Five Days Isn’t Enough Time for Him to Get a Grip
Always on the cutting edge of sports medicine, the Dodgers delved into anger management Wednesday, endorsing a controversial new treatment.
Take five days off, then stand for two hours in front of 50,000 jeering strangers.
Spend five days working on years of frustration, then rush back to a job where everyone fails at least two-thirds of the time.
Penance until the playoffs.
It was noble of Milton Bradley to show up at Chavez Ravine, publicly apologize, and acknowledge that he will seek help controlling his anger.
It was smart of owner Frank McCourt to show up next and offer to support him in his attempted rehabilitation.
But how risky for the Dodgers -- and fans everywhere -- to believe that anyone can even begin to curb an anger problem in less than a week.
The league has mandated a five-game suspension. The Dodgers could have made it indefinite, holding Bradley out until they are satisfied he has a better grip on the pressure that admittedly torments him.
Maybe that would be until the middle of next week. Maybe that would be until next season.
But at least it would be a decision for the long term, involving the sort of careful treatment and evaluation that would accompany any other psychological or addiction treatment.
Instead, we have In ‘N’ Out Rehab.
“From my point of view, anyone would need more than five days,” said Dr. Michael Levittan, a Century City psychotherapist specializing in anger management. “We can get him some tools, but you can’t change in five days. Within three months, you may see some change in behavior, but not five days.”
And during that rehabilitation?
“I would ask someone to avoid surrounding himself with the stimulus that causes the reaction,” said Levittan.
Let’s see, in the next few weeks, Bradley could be surrounded by beer-chugging stimuli in St. Louis, or curse-bombing stimuli in Chicago, and eventually even bleacher-creature stimuli in New York or Boston.
Is this healthy for him?
Is this safe for the fans?
These are questions the Dodgers answered with a careful nod Wednesday, placing themselves on a liability tightrope in hopes of prolonging the circus.
Good luck to them, because if this doesn’t work and Bradley snaps on national television and someone gets hurt, it’s a long way down.
“I don’t think there’s a risk whatsoever,” McCourt said. “I saw Milton for three, almost four months, be a model citizen.”
Except when was decorating the field in baseballs, or breaking more bats than anyone in recent Dodger history, or screaming at fans in San Diego.
To call Bradley a model citizen this year is to grade on a curve, which was understandable, until he clearly flunked Tuesday night, stalking to the stands and slam-dunking a plastic bottle at the feet of stunned fans.
The fan who threw the bottle is a fool and should be prosecuted. But what Bradley did was scary and should be treated.
“I’ve got to take the steps to get help with that so that I can continue being a productive Dodger and ... a productive person,” Bradley said.
And how many steps can one take in five days?
Even Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson might chuckle at this one.
“I don’t know what they could do in five days,” said Mark Mitchell, a coach at Anger Management Associates in Playa del Rey. “In that short period of time, he would need a boot camp for calmness. He would need to be watched closely. If his anger starts to escalate, he would need to be pulled from the game.”
Yeah, right, in the seventh inning of a tie Game 7, the Dodgers are going to pinch-hit for Milton Bradley because he’s mad.
“The problem is, in the culture of sports, we encourage people to be aggressive and fanatical, both financially and socially,” said Mitchell.
While saying that they want to help Milton Bradley the person, the Dodgers are indeed reluctant to even temporarily shut the doors on Milton Bradley the business.
The anger that makes him so nuts is also the anger that has helped him, at times this season, play so great.
Monday against Colorado, did you see who was openly clapping in the on-deck circle when Adrian Beltre was intentionally walked in the ninth inning? It was an odd sight, but that’s Bradley, who then channeled that emotion into a game-winning hit.
The Dodgers love the good anger. They want desperately to squeeze at least one more month of it out of Bradley, and are willing to risk McCourt’s energized new foundation to do it.
Instead of flashing the stop sign Wednesday, they flashed the steal sign.
A young man and his demons will be running on the pitch.
Bill Plaschke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to latimes.com/plaschke.