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The Milton Bradley situation

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The recent Milton Bradley situation with the San Diego Padres has become quite bizarre.

Bradley is out for the year with a torn ACL.

How did Bradley tear his ACL? Be restrained by the first base coach during an argument with an umpire:

Bradley reached on a two-out single, then said something to umpire Mike Winters. During the course of Kevin Kouzmanoff's at-bat, it escalated into an argument and Padres manager Bud Black came running out.

Bradley went after Winters, was restrained by first base coach Bobby Meacham, then was ejected. Bradley continued to go after Winters. Black tired to restrain Bradley, grabbing him by the jersey and pushed him to the ground. Bradley grabbed his right knee and had to be helped off the field.

And what started the argument is currently in dispute:

The situation that triggered the ugly incident actually took place in the fifth, when plate umpire Brian Runge called Bradley out on strikes to end the inning. Bradley lingered at the plate - much as he did Sept. 4 in Arizona when he was ejected by Phil Cuzzi - before removing his gloves. As he turned to move toward the field, he flung his bat to the ground, but not in the direction of Runge.

Bradley and Runge agreed on what happened during the first exchange in the eighth. The umpire asked Bradley, "Did you throw your bat at me?" They also agreed that Bradley's response was: "No."

Bradley said he then asked Runge if that's what Winters had told Runge.

"I said, 'No, No.' " Runge told The Associated Press. "I told (Bradley) I didn't think he had (thrown the bat at me). I told him to calm down."

Then, shortly after Bradley arrived at first base via a single, he and Winters were exchanging barbs that, according to Padres first-base coach Bobby Meacham, were inflammatory on the umpire's part.

Bradley said Winters called him "a (expletive) piece of (expletive)."

Said Meacham: "In my 26 years of baseball, that was the most disconcerting conversation I have heard from an umpire to a player. The way Winters responded was bizarre. It was almost like he wanted to agitate the situation.

"I was appalled. That's why the game stopped."

Meacham moved toward the foul line and turned toward Winters from the distance of about 10 feet.

"I couldn't believe what I was hearing," said Meacham. "Milton did not use foul language. The umpire, absolutely. He called Milton a name (apparently after Bradley had pointed in the direction of a fan who was booing Winters). That's when I stepped on the field and said, 'You cannot do that.'

"Even before that, I was saying this is wrong, this is ridiculous. The name that Winters called Milton, had he said it to me, I would have rushed him. No one is going to take that."

Asked whether what Winters said had racial overtones, Meacham, who, like Bradley, is black, replied, "It smacked of that tone."

After the game, Froemming did not make Winters available to the media.

Meacham said when Winters told the other members of the crew what had happened, "he lied."

"Milton held his cool until something was said by Winters that would have had me sprinting at the umpires," said Meacham. "Me, Milton and Todd Helton (the Rockies' first baseman) are the only three people who know what was said."

And what does Helton have to say?

Helton took the baseball equivalent of the Fifth Amendment, saying, "It was very interesting."

Unbelievable. And it puts Helton in a very bad spot, because if he backs up Meacham's and Bradley's version of the story, it could end up putting a target on his back with the rest of the umpires.

Buster Olney says someone should be suspended -- either Bradley or Winters, whomever it is determined is lying -- but with Bradley now likely out for much of 2008 with the ACL tear, a suspension for him may be moot.

Olney also has this interesting tidbit:

The backdrop for this, by the way, is that there are some Padres who believe -- rightly or wrongly -- that umpires have been particularly tough on them since they were taken over by Sandy Alderson, who used to have the responsibility of umpire oversight when he worked for central baseball.

Winters has been a major league umpire since 1990, and I'm not aware of any past controversial episodes with him.