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GIANTS STARTER Noah Lowry got an early hook on Monday against Washington.
SAN DIEGO — Milton Bradley is in contention, he's hitting .370, he's Oakland's huge loss and San Diego's monumental gain. He should be happy.

But Bradley is still hurt, very hurt, exceedingly hurt.

Not in a physical sense, (although he did leave the game Friday night in the sixth inning with another hamstring injury) but very much an emotional one as he reflects on his sour departure from the Athletics, a team with which he thought last year he might have found a permanent home.

Now, however, he contends it was all a ruse, a lie, a betrayal by the person who brought him there, Billy Beane, a man he now labels "a punk." He said he started seeing a change in the culture of the A's clubhouse in spring training, from the manager's office to the training room to the players, and he knew he wasn't going to be long for the place.

"I was pretty honest with them when I left," Bradley said Friday night before the Padres, his new team, met Barry Bonds and the Giants. "I told them I had more fun playing baseball in Oakland than I ever have ... last year.

"This year, though, it just wasn't the same, not only in the clubhouse but on the field. It just seems like everybody — the coaching staff, everybody — was afraid of their own shadows. Everybody's scared to death of Billy Beane. Not me, though, and people could see that.


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Bradley has acclimated himself to his new team now, and they to him. Team president Sandy Alderson loves him and noted, "He's been a pleasureto have. It's easy for me to be complimentary when he's our best offensive player, and has been since he got here. Ultimately, it's about his ability. He plays hard, and I don't think I've seen a bad plate appearance since he's been here."

Clearly, Bradley is out to prove some things, and he admits it. He said the scars he claims Beane left on him the day of his trade to the Padres on June 28 are still open wounds.

Among other things, he said the A's general manager treated him so rudely the day of the trade, he was nearly pushed to physical violence.

"I ran into him in the hallway when I came in for treatment," Bradley recalled. "He points his finger in my face and tells me, 'I need to talk to you in my office, and if I don't see you before you leave, your bags are packed.'

"Prior to that meeting with Billy the last day, the way he talked to me in that hallway was reason enough for him to get his teeth knocked out," Bradley added. "So I told him and everybody else before I went in there, 'You better get your paramedic on duty, because if he talks to me crazy again, we're going to have a problem.' I'm a man. Nobody's going to talk to me that kind of way."

Bradley maintained the A's started becoming a cloak-and-dagger operation almost from the moment Ken Macha was bounced out of the manager's office, that streams of information about players and clubhouse chatter were being absorbed by someone and being relayed straight to Beane.

"It was just one of those situations where you knew somebody was talking behind your back about something," he said. "I'd say things out loud in the clubhouse on purpose, because I knew it would get back to Billy. I don't know what you call it, there was a pipeline going on there.

"So I'd say things on purpose just to see if Billy would bring it up to me, and he always did."

Bradley said he is still shocked, baffled and disappointed that he was designated for assignment and subsequently traded to San Diego when the A's were still within striking distance of the first-place Angels, and he was on the verge of being ready to play.

At the same time, he could sense his demise.

"There were a lot of unexplained things happening," he said. "When you take a team in the middle season that's six games out or whatever it was and then you get rid of the best player, and then you get rid of the best leader in (Jason) Kendall, what message are you sending to your ballclub? You're not sending the message that you're trying to win.

"It's no surprise they lost 10 straight, and they're like 13 games out right now. If I was there, guaranteed, it'd be a lot different. It's a sad situation. It's terrible. But you get what you ask for."

He said the departure of a number of people, not just himself, signaled the A's downturn this season. He cited Macha and Frank Thomas as two key men Oakland should have never let get away.

Of Macha, Bradley said, "He wasn't a first-year manager. He knows what's going on, he's been around the block. He knows he doesn't have to be best friends with everybody to have a good relationship. He talked to me when it was necessary to talk to me, and I knew where I stood with him at all times.

"Then we win the division and go the LCS when nobody thought we would. For a guy to lose his job after something like that, it's pretty ridiculous.

"I didn't have a problem with Bob (Geren), either. But it seemed like every other day I'd come into the clubhouse and there'd be a bunch of closed-door meetings, a bunch of whispering and a bunch of untruths going around."

Bradley said it all extended from the general manager's desire to keep his thumbs on everything that was going on, be able to take credit for all the success when it came and not have to answer for the failures.

"Billy has this really smart-aleck attitude about him and a swagger about him, that he thinks he's better than everybody else," Bradley said. "He would always tell me, 'When you're on the field, make me look good.' But I wasn't making him look good enough because I wasn't out there this year. So when I couldn't make him look good anymore, Jack Cust stepped in and started hitting those homers and making him look good. That was his new guy.

"Nick Swisher signed a new multiyear deal, so that was his guy. And I knew I wasn't that guy when players like (Chris) Snelling and (Travis) Buck came along. In fact, I told Buck in spring training, 'You're going to wind up taking my job.'"

Bradley said that whenever he would have a meeting in a clubhouse office with Beane or Geren, the two men brought in first-base coach Ty Waller to be part of it.

"You've got one black coach, you've got to call him into the office to talk to me?" he said. "He (Waller) wouldn't have anything to do with the meeting and didn't have anything to say, either, but he had to be in there. Why? I don't know. Were they afraid of me? Were they afraid I was going to start a fight? I've never fought anybody in my life."

Reached late Friday night, Beane did not specifically address any of Bradley's comments other than to say Bradley's assertion about Waller was untrue.

"I always publicly stay above the board on these things," Beane said. "We wish him well. It's disappointing he has this reaction, considering the fortuitous position he is in now with the Padres and the contributions he's already made."

The general manager wrote an angry response to ANG Newspapers last month when it was suggested by a columnist that motivations of Bradley's trade might have been racial.

Bradley said people should use their own judgment about that based on a sequence of events — the departures of Thomas, Jay Payton, coach Ron Washington and himself — to determine the validity of it.

"Just look at it, you tell me," he said. "It's a mighty coincidence that every black guy who's been there the last three years — you can go back to Jermaine Dye, Terrence Long, Mike Singleton — is gone. When I was with Cleveland, I'd ask guys, 'How do you like it here?' and they'd say, 'We can't get in a game over here, we can't stand it over here.' Then I got there, and I said, 'Man, I don't see any of that.' Then 2007 rolled around, and I started seeing it.

"I don't know how Stew (Shannon Stewart) still does it. When I was there, asking why am I not playing, I was also saying, 'Why is Stew not playing?' He was hitting .300 then, he's the only guy they got hitting .300 now. But he still can't get in there to play every day.

"He's the kind of guy who's not going to say anything, though — he'd whisper it to me — but he's not going to say it out loud. I'm the type of guy who would say it out loud: Are you trying to win around here or are you trying to save a dollar? But I don't have to worry about that now."

Carl Steward can be reached at (510) 293-2451 or csteward@angnewspapers.com.