It’s a sad week when one of the Bay Area’s most respected sports executives is forced to publicly respond to allegations of racism leveled by one of the Bay Area’s least-respected columnists, but that’s where we are.
In case you missed it, the aforementioned columnist essentially accused A’s general manager Billy Beane of cutting ties with outfielder Milton Bradley because he was black.
It was shocking, to say the least. And Beane fired back with an on-the-money letter to the newspaper in which the column appeared. The newspaper printed Beane’s letter Wednesday and the offending column has been pulled from the newspaper’s Web site.
To say that Bradley was cut loose because he’s black is ludicrous, irresponsible, uninformed and just plain dumb.
Bradley was cut loose because (a) he was on the disabled list five times in less than nine months over two seasons, (b) he was caught up in a numbers crunch in the outfield and didn’t want to be a part-time player and (c) he was a headache in the clubhouse, a complex and volatile personality that never quite meshed with Oakland’s free-and-easy vibe.
Granted, the A’s haven’t had a ton of black players over the years and they’ve been called out on that point a few times. But there’s never been a shred of evidence suggesting that Beane builds his roster based on anything other than winning games.
Terrence Long was being groomed as the club’s center fielder of the future a few years ago before his dramatic dropoff in production led to a trade. David Justice was brought in to provide veteran leadership in 2002 and was practically a god in the clubhouse; Ray Durham was acquired in a trade that year and helped the A’s reach the playoffs.
Mark McLemore was a team leader in 2004, the same year Arthur Rhodes was brought in as the new closer; Rhodes flamed out and was eventually shipped out. Ron Gant was acquired twice, in 2001 and 2003, and also was a leader. Billy McMillon and Chris Singleton were respected role players in 2003. Jermaine Dye was acquired in 2001, given a big contract extension and stayed through 2004.
Charles Thomas was one of the players the A’s got from Atlanta for Tim Hudson before the 2005 season and opened the season on the big-league roster. Freddie Bynum was a top prospect who made it to the bigs in 2005 before being traded to the Chicago Cubs.
Jay Payton was a valuable member of the 2005 and ’06 teams, the best player on last year’s team was Frank Thomas and an underrated contributor this season has been Shannon Stewart.
All of them are black and they wore the green and gold because Beane thought they could help the A’s win.
Sometimes he was right. Sometimes he was wrong. Never was he motivated by color.
Mychael Urban is the author of “Aces: The Last SeasonOn The Mound With The Oakland A’s Big Three — Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito” and a writer for MLB.com. He also hosts the weekend edition of “Sportsphone 680” on KNBR (680 AM).
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