned around and jogged back to his position, clearly laughing the whole way back.
There was even one point where fans were yelling something specific at Bradley. It was about how he had the fingers on his throwing hand taped (it did look pretty unusual). Fans were commenting to Bradley about how pretty his hand looked. After this went on for a short while, Bradley raised his hand and showed off his fingers to the crowd, as if he was showing off a nice manicure.
It was an interesting perspective of Milton Bradley. He handled the harrassment quite well. I can see though how at times the constant jeering can push him (or me or anyone) over the edge. It's constant. It's loud. It's personal (while nothing was overly specific, the constant chants about his mother and his family must start to wear on him eventually). Milton may add to it by playing back. I'm really not sure. Not many outfielders play back. And when Milton does, I'm not sure that the folks he's playing with realize that he's just playing and laughing about it all. They probably think that they're "getting to him". Eventually they may actually do that, but I don't think that Bradley shows up to the park in a surly mood or looking to fight a fan