At one time, Lastings Milledge was one of the hottest prospects in all of baseball. At 21, he was the youngest player in all of baseball when the Mets brought him up in 2006, and he was a player with seemingly limitless tools. But one year later, the Mets had washed their hands of him, tired of his lackluster attitude, lack of respecPreview »t for the veterans and the “traditions of the game” and having to apologize for his X-rated rap songs.
So he was shipped off to the Washington Nationals, who have since made him and fellow problem child Elijah Dukes the centerpiece of their rebuilding plans. And Milledge, for one, would rather be with the Nationals than the Mets, despite the 29.5 game gap in the standings between the two teams last season. Why? Because, as he told the WASHINGTON POST, the Nationals let young players approach the game the right way - their way.
Milledge was unhappy in New York that managers and veteran players had expectations - like that rookies would be at the ballpark three hours early to stretch before games, or that lingering in the clubhouse and doing a crossword puzzle with your teammates builds a team. In Milledge’s mind, if he could show up 45 minutes before the game and get his stuff done, what was the problem?
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.
So I’m guessing that Milledge never carried any bags for veterans on the road, or dressed up in drag on the way from the clubhouse to the airport. Which is why he prefers the “hands-off” approach that the Nationals take:
…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.
I hate to break this to you, Lastings, but it’s not that the veterans on the team are letting you do your own thing: it’s that they are so disspirited and broken by having to play for the Nationals every day, that they’ve lost all passion for the game, and frankly don’t give a [manure] if you stretch or not. It’s less a team philsophy as a team cry for help.
Witness latest Nationals signed Julian Tavarez, who seems to have playing for the Nationals in perspective as he discussed the process of finally deciding to sign with the team after waiting (and praying) for offers from other teams:
“Why did I sign with the Nationals?” Tavárez said on Sunday. “When you go to a club at 4 in the morning, and you’re just waiting, waiting, a 600-pounder looks like J-Lo. And to me this is Jennifer Lopez right here. It’s 4 in the morning. Too much to drink. So, Nationals: Jennifer Lopez to me.”
Remember kids, plenty of Nationals season tickets are still available. Just like the players, show your Nationals pride!