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Urban Responds to AN

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On July 20th, Sharon put up a diary about a column by Mychael Urban in the San Francisco Examiner that was a serious indictment of Milton Bradley's behavior. Many on AN, including myself, reacted with shock and anger because we didn't believe that Bradley had done anything to warrant the column.

Urban was a bit shocked by the reaction on AN and thus he wanted a chance to respond to some of the critiques, some of which were very personal in nature. In all likelihood, Mychael can't make this year's AN Day, so he's taking the opportunity to talk to ANers here.

Here is my quick question and answer session with Urban over email:

Blez: First of all, are you writing a regular column now for the Examiner?

Mychael Urban: Yes, I've been writing it for about a year and a half now. It appears every Thursday, and it's about baseball during the season and all sports in the offseason. One of the reasons the offer to write it appealed to me is the same reason I enjoy writing the mailbag you see on the A's site. As a beat writer, you're not to let your opinions on anything influence your work. The reader expects and deserves your complete objectivity, so you simply write about what was done, and what the doers have to say about it. And while we're all human, and by no means will I lie to anyone and say my opinion has NEVER seeped into something I've written as a part of the beat work, I think all of us on the A's beat do a pretty good job with objectivity. Wrting something like a column or a mailbag, however, allows you to be subjective and voice your opinions. It's a different, more creative outlet, and it obviously makes you more of a target to people who disagree with your opinions. I get that, and I understand completely why some of your readers bashed me; I went after one of their guys. They disagreed. That's fine. The personal attacks were a bit much -- some of them were pretty funny, though --and that's part of the territory, too. As far as the characterizations of me being a bitter failed athlete, I'll say this. :Sure, I pitched in college and would have loved to play at the next level, but I came to grips with my relative lack of talent in that arena while I was still in it, and anyone who knows my body of work knows I don't randomly atttack people. And no, I'm not gunning for a newspaper job or a full-time radio gig. I like it at MLB.com; we celebrate baseball, and not many media outlets do much of that anymore. But it's nice to get out of that box once a week and write what's on my mind.

Blez: What inspired you to write the column? Was it something said to you in the clubhouse?

Urban: I saw a player with a history of meltdowns have two pretty major public meltdowns in less than a week, and I'm privvy to several private ones over the course of the season that I won't get into for obvious reasons, so I felt he needed to be called out for the inappropriateness of his actions. Put it this way: I wouldn't write something like that if I wasn't positive that what I was writing was legit, was sourced well, and wouldn't compromise the many relationships I've spent years building. And for the conspiracy theorists on your site, it wasn't a message from the front office to Bradley's agent or anything of the sort. It was me seeing a situation that might be getting out of hand and shedding some light on it. I felt like he was embarrassing himself and the organization, and just as my opinions are fair game to the masses, so are the actions of highly paid professionals to columnists paid to put their opinions out there.

Blez: A lot of people on the site seem to have the impression that you have it in for Milton Bradley. How would you respond to that?

Urban: I'd point to my constant defense of the trade for Bradley prior to the Baltimore episode. Bradley's not big on talking -- especially when things don't go his way -- and that certainly gets frustrating at times because beat writers depend on the principals of any given night's action to give life to their stories. But I don't "have it in" for him at all. If people want to think I do, I can't do anything about that. You're talking to a guy who's been blown off a million times, by athletes as insignificant as Jeremy Giambi. If I had an axe to grind against everyone who's blown me off, I'd be chopping for years.

Blez: Do you think the column was fair to Bradley who from all appearances hasn't done much to bring on that kind of column in many people's opinion?

Urban: Fair? Hell, yes, it was fair. It certainly wasn't untrue. Was it harsh? Yeah, absolutely. But deservedly so in MY opinion, and that's what this was: MY opinion, based on a lot of supporting evidence. Look, I'd have loved to have gotten Bradley's take on everything before writing the piece. I even went to him privately that day in Baltimore trying to do so. But he wouldn't talk, so I went with what I had, and what I had was that there are/were people in that clubhouse who are/were concerned that if the kind of behavior he displayed in Boston and Baltimore went unchecked, it could lead to bigger problems down the road.

Blez: Unnamed sources have been a part of journalism since the profession began, but the big question is whether you heard the comment about people being tired of Bradley from multiple sources?

Urban: Yes, but my one regret is suggesting that the whole team was tired of his act. I didn't talk to everyone on the team. And one of your readers made a great point I might have made myself: The baseball season is a grind, and even the best of friends get tired of each other when they're in close quarters for a long period of time. But make no mistake: At the time, there were plenty of concerned parties who thought something needed to be done. Has something been done? I don't know. And if it has, I doubt we'll ever know.

Blez: Anything else that you'd like to add about the column that you'd like ANers to know?

Urban: Hmmm. Well, I will say I was surprised by the heated reaction to it. But like I said, getting bashed is part of the territory. I stand behind what I wrote, and I'm certainly in the A's clubhouse enough for anyone there who had an issue with it to confront me about it. But I've seen Milton since the column came out, and I've spoken to Billy and a lot of other players. The column hasn't come up, and nothing has changed as far as my working relationships in the room are concerned, so that's good enough for me. If I lost the respect of some of your passionate members, I guess I have to just wear it -- just like I'll continue to wear the earring I was hammered for. You've got some clever folks, Blez. Mean as hell, but clever. Thanks for letting me respond to some of them, and thanks to the people who came to my defense.

Blez: Thanks for being willing to talk to us about it.