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Some Thoughts On (And From) Lastings Milledge

You can read the paper version of my Milledge-Dukes story here. The DMTP stuff on this one -- especially w/r/t to Milledge -- is expansive, so maybe that's a timely fit for all the Milledge-related debate we've seen here in the last day(s). Hopefully this will serve as a measured look of where he stands, of his shortcomings, of how others view him.

The questions with Milledge generally seem to be: Does he work hard enough to fulfill his potential? And, does he approach the game the right way? (There is a difference. The second has as much to do with body language/demeanor, etc. as it does with time spent in the video room or the cages.) I think it's easier to make a good defense for Milledge on Question No. 1 than it is on Question No. 2.

I'll try to quantify things here, first, by letting Milledge talk. We spent a long time yesterday discussing why the veteran Mets' clubhouse never quite warmed to him. Even when he first arrived in the big leagues in 2006 (at 21, he was the youngest player in the majors at the time), he was an unconventional clubhouse spirit, unconcerned with what older players told him. Baseball is a game that specializes in wasted time. It's inefficient. Milledge disliked that, and still does. He doesn't show up late, but he shows up right on time. He chalks this up to efficiency. Others might hold it against him, though, because it's through all the mutual time-wasting that baseball players form a baseball team.

Here's an excerpt from our conversation:

Milledge: I mean, the thing was, the first time I came out [to NY] everybody was like, 'You've got to be this way.' I have to show up at the park at a certain time or whatever. I just kind of separated myself from people who were like that. I'm not going to say who, but you know. Sometimes jealousy comes with it. But if you're here you're here. It doesn't matter if you're here for 20 years. We're all playing at the highest level, and we're all major league players. We're all even."

Q: Why do you say that? Couldn't that just cause you more trouble than it's worth?

LM: Because nobody else can play the game for you. Nobody else is going to give you the money. Nobody is going to give his spot up for you. If I was to walk away from this game today or I wasn't able to compete at this level anymore, then I have no regrets. I did it my way. Nobody else told me what I need to do. I didn't try nobody else's way. I tried my way. And if I just couldn't play this game, I can live with that. But I couldn't live with failing by trying somebody else's way.

Q: OK, you keep talking about 'your way,' but what does that mean?

LM: You know, there's always a thing where, Oh, rookies have to be here 2-1/2 or three hours before stretch. No. I'm not gonna be here three hours before stretch. If you're here and you get your work in, it shouldn't matter how early you're at the field. You know what you need to do. That's fine. You don't have to be at the park three, four hours before the park if you don't want. You don't see nobody clocking in three or four hours before they have to show up to work. So, I mean, some people feel like they have to get here to read the newspaper or do crossword puzzles or get their mind ready. I feel like I come to the park, I have 45 minutes of stuff I have to do to get prepared for practice and get ready for the game. Five minutes might be watching videos. Fifteen minutes might be going in the cage. And then getting whatever other work I need.

Q: So what about here? Is it a better fit?

LM: Yeah, because the veterans we do have let us to be us. We'll get ourselves ready. Don't try to change who we are. I'll always be a guy who lets you know when I do something good and, you know, I'm kind of a guy who, if I'm not good enough, I'll tell you. I'm not gonna say I'm the best centerfielder that ever walked on the planet. No. If I'm horse [manure], I'll tell you I'm horse [manure]. I messed up some times, and I told you about it. I'll tell you. I'll say, I was horse [manure] today. I'll be better tomorrow.

---

The Nats' coaching staff -- especially Manny Acta -- remains very much in support of Milledge. Acta points out that Milledge is still just 23. His skills remain raw, particularly on defense, but Acta attributes that entirely to his center fielder's youth. Simple as that. He doesn't need a "kick in the butt," Acta said.

Marquis Grissom had a less conclusive take. So far, he things Milledge has been giving him a good effort. But he's not yet ready to say all the work is done. "When I first got here, I heard stuff that -- not so much about his attitude, but also that he has a lot of confidence. Some people call it cocky, but I don't. I wanted to see his work ethic, and what he's made of. So we've been working. My goal is to get him to not take anything for granted. Hustle. Work. It's the little things that kill you in the outfield. When you miss the cutoff man, it's highlighted. When you go to the wall and can't make the catch, it's highlighted. You just can't make those mistakes."

By Chico Harlan  |  March 16, 2009; 6:57 AM ET
 
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Your Monday morning Media Guide for the next week...

Mon (16th), 1:05pm: No joy
Tue (17th), Off Day
Wed (18th), 7:05pm: TV - MASN, Radio - WFED
Thu (19th), 1:05pm: Radio - WFED
Fri (20th), 1:05pm: No soup for you!
Sat (21st), 1:10pm: Radio - KTRS
Sun (22nd), 1:05pm: Radio - KTRH

Posted by: OldDude | March 16, 2009 7:26 AM | Report abuse

There's an anecdote in Joe Torre's book that seems to me to be a bit of a parallel with this Milledge situation. When he first came up, Robinson Cano was the same kind of raw-but-unrealized-potential guy and apparently had the same kind of attitude issues that people are tagging on Milledge now. How did the Yankees deal with it? One coach (I forget his name and don't have the book at hand right now, sorry) basically attached himself to Cano, saying something like "every day after an off day (or whatever) you're coming in early for extra one-on-one infield practice with me." This went on for some time, with the coach stressing all the little things like hustle that needed to be part of Cano's game in order for him to best make use of his raw potential. After a while the team decided that Cano no longer needed the extra sessions with the coach, and released him from the requirement to come in early for them. But Cano turned it around at that point and said that he WANTED to keep doing them.

Seems to me that this is what Milledge might need. Is there a coach or coaches who will step up and take hold of Milledge and do this? Obviously there wasn't last year, with Lenny Harris coming in early to play cards and all. Flores got one-on-one help from Pat Corrales, all because Corrales forced the issue and made it happen. Unfortunately, no one did that with Milledge. And you know what? I can't really blame Milledge for that. From the quotes, he sounds like he would show up right on time if they told him he needed to be there for extra work. He may not have the gumption to force himself onto a coach for extra personal instruction like some other player might, but is that really a fault? Not every good student is the "teacher, teacher look at me" type. It's the teacher's or the coach's job to see past that kind of thing, find the diamond in the rough, and polish it.

Posted by: nunof1 | March 16, 2009 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Boy, this interview is going to make Milledge a lot of enemies around here.

My contrarian spirit rallies to Milledge, though. My contrarian spirit is also very bad at baseball.

Posted by: Section506 | March 16, 2009 8:05 AM | Report abuse

I know it's politically incorrect to say so, but at least 50% of what he's saying would be more bluntly stated as, "look, I'm black. Black people are different than white people. And I'm not going to act like a white person."

Posted by: sbiel2 | March 16, 2009 8:06 AM | Report abuse

[catching up]

dargregmag said a while back:

I've watched Milledge since he was a NY Met yes i too think he needs to work on his skills,at the plate

... I haven’t seen Milledge in person, but I know I want him to succeed on this team. When he came over from NY, the negative stories followed him like cats after a fish truck. That’s too bad, but understandable. He played in the Big Fishbowl where everything he said and did became fodder for anyone with an axe to grind. I know I wouldn’t want to move from one job to another and have all my indiscretions follow me. But he did come with a certain level of talent and it would be great if the team could help him out with its development - even off the field if that's needed. If we can give EJ the mother of all benefits of the doubt, surely we can do the same for LM.

dargregmag also said:

I wish Frank Robinson was still with this team in some capacity, actually he should be working with players like Milledge and Dukes and other young players in this orginazation they need constant mentoring

... this is a really good point. With the harsh spotlight having been shone directly on Jim B a few weeks ago, I now have to wonder just how much of “him” was part of the eventual problem Frank had. Yes, Frank should be back – he’s an old-time baseball guy and we need one.

~~

... and I certainly do agree with JB, who added later about the lack of prodding by the media to get Manny (and any of the rest of managment) to respond to what fans see right in front of them. I don’t know Chico so can’t say how he does his job. But there is a need to have someone push the envelope on a constant basis.
... my own experience has been in journalism (as a photographer) for over thirty years, and I know a little of what I’m saying when it comes to understanding the fine line between reporting the truth and keeping your job. Certainly the beat guy CANNOT jeopardize his own livelihood. But his employers (or better yet, someone from another media outlet) could assign someone who has no first-hand connection to the team to do some digging, and generally hold the team’s feet to the fire.

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 16, 2009 8:07 AM | Report abuse

... here's something a propos ... or not ... to our discussions:

http://tiny.cc/8wlMQ

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 16, 2009 8:21 AM | Report abuse

www.mlbtraderumors.com

Kicking Jim Bowden while he's down: Gammons says Nationals outfielder Austin Kearns was claimed on waivers last summer but the Nationals pulled him back.

Posted by: theredskin | March 16, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Ohhh, gosh....

Milledge certainly did not win any new converts in that interview. I applaud Milledge for not wanting to be a baseball cliche, to actually speak his mind. Milledge is basically saying that he does not care how people perceive how much he tries to improve and work at his game. In any job the person who shows up for work right at 8:00 am gets noticed for playing real close to the edge, not giving one iota more than necessary to keep a job. Unlike JayBee I have not had the access to see with my own eyes his behavior, the nuances of body language or the off camera lack of hustle. I will trust JayBee on these points. To counter nunof1's opine about needing Frank Robinson to straighten Milledge out I would think that Robinson would not have the patience to deal with him. Robinson/Milledge would be a combustible combination. However, I do like the idea of a coaching buddy system for Milledge--someone who can unlock his desires to be a big leaguer. Harris seemed to want to fit that model last year. Perhaps Grissom is doing that this year. Maybe different combinations have to be tried.

To those who say trade Milledge now I would counter that with what would you get for him? He is devalued now because he did not live up to the expectations that Bowden presented to the world. Let him grow, let him mature. Perhaps if he could be sent to AAA to learn how to play the position of centerfield would be the therapy needed (as others here have suggested). What have we really got to lose?

Posted by: driley | March 16, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

"To counter nunof1's opine about needing Frank Robinson to straighten Milledge out I would think that Robinson would not have the patience to deal with him. Robinson/Milledge would be a combustible combination."

You are confused. I have never mentioned Frank Robinson's name at all in any discussion related to Lastings Milledge. Perhaps you should show up early and do an extra set of mind stretches before posting here, instead of showing up at 8:55 on the dot. People are noticing, after all.

Posted by: nunof1 | March 16, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

sbiel2,

There is not enough time nor space on this journal to fully address your comments, but I will simply say that you cannot speak for him. You have no idea how he defines himself? His blackness? Whiteness, etc. To insinuate that one, race is most prevalent on his mind is unfair and has no basis and two, that whites and Blacks are different is problematic on many levels. I respect the fact that this may not be your opinion--but don't put words in his mouth. It may be about something--brace yourself--than race. Just because a Black man wants to be independent does not mean that he is rejecting "whiteness" and since when do white folk own doing things the right way? Thats what really kills me about this whole misguided use of "whiteness" and "Blackness"--white folk nor Black folk do not own any behavioral trait--there are human traits.

In short, let him speak for himself.

Posted by: jfromPG | March 16, 2009 9:05 AM | Report abuse

I love seeing the clueless white boys defending the brothers and their cultural norms. It's all so very post-racist, isn't it?

Posted by: nunof1 | March 16, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

My sincere apologies, nunof1.

I was referring to natscanredux's post. And yes, my mind will be headed for some much needed exercise soon....

Posted by: driley | March 16, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Thanks to Chico for this story.

I'm less interested in what players have to say than what they do on the field. I'd rather have an obnoxious (not saying he is) Milledge hitting .300 than a well-behaved Kearns hitting .220.

Milledge doesn't do himself any favors, though, speaking so freely within hours of committing a bonehead play on the base pads.

Please, give me Dunn. 3HR in 5 WBC games, good base running and only a few boots. That's the type of entertainment I want.

Posted by: nattydread1 | March 16, 2009 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Thanks natscanreduxit: I just read the Q&A from Chico with Milledge i'm not sure i'm on board with a lot that Lastings had to say but again i'm almost sixty and my perception with that of a twenty-three year old are going to be worlds apart i mean i have a sixteen year old daughter and trust me she thinks i'm crazy, but i'll say this, baseball requires hard work even if you're a "natural", if you're a young outfielder you should be "shaggin" 50-75 flies a day in spring training you should be talking hitting with accomplished vets and the batting/hitting coach you should be watching video with Eckstein seeking him out not vice versa thats if you want to be regarded as one of the best the same applies to Dukes or any young player the game of baseball requires a certain skill set and if you get to this level why wouldn't you work hard

Posted by: dargregmag | March 16, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

The more I think it about, the "I'm black" comments were simply outrageous. I guess no Black players work hard, or show up early or move in ways that please middle-aged whites fans, each of whom possesses perfect demeanors and job skills. Absurd and really at the heart of racism--the perception that others are "different" and hence inferior. Again, sbiel2, not saying this is your stance, but that it is very problematic to assume Milledge thinks this way.

Sorry, comments like this speak to why Eric Holder is correct.

Posted by: jfromPG | March 16, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

While I'm getting excited to see what guys like Grissom & Eck can do with these guys this year (Koolaid!!), everything that I read just shows more bluntly that the organization as a whole (not just Jimbo) really dropped the ball last year regarding the coaches.

Posted by: Bazz | March 16, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Good stuff, Chico. Fuel for the fire as it turns out.

Posted by: lowcountry | March 16, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Preach nunof!

Posted by: jfromPG | March 16, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Frank Robinson played most of his career as a black man, and I think he explained to more than one young ball player that there is a difference between making the big leagues and staying in the big leagues. Milledge is who he is, and we'll see if he sticks, but I don't think the color of his skin will greatly influence the result.

Posted by: advocate2 | March 16, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

"Frank Robinson played most of his career as a black man"

While Michael Jackson has only sung for a small portion of his career as one. At what point during his career did Frank Robinson ever cease being a black man, or become one in the first place? Did he have to go on the DL while he was undergoing the race-change operation?

Posted by: nunof1 | March 16, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

5 minutes of video???

Posted by: Bill-CH | March 16, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Chico's question "what is 'your' way?" was right on the money.

What can possibly be so unique and fabulous about Lastings Millege's "way" that it needs to be preserved possibly, he says, even at the expense of his own career?

It is not a racial thing. But it is an ego thing -- and some psychologists would suspect what is known as "narcissistic personality disorder": exaggerated notions of grandiosity, inability to empathize with others or perceive how you are seen by others, etc.

People with NPD, while initially charming and appealing, eventually exasperate almost all the people with whom they deal, especially those in close relationships (like teammates) with their "it's all about me" attitude. Let's hope Milledge is just an immature kid who can be shown how much he has to gain by working hard to become a better ballplayer. Because with NPD, things rarely end well.

Posted by: Meridian1 | March 16, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

I'm all for Lastings, but I've really had it with professional athletes comparing their occupation to a real job. Getting paid an obscene amount of money to hit and chase a ball around grassy field is not "work".

Slash your salary by a factor of 10, start punching a time clock, and work year-around, and then you can gripe about being expected to "clock in" early.

Posted by: joebleux | March 16, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

I think Lastings should read up on how Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente and other greats of the past did it, and perhaps if he wants to be mentioned in the same light, adopt similar a like work ethic. I have no doubt that he will be a decent hitter, and hopefully a better outfielder. What I do doubt is that his arm strength will ever improve. I've always felt that his inferior throwing arm would eventually move him to a corner position.

Posted by: cokedispatch | March 16, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

I love seeing the armchair psychologists dissecting and diagnosing someone's personality disorders entirely from a few random quotes posted on a newspaper blog. It so presages what will pass for mental health care should the Republicans ever gain control of the country again.

Posted by: nunof1 | March 16, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Ugh. I have long had the impression (and said so in here) that Lastings was just trying to skate by on his talent alone, that he felt that he had already succeeded and that anything further was just gravy. He has now said as much himself. I have to say, it's hard for me to root for a guy like that. Maybe J-Max will stay healthy, outwork him and eventually take his spot.

Posted by: BobLHead | March 16, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Chico - I know you're workin' hard but the questions to ask both of them are:
1) What are your goals for this year at the plate and in the field?
2) What is your approach and how is it going to get you there?
3) OK - so you don't care what anyone thinks and you do things your way... so what's your view of chemistry and does good chemistry add value to the team? Do you feel like you have added value to the clubhouse?

This article makes me really, really cringe. Because it pretty much reinforces in my mind that Milledge is a cocky guy who doesn't work very hard (15 minutes in the cage???) and people are dancing around the whole thing.

And God is last year looking worse and worse from my view of Manny. Who's responsible for Lenny Harris all year? Is Manny so laissez-faire that he doesn't try to change things or is he so inexperienced that he doesn't have the muscle to change things? Honestly, it just makes me cringe. And this year we've got coaches telling them they're going to be All Stars??? Where I'm from, if that kind of praise isn't backed up with a lot of pushing and some agreement from the two that they WANT to be All-Stars, then it's a sure recipe for unmet expectations.

Posted by: natslifer | March 16, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

"I think Lastings should read up on how Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente and other greats of the past did it, and perhaps if he wants to be mentioned in the same light, adopt similar a like work ethic."

Chico, please don't adopt similar a like worth ethic to this guy. Remember, all your copy editors took the buyout and you're now working without a net. It ain't pretty - just look at Boswell for evidence of that.

Posted by: nunof1 | March 16, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

From MLBTR: "Kicking Jim Bowden while he's down: Gammons says Nationals outfielder Austin Kearns was claimed on waivers last summer but the Nationals pulled him back."

Am I correct in assuming this means they were trying to send him to the minors, and he had to clear waivers first?


Posted by: kfisher32 | March 16, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

"it pretty much reinforces in my mind that Milledge is a cocky guy who doesn't work very hard (15 minutes in the cage???)"

Think about this for a minute. Have you seen the cages at Nationals Park? They're not all that big. If every position player, say 12 of them, took 15 minutes in the cage every day, that's two or three hours right there that the cages would be full. Not to mention that someone needs to be throwing to them while they're in there, and the hitting coach ought to be there too if there's going to be any benefit from it. If every player decided he wanted to double his time in the cage - which still would bring him to only thirty minutes - those cages would be running full speed 4-5 hours a day. Add to that batting practice, stretching, working out, maybe fielding drills, etc, and pretty soon there wouldn't be time left to play the game.

If Lastings only spends 15 minutes in the cage a day, provided it's a good, hard, focused 15 minutes, that's enough. And I haven't heard anyone yet who says that he's lollygagging when he's in the cage. Have you?

Posted by: nunof1 | March 16, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

"Am I correct in assuming this means they were trying to send him to the minors, and he had to clear waivers first?"

No. They were floating him out as trade bait, to see if any other team would bite. If some other team had claimed him, they would have sounded them out on what they could get for Kearns in a trade. If it wasn't enough, they pull him back off waivers - which is apparently what went down. There's a limit to how often a player can be put on revocable waivers in a season - it may actually be only once. But lots of players are floated on the waiver wire all the time to gauge trade interest. I wouldn't be surprised if every player on the Nationals with the exception of Zimmerman was floated on the waiver wire at some point in the last few years. Hell, I actually wouldn't be surprised if they floated Zimmerman just to see what he might really be worth. This kind of thing happens ALL THE TIME, it's just not often reported when it does.

Posted by: nunof1 | March 16, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

@kfisher32 -

"Am I correct in assuming this means they were trying to send him to the minors, and he had to clear waivers first?"

No, I believe that this was part of the post July 31 trade deadline. Teams will place nearly all of their players on revocable waivers in August and can either (a) pull them back if claimed, (b) work out a trade with the claiming team or (c) just let the claiming team have them.

It likely had nothing with sending Kearns to the minors.

Posted by: Brian_ | March 16, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Channeling JayBee, I found the message below, which I posted from the new park last April:

I am officially worried about Lastings. I am starting to think his nonchalant play in the OF is going to cost us. First the error, then on the same play the next time he misses the cutoff and forces Zim to block the throw to third. Coaches need to nip this in the bud now.

Posted by: Bob L. Head | April 7, 2008 8:24 PM

Posted by: BobLHead | March 16, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Re: waivers

The process after the trade deadline is that a palyer has to clear waivers before he can be traded. If a player is claimed, the team that put the player on waivers can either rescind the waivers, work out a trade with the team that claimed the player, or just let the other team take on the player's deal as-is, likely with some kind of monetary compensation. Basically, they had the chance to get Kearns and his terrible contract off the books, even if it was for nothing, and they didn't.

Posted by: pondaz | March 16, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

@nunof1 and Brian

Thanks, I had forgotten about that practice.

Posted by: kfisher32 | March 16, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

OldDude- Thanks for the info on broadcasts.

I think what Lastings needs most right now is for the season to start. The only way to get people to accept his approach will be to succeed following it. I do hope that Marquis Grissom gives him a lot of personal attention, and that he is willing to put in the time when the attention is offered.

The one difference for me in discussions of Lastings and Elijah is that I am almost afraid to mention Dukes' name. Like the butterfly flapping in Mongolia having an effect on the weather a hemisphere away, I fear that mentioning or even thinking of Dukes could start a chain of events that would lead him to trouble. I think Lastings will simply exasperate at times, but hopefully fulfill his potential in the meantime.

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | March 16, 2009 10:47 AM | Report abuse

In response to nunof1, let me be clear that I did not diagnose Milledge, would not presume to do so, and explicitly expressed the hope that he is just a cocky kid rather than someone with NPD.

I did say that someone who, according to multiple reports as well as Milledge's own revealing quotes, exhibits a certain constellation of behaviors would lead some psychologists to "suspect" it. As someone with more than a passing experience with someone who has NPD, I stand by it.

Posted by: Meridian1 | March 16, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

It's strange to watch Milledge at the plate. He is constantly gesturing, nodding, and making little faces. It's as if he is trying to impress some other presence that is watching him, or as if he's in a little morality play or something.

It is classic ego-centered, narcissistic behavior. It allows him to send constant messages out about how nonchalant he is. It is also extremely immature. Most importantly, it makes it much, much harder to hit a baseball.

Milledge needs to follow two words of advice, and they could come from H. Rap Brown or Richard Nixon: Grow up.

Posted by: ThinkingOne | March 16, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

new post

Posted by: BobLHead | March 16, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

I think that there is a significant difference between Milledge and Dukes. My sense of Dukes is that he is more talented and works much harder at his game. He tends to do the little things well - draw walks, hit cut-off men, etc. He is potentially (there's that word again) both a better offensive and defensive player. I've never heard anyone question his work ethic. Yes, his personal life has been a mess, but I think he suffers inappropriately by being linked to Milledge is a discussion about work ethic.

There was a lot of cringe-worthy material is today's article. I can't say I agree with you, nunof1, about your "15 good minutes is enough" argument. I think most great hitters are spending at least an hour or more a day on their hitting, separate of on-field BP. Between video work, hitting off the tee, and soft toss in the cage, Lastings' self-professed "20 minutes" isn't really enough. I was also uncomfortable with his "argument with my wife" comments at the end. I understand and mostly agree with his sentiment, I guess - namely that his personal life should remain personal and not public. Still, I would have liked a little more discretion.

#4

Posted by: db423 | March 16, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Just look to 2 of the top players in the league and their work ethic and their results on the field.

Albert Pujols. Great work ethic in-season and off-season and master of the video machine.

Manny Ramirez. The guy has a 16 hour work day (which includes commuting time and lunch). In the gym about 9AM every morning for a couple of hours. Watches video. Has lunch. Studies his opposing pitchers. Heads to the ballpark. Sure, Manny doesn't have the greatest reputation, but his stats have always spoken what people don't see.

Natural ability can only take you so far.

Lastings Milledge has natural ability. He needs to be mentored as all young athletes do. He will continue to mature with age.

I like his honesty, and only hope he doesn't continue to just rely on natural ability.

Posted by: dmacman88 | March 16, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Section 506 - what's int he article to make Milledge an enemy of anyone here at NJ?

Posted by: comish4lif | March 16, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Well I can't say I didn't know I was being provocative.

Not to get all Soc 101, but different communities have different mores and folkways. In Japan, people have less of a sense of personal space than they do in Germany. In my neighborhood, which is probably 60% African American, you experience these kinds of cultural differences every day.

I think it's reasonable to assume that to say that the milieu that Lastings Milledge grew up in is different from the one that Paul Lo Duca or Billy Wagner did. Different music, different forms of communicating, different ideas about what qualifies as big pimping a home run, etc.

Anyone who thinks that these culture clashes don't matter or don't exist is I think either really naive or so crippled by PC-ness that they've left reality. And listening to Wagner, Lo Duca, and Milledge each give their sides of this story, it seems pretty obvious to me that it was a factor.

Posted by: sbiel2 | March 16, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

nunof1 - Are you saying that 1) in the entire space coast complex, there's not enough batting cages for Milledge to have more than 15 minutes of BP a day if he wanted it? or maybe you're saying that if milledge wanted more than 15 minutes of BP a day even at Nats Park, then he couldn't get it. You certainly couldn't be saying that a guy who hit .268 last year is going to turn into a .300 hitter and be an All-Star with 15 minutes a day in the cage, 5 minutes on film, and all that natural talent. You'd have to find me a bunch of examples from the past to give me any hope there.

Posted by: natslifer | March 16, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

If you read both articles - I think it explains that some guys wanted (in NY) Lasting to show up 2-3 hours before the game to read and do crossword puzzles - and to socialize.

Lastings shows up 45 minutes early, works out, hits in the cage and reviews some video. Then there's the team's program which includes more BP.

It seems plenty to me. Fifteen minutes seems like appropriate balance of time spent in the cage, cage/coach availability, and not getting tired before the game.

Same for video - he's not watching 5 minutes of a game like we do, he's watching specific sequences of a pitcher with all of the fill time deleted.

Posted by: comish4lif | March 16, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

I know it's politically incorrect to say so, but at least 50% of what he's saying would be more bluntly stated as, "look, I'm black. Black people are different than white people. And I'm not going to act like a white person."
WHAT? how his quotes relate to race is beyond me

Posted by: bford1kb | March 16, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

>5 minutes of video???

Lol. That was my favorite part. The machine isn't even warmed up before you turn it off. The reason the veterans last year didn't say anything is because they all sucked and they knew they had no right to say anything. Once the talent level on the team starts to rise (and it already has), he'll realize he needs to work harder, because he's not THAT talented. He got a distorted view of his talent because the team was so bereft of it last year. Typical thinking from someone his age - to live in the moment, thinking that last year was some kind of standard, when it was an aberration of the worst kind. It's just like any type of kid, until they get smacked in the face with reality, they don't know what's going on around them. They make assumptions based on their past experiences, instead of say a 10-year veteran's experiences. The 10-year guy's input is irrelevant to the kid because it hasn't HAPPENED to the kid yet. Pretty standard definition of immaturity. And since they're not sophisticated enough to verbalize what they're doing, they sound standoffish and incomplete. He'll be alright. If he's not, he'll be gone eventually, because with an arm like that, I'd always be looking over my shoulder.

Posted by: Brue | March 16, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

A couple of other quick points on Milledge:

- He has a weak, erratic arm.
- He has limited range and an average glove. (Although he loves to hold the pose for a few extra minutes of mental glory when he makes a good catch).
- Average-to-slow runner compared with other centerfielders.
- Average or less-than-average power for centerfielder.
- Average or less-than-average batting average for centerfielder.

Some five-tool players have been mentioned in this thread. Let's be very clear that Milledge will never be a five-tool player. Very clear.

Posted by: ThinkingOne | March 16, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Milledge has always made me think that he plays like someone who took up the game just last week. Perhaps the thing to take away from all of this is here's a guy who really doesn't like to play baseball. He has talent, unquestionably. It sounds like he was pushed to play the game. He certainly exhibits no joy for it.

My wife always says that Michael Jordan always looked like he LOVED playing basketball and that his passion for the game is what made him special, more than his skills.

IF Milledge has any trade value, I would LOVE to see Rizzo move the guy. He certainly looks to be someone who will never live up to his potential or skills. I LOVED watching him at spring training last week when he got caught stealing at third right before Dukes hit a homer costing both an out and a run. I always think Milledge is 50-50 on getting thrown out on the basepaths whenever he leads off an inning with a hit. His episode with Greg Maddux last season was one of the greatest plays I have ever seen in baseball. I refer to the one when Milledge goes first to third on a single, beating Maddux to the bag as he tried to cover. The next ball was hit back to Maddux who faked to first, whirled and caught Milledge off third for an out. If Millege stays on the bag, Maddux gets nobody but he KNEW the cocky SOB would wander too far away! I know Maddux was just trying to show him up, knowing full well his hubris will allow it.

Dukes, on the other hand, is one of the finest looking prospects I have ever seen. He looks like he learned to play the game in another life. He has his demons, obviously, but his baseball acumen is amazing, probably the best on the team.

Posted by: Section314 | March 16, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

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