(Lastings Milledge is on the left. A certain Newsday columnist would like you to check out the earing)
Extensively detailing the rookie’s wardrobe, along with warning “listing the transgressions that might have hastened Milledge’s departure would take more space than I have to write and more time than you have to read,” Newsday’s Wallace Matthews applauds Lasting Milledge’s demotion to Norfolk and urges the Mets to trade him.
Clearly, the Mets are built for now, but Milledge is wired for sometime in the future, if ever. He is fast but not particularly big or powerful, a nice little player but not a game-breaker.
If there is anything their misguided “celebration” of the ’86 Mets should remind all of us, it is that even the most talented teams sometimes get only one shot at winning it all.
For the Mets, this year may be that shot. If it comes down to holding on to the unkept promise that is keeping Milledge or sending him off for an experienced player who can put them over the top, there should be no agonizing and no hand-wringing, no flashbacks to Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambano or Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi.
They play in the weakest division in baseball and the clearly inferior league. Barring catastrophe, they should waltz through the NL East and have a great shot at making it to the World Series.
But their three days in Boston showed them that while they may be good enough to handle the NL, when they cross lines the Mets are truly out of their league.
This year, might they be tempted to part with the formerly untouchable Milledge if a Barry Zito, Dontrelle Willis John Smoltz or Alfonso Soriano become available?
“Like I said, I never label no player untouchable,” Minaya said.
In that case, it is time for some team to reach out and touch Lastings Milledge.
Though I don’t think Matthews is entirely nuts in suggesting Milledge’s future promise is more than worth bringing in a top flight starter (particular a Zito or D-Train if they could sign an extension), it’s amazing to see how quickly the outfielder has been condemned. Is Milledge’s one month in the big leagues the full measure of his value? Other than losing a couple of fly balls against the Green Monster — an experience hardly unique to Milledge — what exactly are these transgressions? The clothes? The doo-rag? High-fiving the fans after taking Benitez deep?
So Milledge was late for a day game and might’ve blown a chance at scoring a run by watching the ball instead of his 3rd base coach. Are these crimes serious enough to warrant continued character assasination? Matthews argues that Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Joe DiMaggio were “true untouchables” at the age of 21. All of a sudden, it isn’t good enough to show more potential than Greg Jefferies or Jay Payton. Milledge has to measure up to 3 of the greatest players of all time, and if he slips, he’s unworthy of wearing a Mets uniform?