It’s been one of the more predictable and boring storylines early in camp, as referenced here and here, and Derrek Lee has already had enough. During an appearance on a Chicago radio show, the Cubs first baseman said the following regarding the Byrd-Bradley comparisons:
“It’s ridiculous,” Lee told Bruce Levine and Jonathan Hood on ESPN
1000’s “Talkin’ Baseball” Saturday morning. “If it was a white guy who
came over [to the Cubs] would he be [called] the ‘anti-Milton Bradley’?
It just makes no sense. Marlon’s a completely different guy. He wasn’t
traded for Milton. He signed here as a free agent, so why even bring
Milton Bradley’s name into it? It really makes no sense and it’s just,
again, the media trying to make something out of nothing.”
It would be pretty reckless to couple Byrd with Bradley based solely on race, and I can’t say I’ve seen a lot of that in the press. They’ve been stressing the contrast, if anything. I can’t help but think that these comparisons were inevitable, even if the Cubs signed Rick Ankiel or Scott Podsednik, but the fact that the two were teammates in Texas plays into this, at least a little bit.
While this is ultimately a needless distraction, Lee laments that comments by former Cubs Bradley and Jacque Jones could keep other African-American players away from Chicago:
“It’s definitely not a positive when you’re looking at coming to
Chicago,” Lee said. “But I think overall, the positives do outweigh the
negatives and we’re baseball players, so we’re pretty good at kind of
blocking out all of that outside stuff and focusing on in between the
lines. And in between the lines, Chicago’s a good place to play.”
Kerry Wood recently acknowledged that he personally witnessed African-American players who received hate mail during his time with the Cubs, but it would be very dangerous to single out Chicago when we know that this goes on in other places. We just don’t hear about it.