Milledge working hard

Dejan says that, contrary to his reputation, Lastings is being a model citizen:

On the field early yesterday afternoon, I saw him run in the Coors Field outfield to ask strength coach Frank Velasquez what he could do extra. I saw him participate with enthusiasm in all team activities on the field, mostly serious but with the occasional laugh and smile. I saw him step into the batter’s box and tap catcher Chris Iannetta’s shin guards before the first at-bat.

Little stuff, but it all adds up.

Oh, and he had a double and a really nice catch in the game, too, after which he and Andrew McCutchen shared a visibly happy moment sprinting off the field.

Despite all the talk about him, I’m still not entirely clear why he got the bad reputation to begin with. Is it because of the dreds? Is it because he was miscast as a centerfielder? Because he broke his hand? I just feel like there’s no there there when it comes to the “Milledge has a ‘tude” thing.

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Comments

  1. Jim D. said...

    It was the incident in one of his first few ML games where he high-fived a bunch of fans after hitting a solo shot, or at least that’s the first thing I think of whenever his name comes up. 

    I appreciate the enthusiasm, but by the time you make it to the big leagues, you ought to know better.

  2. Jason B said...

    Do you remember the incident from 2-3 years ago when he made a nice catch in the field, and then was high-fiving some fans afterwards?  It got some attention – some constipated old-school baseball folk thought he was showing up the other team, or some such.  To anyone without a stick up their ass, it simply looked like a kid having some fun and enjoying the game, who was genuinely excited about the catch he had made.

  3. Dave Studeman said...

    It actually goes way back to his high school years, when he reportedly expelled from school for having sex with a minor.  He dropped pretty far in the draft as a result, which is how the Mets were able to grab him.

    Then he did the acting up when he was first called up by the Mets, actually showing enthusiasm, high-fiving fans, etc.  Some of the veterans on the team (I remember Cliff Floyd saying something) felt they had to talk to the kid.

  4. Ron said...

    Jim,

    Why should he know better?  As Jason said, he was having fun and interacting with the “paying” fans. What’s wrong with that?

    If the Joba fist pump,or what ever is okay, and players can point to the sky, or make religious gestures, or stand at the plate a second longer, or do anything at all, then this is perfectly acceptable in my book.

    He wasn’t being an egotist about himself, he was celebrating with the fans. Considering most people, to include myself, think the players have lost touch with the fanbase, I thought it was a great thing. More guys should do that.

    Reminds me of the days when Al Cowens would come over to the right field wall and talk to the fans. We loved it.

  5. ralphdibny said...

    I seem to remember Feinstein talking about him in his Glavine/Mussina book.  The claim was that Milledge was a bad influence on Reyes, which (in true domino theory) caused the Mets collapse of that year.

  6. Jim D. said...

    Ron,

    I’m not a big fan of most of those things you just listed, either.  I actually didn’t have too much of a problem with what Milledge did in the incident in question—as you said, he wasn’t trying to show anybody up, but celebrating with the fans—but he certainly should have known that a lot of people (including his own teammates, which is why it matters) were going to be unhappy about it.

    Baseball is about humility, and it has to be.  There is no other profession where even the best fail so often.

  7. MatthewA said...

    It’s not hard to find examples of Milledge as a showboat, because he was with the Mets at times (high-fiving the fans after his first career HR, playing 3rd base coach for a John Maine HR, and he – along with Jose Reyes – showed up the Marlins on the second to last day of the ‘07 season). Depending on your perspective of showboating, you might have a bone to pick here.

    But this is pretty much Kevin Mitchell Redux. He can’t shake the reputation unfairly generated by the NY media, and probably won’t until he wins his first MVP award.

  8. Ron said...

    Jim,

    Fair point. He should have thought of his teammates and the guys on the other side. I always tell the kids I coach it’s a team game, and not about the individual. Every player should repect everyone else out on the field.

    But the first thing I always tell them is to have fun. Becuase if they aren’t having fun playing baseball, what’s the point?

  9. Jason B said...

    “Baseball is about humility, and it has to be.”

    Except that it’s not.  It’s about humility only for the ones we want to flog who “should know better” and aren’t “respecting the game / their elders / America / the queen / whoever”.

    Others get a pass.  (“That Papelbon! My, he sure is enthusiastic! I’d love to have that guy on my team! What a kooky white kid!!”) 

    (I’m white, by the way.)

    I’m not sure at what point you ‘earn the right’ to showboat…1000 AB’s? 250 IP? I wish someone would document so we would all know when we’ve passed that magical line and can pump a fist or high-five a fan and not be flagellated for it by the stern, dour guardians-of-all-that-is-pure-and-right-within-the-game.

  10. Paul said...

    I’m not sure what to make of the whole high-fiving incident. Part of me thinks it’s awesome, part of me thinks it’s foolish.

    As for the whole rap album where he displayed sexist language. I’m aware that when he’s off the field he’s still representing the Mets but, and maybe I’m just a sucker for musical freedom, I think he could be given a pass for that – not saying it’s right however, but I think the Mets overreacted. Especially considering Brett Myers hit his wife in public and the Phillies just made him attend counseling sessions and also, Keith Hernandez had that whole “I don’t think women belong in the dugout” episode, it seems a little backwards by the Mets.

    Milledge was a guy who went from being untouchable to given away for Ryan Church and Brian Scheider.

    A friend of mine who’s a Met fan always mentions how one time when Al Leiter and John Franco were working out, Scott Kazmir came into the gym and changed the music Leiter and Franco were listening to and put on Metallica or something. Leiter and Franco then complained that Kazmir had an attitude problem.
    Not sure how true that is but if it is, the Mets really have a zero tolerance policy for younger players being young and naive. Milledge was what? Twenty-two years old when he acted up?

  11. Chris Needham said...

    There is a there there though.  How many players have articles written about them (besides in spring training) about how hard they work.

    Lastings hasn’t ever done it, so when he’s on the field ahead of time, looking for extra work, it IS something.

    Good for him.  Maybe the demotion, the trade, and them keeping him in the minors finally caused something to click.  Because in DC he was trying to skate on talent and potential, without actually working to hone his skills.

  12. Richard Dansky said...

    Didn’t Billy Wagner hang up a sign that read “Know your place, rook” in his locker at one point? And the media (especially John Heyman, who seems to have this unholy fascination with the Wagster) just ran with it.

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