Bradley meant no harm to broadcaster
Fiery Rangers slugger feels misunderstood by fans, media
KANSAS CITY -- Texas general manager Jon Daniels insists he didn't have to restrain Milton Bradley when he ran upstairs on Wednesday night.
"Look at this guy," Daniels said, pointing to Bradley. "How could a 170-pound guy take him?"
Bradley smiled but didn't laugh. On the morning after Bradley went upstairs and tried to confront Royals TV broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre for making comments about him on the air, everyone in the clubhouse was in a light mood, including Bradley.
He wasn't in the lineup for Thursday's game. Manager Ron Washington said he just wanted to give him rest before a series with the New York Mets. The Rangers won't take any disciplinary action.
That's good with Bradley, who maintains he meant no harm. For him, his actions weren't just about one broadcaster's comments. It was more than that. Bradley acknowledges he hasn't done everything right in his career, but he still feels he gets treated unfairly.
His teammates, general manager and manager vouch for him. He says all he's doing is playing with emotion. And more than anything, he knows his mom watches the games, and he doesn't want her to hear a stranger talk negatively about her son.
"I'm just kind of beat down," Bradley said. "I feel like I've been in a heavyweight fight."
All Bradley wanted to do was introduce himself. That's why he ran up those stairs, he said.
Earlier during Wednesday's game, he was in the clubhouse checking the video of one of his at-bats when he heard his name all of a sudden. Bradley shifted his attention to Lefebvre's voice on the TV. Lefebvre and his partner, Frank White, were talking about Josh Hamilton when Lefebvre called it a shame that Bradley hadn't turned his life around in a similar fashion. He went on to mention incidences of Bradley taunting fans and walking from the dugout to his position in right field.
Bradley thought the comments were uncalled for and out of place. His thoughts turned to his mother, Charlena Rector, who he said was watching the game at home in Long Beach, Calif.
She always watches. Rector even listens to talk radio sometimes. A few days ago she heard something about her son and started to ask Bradley about it. Bradley just told her not to bring it up. He knew Lefebvre's comments would have a similar effect.
"I know she's sitting at home," Bradley said, "and it's tearing her up inside because somebody who's never met me is saying I do these things."
Minutes after the game, Bradley stood in front of a desk outside the Royals' TV booth in a gray muscle shirt. In his words, this is what happened:
He asked the security guard at the desk if Lefebvre was up there. The security guard said no. Bradley saw Lefebvre straight ahead and told the security guard he'd wait for him. The conversation went down in a normal tone. Bradley said he wasn't angry.
"He never met me, so, when the game was over, I wanted to introduce myself to him," Bradley said. "Because it's amazing when you actually meet somebody how different they become."
After the conversation with the security guard, Daniels was upstairs and brought Bradley back down to the clubhouse with him.
On his way down, Bradley saw a cop in the stairwell with a gun. Another one followed him to the bus after he left the clubhouse. Two more waited by the bus.
"When I went to the bus the other night, no cops," Bradley said. "If anything, I need cops following me because of the crazy stuff I get from fans, and death threats and stuff I get in the mail. It just really wears on you."
Rangers broadcaster Josh Lewin once made a few negative comments of his own about Bradley. It was in 2006, and Bradley was a member of the Oakland A's.
Bradley never forgot them and let Lewin know early on during this year's Spring Training. Lewin barely even remembered what he had said.
"I was kind of taken aback," Lewin said. "I felt genuinely bad I had put such a negative feeling in him."
Both Lewin and Bradley say they're cool now. Lewin even calls Bradley the Dr. Pepper of ballplayers, comparing how Bradley has such a diverse personality to Dr. Pepper's variety of 23 flavors.
Lewin didn't find that out until he met him though. Before then, he had to go on things he'd heard or seen. That included Bradley's on-field incidents, such as when he tore his ACL while in an altercation with an umpire last year, or when he tossed a bag of balls onto the field in 2004, or when he was suspended for five games after taunting fans three months later.
"If I went out there and did everything cookie-cutter perfect, I'd have no edge," Bradley said. "That's how I do everything or I wouldn't be around."
Bradley's teammates like his fiery personality. Hamilton, pitcher Kevin Millwood and outfielder David Murphy only had positive words for Bradley. They think Bradley is an emotional team spark plug.
"Nobody in here is looking for him to change," Murphy said. "We kind of feel that he is perceived unfairly, but every guy on this team has his back regardless of what happens."
Bradley is leading the team in batting average right now, hitting .333 with 14 home runs and 45 RBIs. The Rangers have been hovering around .500 all season.
"He's added fire that we needed last year, and he makes us a much better team," Millwood said. "You're not going to walk through a Major League season. When he gets emotional, it helps the rest of the team."
Bradley still hasn't introduced himself to Lefebvre. He doesn't plan on it now.
But he does have an idea, something that he wanted Lefebvre to discuss on Wednesday and something that he wants all the TV personalities and other media members to focus on. Bradley wants them to talk about his play.
He wants them to mention his early season numbers and how he's battled back so quickly from knee surgery. He wants them to discuss his team's record.
Yet, Bradley knows what he's done in the past. This latest incident likely won't ingratiate himself to any media members or fans. Right now, his team and those who know him well are all he has to back him up.
"What I do want as manager of Texas Rangers," Washington said, "is for Milton Bradley to be who he is, nothing more, nothing less. We accept him and it doesn't matter if anybody on the outside does."
But those perceptions still evidently hurt Bradley, and he knows people will continue to talk about his past instead of his comeback. He'd like to change them but ...
"I can't," he said.
Mark Dent is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.