Milledge And The Mets
Lastings Milledge did many things to anger teammates and management during his turbulent rookie season; but he also showed the flair and ability that led the Mets to look past some youthful indiscretions and draft him in the first round of 2003. Now there are continuing stories as to how his behaviors are increasing his availability in trades as the Mets search for pitching.
There were some incidents during the season—–such as his showing up at the ballpark an hour before a game in Philadelphia; or the several times in which manager Willie Randolph had a look on his face like he was barely restraining himself from strangling the rookie——-that warranted discipline. But there were others, such as when he made the enthusiastic, rookie mistake of shaking hands with the fans after hitting a game-tying home run, that should have been seen as innocent, youthful mistakes—–there was a sweetness to Milledge’s high-fiving the fans. Now it appears as though the Mets are deliberately letting little vignettes of Milledge’s behavior seep into the media as some sort of publicity campaign for them trading another young player because of "attitude issues". The latest being that he is refusing the club’s request to play winter ball.
In all fairness, there may have been issues that didn’t get out into the public that have been clouding the Mets opinion of Milledge. It also may be that the Mets just don’t think that Milledge is cut out for New York; that he isn’t going to be as good as advertised. This is all fine; but to intentionally leak stories that his behavior is becoming so out-of-control that they have no choice but to trade him seems like a marketing ploy. It’s also self-defeating.
Omar Minaya has accrued enough capital with his astute trades and transformation of the Mets from a laughingstock to a championship contender to do what he thinks is right without publicly chastising a young player who is doing stupid things not because he’s inherently bad, but because he’s a kid; and the more stories that come out about Milledge’s behavioral problems, the less the Mets are going to get if they do decide to trade him. It’s time to keep things in house and mentor Milledge into being a big leaguer, because he appears to need guidance more than anything else.