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Milledge Gets The Top Spot

Lastings Milledge likes the idea of batting first. He'll face pitchers reluctant to walk him. He can get on base, steal second, and wait for a ride home from Cristian Guzman, Ryan Zimmerman or Adam Dunn. "I'm going to be an aggressive lead-off hitter," Milledge said this morning.

More than anything, Milledge embraces the idea of having a role -- especially following a season in which others' injuries shuffled him from second to sixth to third to fourth. This year, Milledge will bat leadoff, a decision Manager Manny Acta revealed this morning. Guzman, Zimmerman and Dunn will follow.

Though Acta admitted that his team lacks a "bonafide lead-off hitter," he selected Milledge for the job, citing his improving patience and ability to steal bases. Plus, Guzman, the other player he considered, is a switch-hitter; placing Guzman second allows for a right-left-right-left order against right-handed starters.

Milledge never batted first last year, but views it as an ideal spot.

"I'm always better either at the top of the lineup or toward the bottom," he said. "I'm not really a middle three-four hitter -- yet."

Milledge already knows his measuring sticks: Hits, stolen bases, and runs. He guessed that he won't draw too many walks, "because now, they have to come after me... Last year I swung at a lot of bad pitches, maybe because I was in the three-four hole and they wanted to throw a lot of breaking balls and changeups and kind of fool around with me."

Milledge stole 24 bases in 2008, with a success rate of 73 percent. This year, he wants to boost that number into the high 70s or 80s. Spring instructor Cesar Cedeno has worked with Milledge on the math of stealing, determining the exact time he needs to move from first to second, and comparing that with the charted times of pitchers' releases and catchers' throws.

Here's how Milledge explained the work.

"Some guys you just have to respect. So this year, going in, I know the guys I can steal on, I know the guys I'll have a little bit of trouble with," he said. "It's just knowing who you can steal on. I'm not going to go into St. Louis and try to steal three bases. It's not going to happen. The only way it'll happen is if you steal on the pitcher. Yadier [Molina] is a great catcher; he throws out just about everybody. And I mean, you just have to respect that. You don't give too much credit, but you have to respect it. You have to know, 'Okay, this guy is a 1.8, 1.9.' You have to know those kind of things to help your success rate.

"If I know I've got a guy who is a 1.9 or a 2.0 at home and a pitcher who is a 1.3, I can get a bad jump and still get there. I know that before the National Anthem even comes on. I also know, Okay, Braden Looper is a 1.25 and Yadier is a 1.8, I know I can't go. It's just preparing yourself, getting your mind right, because the preparation, it starts before you even get out to practice."

By Chico Harlan  |  March 22, 2009; 1:25 PM ET
 
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Next: Eighth Inning, Still Scoreless

Comments

Isn't the main point of the post Acta selected Milledge as the leadoff hitter? It's buried in the middle but seems to deserve more emphasis. What happens to Kearns hot spring now?
--
thom202

Chico Harlan - "I don't like sports, I'm embarrassed that I cover them. I can't wait to stop. It's a means to an end and a paycheck."

Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

"... his measuring sticks: Hits, stolen bases, and runs."

Lastings: don't forget OBP. Pretty important for lead-off guy.

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 22, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

... thanx for the link, thom202. At first I thought "don't go there", but in the end I went there.

... first off, it was a report in a blog, not journalism, so there's that.

... but I read it anyway, to see what about it got you so all fired up. And I don't see the problem. Like I sad before, a journalist is NOT supposed to be a rah-rah guy for the team or for the sport. It matters little that he doesn't like baseball. Do you think all beat writers like their given topic? Automotive writers are car freaks? Not at all. Food writers are gourmands? Never. No, they are writers, and that's what they do.

... but to show (to whomever did the interview) that he was in fact doing his job, he offered a few comments about his beat. He "went on to describe the Lerners as “a mystery,” Stan Kasten as a “control freak,” and Adam Dunn as “Will Ferrell-ish.” Nothing wrong with that; he actually went out of his way to give the team some ink.

... I see Chico as a refreshing change from Barry who, I will admit, was not a favourite of mine. But Barry did his job despite any personal shortcomings (perceived by me at any rate), and Chico is doing his.

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 22, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

got new posted.
I'm not a Milledge hater. I think he got a raw deal in NY.
I don't believe, however, that he has earned a starting job, much less the lead-off slot.
I'm not sure there is a worse fielding cf in MLB. With the possible exception of Felipe Lopez (thank goodness he's gone) I don't believe there is a worse base runner.
On the other hand, he certainly does have the tools. I'm not going to get into the argument about how hard he works to improve because I do not know. His discussion of not stealing in St Louis is encouraging but his perofrmance on the field thus far has not fill me with optimism.
Having said all that, I'm not sure who we have that is better suited.
Since I would like to see Dukes in cf I think I would also like to see him at lead off because of his OBP and his speed. If his power numbers develope, as we all hope, we can move him down later.

Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | March 22, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Well, in all fairness, that was Chico's assessment of Millz'z measuring sticks, not a quote from the man himself. I'm a confirmed Lasting's backer, and think that this post speaks to his willingness to do some of the mental preparation that the sport requires. Am I reading it wrong? Anything in here that folks want to jump on Lastings about?

Posted by: MoMonroe | March 22, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

You should read the Washingtonian article. It is much worse than the blog post.

Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Urgh. This will be fun, with a new "editor" criticizing every post. BTW, the lead is not buried up there - but, whatever. Do you think we could get the poster names at the beginning of posts so I can ignore them more effectively?

Not to rub it in or anything, but which would you rather have: A three line post that mentions this or something with some depth. Throw me in the river.

Here's what the magazine article _means_: We'll have a new beat writer in a year or three.

Posted by: OldDude | March 22, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Re Chico-gate, I for one am not the least bit surprised to hear his statements. We learned all we needed to about young Harlan the day he was hired, when it was revealed that his BFF is Eli "Which way to the Phillies clubhouse?" Saslow. That turbine-like sound you hear is the great Shirley Povich spinning in his grave because this stain Chico Harlan is collecting a paycheck every day (except when he's on one of his many vacations, of course) from the newspaper he once edited, in the pressbox that's named after him.

And don't all you commenters here (you know who you are) who've been sucking up to Chico by posting things like "Pulitzer material" every time he deigns to write a story feel foolish now. Are you going to try telling us now that that was all just snark?

Posted by: nunof1 | March 22, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Whoops, that should be "...the lede is not buried..."

Posted by: OldDude | March 22, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Thom - You posted the same story on the last 3 Threads.

I get it and maybe others do too so it doesn't need to be pushed forward on each thread.

Let's get back to baseball here, and discuss that issue on the We've Got Heart site.

Congrats to Lasto!!!! Got get em'!!!!

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | March 22, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Not sure if it's been posted here already or not, but MLBTR is reporting that the Blue Jays are expected to sign Shawn Hill as soon as he clears waivers. While it may not be a major league deal, I'm glad someone is picking him up.

Posted by: BGinVA | March 22, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

"Do you think all beat writers like their given topic? Automotive writers are car freaks? Not at all. Food writers are gourmands? Never. No, they are writers, and that's what they do."

Actually, the best writers about any topic are those who love it. Indeed, I know of people who have gone to culinary school specifically because they want to be food writers, not chefs.

Young Harlan is going to have a tough time living this one down. Of course it's not a requirement that one love one's job in order to do it well, but it's never a good idea to go around broadcasting the fact that you hate your job. Look how much trouble Adam Dunn got into with Ricciardi's comments. And that was just just second-hand hearsay allegations. Chico is all open mouth, insert foot.

Posted by: nunof1 | March 22, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

does anyone have the chico-washingtonian link?? i dont know what the hell you all are talking about...

Posted by: theredskin | March 22, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Oh yea this is going to work well......Common Sense to Manny Acta......Lasting is clueless on the bases....he runs into more outs than any player in baseball.....I personally saw him run into 2 outs this spring....last year he ran into a ton of outs....he forgot how many outs there were more than once....he ran from second with less than 2 outs on a ground ball to SS in front of him more than once.....IS THERE ANY LIMIT TO ACTA's BLIND LOVE OF LASTINGS MILLEGE?

Johnson should be leading off....that is how you get guys on in front of Dunn and Dukes......

I would go

Johnson 1b
Dukes CF
Dunn LF
ZIM 3B
Guzman 22
Henandez 2B
Willingham RF
Flores C

That would win some games

Posted by: JayBeee | March 22, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Milledge isn't a perfect lead-off hitter, but he might be the best the team currently has that will be in the lineup most days. Harris is probably the closest to a "natural" leadoff hitter that the Nationals' have; the problem is, as a utility player, he doesn't have a lineup spot locked from day-to-day.

Posted by: BinM | March 22, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

LOL. Chico-Gate is apt.

I think my signature is just as valid as "Let's play two" and I have hardly been alone in carrying the topic forward to the following threads.
--
thom202

Chico Harlan - "I don't like sports, I'm embarrassed that I cover them. I can't wait to stop. It's a means to an end and a paycheck."

Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

nevermind i found it

Posted by: theredskin | March 22, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

@thom202:

Others have briefly discussed the article, or questioned sources and / or content, but no-one else is "bringing it forward" as a single point of content.

You referrered to some of us as "toadies" earlier - there is a term in the lexicon for your one-note postings as well - Harpy.

Posted by: BinM | March 22, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

JayBee,
I like the line up but would flip Nick and Dukes bassed purely on speed. It puts close to .400 OBP guys back to back to back. There is also a certain serendipity in that with men on it is tough for the defense to shift on Dunn.
FOF then comes up with men on and if he succeeds Guz is there to slap them in or if Zim fails Guze leads off.
It would be fun to watch.

Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | March 22, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Considering Lastings is not one of our top three OF either offensively or defensively, nor is he one of our better baserunners, I am wondering why he gets getting promoted! Reminds me of GWB's Medals of Freedom!

My lineup:

1. Anybody-2B
2. Guzman-SS (needs a runner on to get fastballs)
3. Dukes-CF (best hitter on the team should hit 3rd)
4. Johnson-1B
5. Zimmerman-3B (gives him some chances to lead off and possibly bunt his way on, which will bring some 3Bmen in)
6. Dunn/Willingham-LF (platoon; def don't want to see Dunn starting against most lefties. On the other hand, he would be a deadly pinch hitter when the other team has to stick with a righty and there are runners on base.)
7. Flores-C
8. Anybody-RF

We also need Langerhans desperately for late-inning defense.

Posted by: paulkp | March 22, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Nice word use BinM. Don't agree with the content but the post is amusing.

By the way, the toadies comment was directed at SlowPitch63 and natscanreduxit although I recognize rather than saying "you guys" I could have been clearer.

This is just going to keep coming up until Chico addresses it. You can blame me all you want but he is the one who publicly showed disdain for his job, members of the Nationals he works with, and he will need to answer for it.

Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

I couldn't care less whether or not Chico hates his job, as long as he does it well. And as of now, I can't find much to complain about. His stories are well written, he has actually gotten a few scoops (unlike our favorite blogger from RI), and he keeps us informed.

He doesn't keep us as informed as some would like, but I feel like if we had live feeds from the locker room, owner's suite, president's office, the home of each player, and the showers, those folks wouldn't be happy. There are 16 links over there on the left to Nats Blogs, and I'm sure there are many more out there as well. If you dislike Chico that much, please, by all means, don't read the blog. There are plenty of other places you can go for your Nats News.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | March 22, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Cunning use of an all or nothing fallacy Cavalier83.

Take note of the following below each page on the Nationals Journal.

"We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features."

Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

@thom202:

CHarlan will probably have to answer to his superiors (if he hasn't already) for both the content and the context of the article. If there is an issue internally, Tracee will clarify his status in the coming days. Otherwise, it's just a witch hunt.

Posted by: BinM | March 22, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Sorry to interrupt but is anybody listening to audio feed for the game (which I am not)? Looks like we're still scoreless in the top of the 8th with a few hits on either side.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 22, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Yes but Astro's have runners on 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs with Matsui up in the bottom of the 8th.

Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, thom.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 22, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Matsui walks on a close pitch. Bases loaded. J.R. Tolls is up. Only second walk of the game for the Nats.

Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Tolls strikes out. Off to the top of the 9th. 0-0. Off to WNFF. Better for game day threads.

Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the update.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 22, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

thom202, I don't mind a bit that you're drawing attention to the Chico article.

I haven't read it yet, but I've complained here and on other forums (fora?) about his lack of interest in the game, lack of curiosity about either the game or the players, and a general lack of effort. If the quotes you are posting are actually true, I'm not the least bit surprised because that attitude was absolutely showing in his work.

Key word: was. I have had quite a change of heart recently because ever since Barry's short stint, Chico's posts and articles are much more on track with what I want to know and seem to show more of an interest. We've had more blog posts and more varied stories and notebooks.

I don't care if he likes his job either as long as we're getting some effort out of the guy. But I'm still turned off by such comments from him. For such a young kid like him to sound so elitist is just ugly.

I'm going to get the magazine now.

Posted by: NatsNut | March 22, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

I'm going to get the magazine now.

Posted by: NatsNut | March 22, 2009 3:21 PM

********************
Well. I mean, after the game, of course.

Posted by: NatsNut | March 22, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Thom:

I understand, and I have read that. My suggestion to you would be to e-mail Chico directly if it is that important to you.

My point was: Is he doing his job? Are you getting some solid information? Are you reading things on this blog 5 or 6 times a day? Other than his comments that he doesn't like his job, do you have a major problem with the way he has reported?

Posted by: Cavalier83 | March 22, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

NatsNut:

Thanks for pointing those things out, I guess I just hadn't noticed that. If his distaste for his job did result in a lackluster performance, then of course it would be an issue. And who knows, perhaps his vacation could have been a, "sit back, watch how Barry does it, and do it more like him," kinda thing.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | March 22, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

I'm also planning to take a look at the magazine after the game.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 22, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

I preferred Barry's style and attention.

Chico did turn out some good work last year. This spring I feel he is mailing it in. After reading the Washingtonian article, I doubt it will improve his access to the team and seems explain the steady decline in the quality of information available here.

I've been rarely stopping by here this spring. The Washington Times, Nats HQ, or other blogs are beating the Washington Post to the punch by a significant margin.

I am interested now because these comments seem unacceptable and I am interested in hearing some kind of response from the Washington Post.

Posted by: thom202 | March 22, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Posting a quick message just before I run out to do errands...

I like Chico, his style isn't all that bad, and it's hard to cover a perennial loser. Having a beat writer who is focused on things other than the beat that he is writing on is neither bad nor unusual. Hell, WaPo has examples of it in both Boswell and Wilbon, even when they were both beat writers. And look how well they got. (Professionally, I mean, not necessarily beat writing journalistically.)

Posted by: swang30 | March 22, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Carrying backward:

I just read Harry Jaffe's April 2009 Washingtonian Post Watch piece (plus or minus 500 words, I'd say). I wanted to read the entire piece, with the quote in context, before commenting.

In addition to NatsNut's comments, I'd note that Jaffe opines (1) that Harlan's distance from the team might make for tough reporting on the team and (2) that such reporting is sometimes missing from Post coverage of local teams. Jaffe goes on to comment on Boswell in the context of Nats coverage.

To counterbalance the "control freak" comment about Kasten that was quoted in a prior post, Chico also stated that if he owned a sports team, he would want Stan involved.

It's worth picking up a copy of the magazine (or taking a gander at the local library's copy, if they have one) to get the rest of the story, IMO. (Wonder whether the folks at Washingtonian are happy that NJ could be driving up their sales today?)

I would think that the phrasing of the paycheck comment could strike a negative note for those who are out of work and would love to be getting a paycheck at all. Overall, though, I did not find the piece to be alarming. As a hardcore fan, I enjoy reading pieces where the author's love of the game comes through. But I've also come to appreciate aspects of Chico's approach, particularly as displayed in some of his most recent feature stories.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 22, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse

My only comment on Milledge as the lead off hitter is that Rizzo must have told Acta that Milledge will not be moved. I'm not going to argue whether this is a good or a bad idea. I thought LM might have some trade value and now I'm really curious to see who Rizzo does trade. That remains a very intriguing story for me.

Posted by: grforbes | March 22, 2009 8:33 PM | Report abuse

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