Sunday, March 22, 2009
Maybe lost in the announcement that Lastings Milledge will begin the 2009 Season as the leadoff hitter for Our Washington Nationals is the very fact that Our Manager Manny Acta is giving Lastings responsibility--for the very first time.
Lastings Milledge has always been a great athlete. He has never been an instinctive baseball player. In every level of professional baseball in which Milledge has played so far--his managers and coaches have always just sent him out on the field. "Do your thing. Show us what you got". Sometimes Lastings Milledge has done well, shown promise and hit for power--revealing glimpses of a potentially good ball player. Other times, Milledge has shown, limited patience at the plate, poor baserunning skills and a below average tendency to field any baseball hit to him in the outfield. Deficiencies in his game that can drive any fan crazy--because you know, he can do better--if he's focused.
As of today, Lastings Milledge is no longer just playing ball. Manny officially pushing Lastings to become a more compete player.
What Our Number 14 has done this Sunday by officially naming Lastings Milledge as Our Leadoff Hitter to begin this season--is give him direction. Something he has NEVER HAD BEFORE. For the first time, Manny has publicly committed Our Number 85 to specific goals. No longer is just stepping out on the field "Doing Your Thing" acceptable anymore. It's time for Lastings Milledge to grow up.
Manny taking the one weak point in his batting order (No Leadoff Hitter) and challenging the only player currently on his roster that logically could possibly give him a positive result--consistently--at that position. Manny letting Lastings know that being just young and athletically talented is no longer just good enough. Yes Lastings, you are young and still somewhat inexperienced--but Manny Acta, obviously, believes IN YOU and expects a far more complete performance than shown previously.
Manny pressuring Lastings to not get too comfortable in his ways.
Be more selective at the plate.
Raise his On Base Percentage. Get on base more.
Be a far better, and smarter, baserunner.
Because as of today Lastings, you need to be a better team player. Cristian Guzman, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and either Nick Johnson or Elijah Dukes or Josh Willingham or Austin Kearns, all batting behind you, are going to be depending on your skills to set that proverbial baseball table from the top of the order. Yes, Lastings--it's now your responsibility to truly show what your final destiny can be in The Big Leagues. And I know your self-confidence is not lacking.
For all those hopes to pan out--Lastings needs to be less of a free swinger and a more selective hitter based on the situation at hand when he steps to the plate. Also, Milledge needs to spray the ball around the field. Not comparing Lastings to Hall Of Fame Inductee Rickey Henderson in any way--just using Henderson as an example--think of this. Rickey could hit the ball out of the park with power like Milledge can this very day. But what made Henderson dangerous was his innate ability to just get on base and create havoc once he got there. Teams worried about Rickey Henderson. Milledge could provide a lesser but similar threat--if he understands today's message sent by Our Manager.
Everybody wants to be a superstar Lastings. Every hitter out there would love to slug 30 Homers per season. But your calling my come from harnessing all your god-given athletic talents into that persona you probably never envisioned--Leadoff Man. Remember, once you become a threat at the top the lineup, you might end up getting better pitches to hit anyway. Pitches you can slam out of the park. Because the worried opposing pitcher, not wanting to walk you and allow a stolen base--might just think he can blow a fastball right past you. And at that time--You've Got Him!! You would be in control.
That is, if you fully take advantage of the opportunity thrown your way today by Our Manager Manny Acta.
Lastings--are you up to the challenge to be Leadoff Man?
Do you want to mature into a very good Major League Player?
Manny Acta's given you his trust today. Can your teammates, and Our Fans, put their trust in you?
The 2009 Season awaits--We shall find out soon enough.
PS: One more thing Lastings: Please work on those fielding skills too. Rickey Henderson wasn't the greatest outfielder either--but he worked hard enough to win one Gold Glove. Although I still believe you are better off as a corner outfielder once all is said and done.
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