One of the Mets newest beat writers, John Delcos, kick-started a small firestorm on his blog, when he wrote the following…
On the other hand, Lastings Milledge, whose image needs an overhaul, is nowhere to be found. In fairness, he doesn’t have to be here until next week, but one would think considering his acclimation problems last summer, he’d make the effort to show up early.
Many of his readers including myself, had much to say about the blog in his comments, but I was surprised at how many Met fans jumped down his throat and called his post a personal attack. There seems to be a growing minority that believes that the media wrongfully miscast Milledge as someone who is in need of a serious attitude adjustment.
Well, excuse me! Before people start blaming the media for all of the bad press about Lastings Milledge, they should first stop and look at the facts. Even before donning a Mets uniform, Milledge had run-ins with the law and was forced to go into a juvenile protection program to avoid prosecution for sexual misconduct. He was also expelled from his high school for "“inappropriate behavior”. Originally expected to be one of the top picks in the MLB Draft, concerns about his character as well as his troubled past, allowed him to fall all the way down to the New York Mets.
Since joining the Mets, he has made no attempt to polish his image, instead he has cast himself under even more scrutiny. Let’s not forget how he showed the other team up when he paraded down the field giving high-fives to the fans after hitting his first homerun. Shortly after that, on national television, he was seen by everyone turning his back and walking away from Willie Randolph who was giving him an earful for his lack of hustle earlier in the inning. In fact on several occasions, you could see how infuriated Willie Randolph was the young rookie last season. Lets also not forget that it was his own teammates, and NOT the media that hung a sign over his locker that read “Know Your Place Rook.”
I’m sorry, but the media did not create any of that stuff. The media did not script any of those events. The media did not prompt him to do any of those things. Lastings Milledge did them all on his own. He has nobody else but himself to blame for his bad image. The reporters are guilty of only one thing, doing their job. What Milledge did was newsworthy and they reported on it because that is their job.
So when a reporter like John Delcos wonders out loud why Milledge isn’t in camp early, it is completely justified. I wondered the same thing myself. You would think that someone would have told Milledge that if he wanted to begin to repair his image, he could start by showing up to camp early with a big smile and lot’s of enthusiasm. It’s not an unreasonable thought. Jose Reyes and David Wright are both in camp a week early. They have a passion for the game and a love of the team they play for. They understand how lucky and how privileged they are to be playing such a wonderful game. They get it. Lastings does not.
So now, like it or not, we are stuck with Milledge. As Met fans we should root for the guy and hope for the best. We have no other alternative. His value is so low, that the best we could get for him in the off season was a washed up reliever or a decent hitting 4th outfielder. He was usually talked about as the throw-in to a deal and not the substance of the deal.
I just wish that someone on the team would take him under his wing and help him become the star that the Mets thought he could be when they drafted him. There is no denying his talent. He can be one of the best homegrown outfielders the Mets have ever had if he can just get his act together. He can’t do it by himself, he needs his teammates to be behind him. Right now, it doesn’t seem like they are, but these Mets are not just great baseball players, they are also a great bunch of guys. If Milledge takes one small step towards repairing his relationship with the team, they will embrace him and support him in a heartbeat.
The ball is in Lastings’ court now. He has two choices… he can either pass it, or take the shot. I hope he does the latter. He still has a chance to make a great "Lastings" impression.