Milton Bradley was designated for assignment--cut, in layman's terms--by Oakland Thursday in a surprising move, leaving the A's without one of their top position players in the thick of a playoff race.
What do we make of this? Athletics Nation thinks this move is just bizarre enough that we should trust GM Billy Beane's judgment, because he's going against conventional wisdom. Of course, Beane has never been one to run with the crowd, preferring instead to stay one step ahead of them at all times.
That said, I can only remember one move Beane has made as that puzzled me as much as this one: his 2002 trade of Jeremy Giambi for journeyman John Mabry. Giambi was clearly a more valuable player than Mabry at the time; he was coming off a 2001 line of .283/.391/.450, and hitting .274/.390/.471 in 2002. Meanwhile, Mabry was a sub-.300 OBP waiting to happen at a key offensive position.
You may remember how this played out. Mabry raked in his first month as an Athletic, and Beane drew widespread praise for recognizing his "breakout potential." Mabry eventually settled back to his established level of production, while Giambi finished his Phillies career with a .973 OPS, not bad at all.
Only later was it revealed that Beane dealt Giambi just to get rid of him following a series of incidents on team flights, a story immortalized in Michael Lewis' Moneyball. All the analysts who tried to invent an explanation for the trade were wrong, and one hot month did not make John Mabry into the new Mark McGwire.
Back to Bradley. Like Giambi, he has a history of off-field (not to mention on-field) incidents. Did he commit another transgression, this one the straw that broke the camel's back? Did Beane just not want to waste space on the 40-man roster for a player who would miss a large part of the season with injuries? Was the outfield picture too crowded?
No one outside the Oakland organization knows for sure at this point. I can guarantee you one thing, though: If Kevin Melillo--the infielder who was called up to take Bradley's roster spot--gets off to a hot start in the bigs, Beane is going to be praised for this bold move, because results are all that really matter to some people.