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With the Padres moving on to more pressing matters, this seems like an old story already, but let’s continue the thread one last time.

Milton Bradley has been vindicated, to a degree. To use Bradley’s word earlier, umpire Mike Winters has been “reprimanded,” suspended by Major League Baseball for the rest of the regular season. So great, each man took down the other.

It’s childish to get into a game of “he started it,” so we won’t go there, but it takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong. I’m 5′ 9″, Bradley 6′ 0″. Winters, I’m not sure about. I blamed the whole mess on Bradley, and it’s clear now that he had company. I rushed to judgment.

But that’s as far as I’ll go. With Bradley, the Padres are getting exactly what they bargained for. I mean, exactly. It’s like what George Carlin said about “vuja-de,” not to be confused with deja-vu. You know, when “everything that’s happening now happened like this before.”

Neither man won in this battle. In fact, they both lost big-time. Mike Winters has some serious issues independent of any one ball player. Milton Bradley has some serious issues independent of any one umpire. Very serious issues. Neither man acted in any way which is even remotely acceptable in today’s society, let alone the workplace, and especially not in this type of workplace; especially not on television. You don’t handle disagreements with violence. Not unless you want the kind of result we’re looking at right now.

Both guys messed up, both are accountable, and now both find themselves on the shelf, with their entire careers affected. In Bradley’s case, his club’s season hangs in the balance. Kinda. The Padres have shown remarkable resilience in 2007, and from the looks of their performance in winning two of three in San Francisco, have already put the controversy behind them. No small thing.

But look, among the many lessons here is this: you simply cannot get yourself ejected at this time of year. You just can’t. Getting the heave-ho is never a good thing, but you just can’t leave your team a key man short at the climax of the season.

According to the Pads press office, the team’s players and manager have totaled 12 ejections during the season. While the club doesn’t track where the figure ranks against the rest of the National League, 12 is more than one team’s fair share.

Four games remain. My guess is the Padres will keep their full complement of players in check, focused as a team, with one goal in mind — a berth in the postseason. Perhaps it’s better that Milton Bradley isn’t available.

— HOWARD COLE

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