Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Performance, Attitude & Responsibility Count
A Good Move.
A Professional Move.
A Move That Sends A Message.
When Our Washington Nationals announced this afternoon that Lastings Milledge had been optioned to AAA Syracuse--the first reaction--"Yes, about time." Acting GM Mike Rizzo determining that Ocho-Cinco is not developing into a complete ballplayer.
Lastings Milledge has tremendous athletic ability. What he is not is a tremendously skilled baseball player. In fact, his skills are lacking and need developing--something that doesn't outwardly seem to have worried or bothered Milledge in the time he's played for Washington. But how many times can anyone witness the same player take the same circuitous routes tracking fly balls? How many times can you watch the same player step to the plate and have a limited idea of what he should do once the pitch is thrown. How many times do you have to throw up your hands in disbelief saying: "What in the world is he doing out there?"
And what makes these matters far worse is his attitude.
By his own remarks, Lastings Milledge says everything will always work out. He's never at fault--not even for nearly skipping a mandatory team meeting on Sunday April 5th in South Florida. A "I am celebrating my birthday decision" that found Lastings fined, but not suspended. In real life--still responsible for their jobs, most everyone else works on their birthday. Yet, Milledge felt he could blow that Team Meeting Off only because it was "His Birthday".
That's immaturity. Lastings Milledge was not ready for the responsibilities that Our Manager Manny Acta gave him when Manny named Lastings Leadoff Man.
A cold hard lesson was hopefully learned today by Lastings Milledge when Our Washington Nationals sent him to Upper State New York for seasoning. He's still only 24 Years Old, many other talented players have suffered the same consequences and rebounded--improved and played out successful Major League Careers. But what's really important here is if Milledge UNDERSTANDS THE REASON WHY?
Does he get it?
Radio Broadcasters Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler haven't been criticizing his play over the first week of the season for nothing. Tom Boswell didn't write his blistering column today about Lastings shortcomings after just watching him for one game. And most every internet board, fan forum and Nationals Blog hasn't debated the Pros & Cons of Milledge's play just because they have nothing else to gab about.
There was legitimate concern.
The signal today sent by Our Washington Nationals is that enough is enough. You need to play The Great Game the right way, not just your way. Individuality is welcome, but not when you are underperforming and you see nothing wrong in your duties. Lastings Milledge needs to make some serious adjustments. His optioning to AAA Syracuse is a solid move because this sets an example: No longer can you get by on perceived talent alone.
Performance, Attitude & Responsibility Count.
PS--What this move also does is free up the logjam in the outfield for Our Washington Nationals. And immediately improves Washington's defensive capabilities in the field. With Elijah Dukes now GIVEN the centerfield starting position--you can bet that his skill set will assist the shortcomings of Adam Dunn stationed in left. Our Number 34's role will change. Every single baseball he can get to shadowing over toward Dunn--he will take. Austin Kearns will now be starting in right. This addition by subtraction makes for a far better outfield alignment. This move also gets stronger hitters in our batting order. If Adam moves to first, Josh Willingham now has a more important role in Washington's Lineup. No longer the 5th outfielder, Willingham's powerful bat will get more opportunities to prove why he was originally traded for in the first place. Josh has been wasting on the bench most of these first seven games.
No corresponding roster move as this post is written. With Willie Harris already on the DL, Cristian Guzman possibly heading there and Ronnie Belliard still recovering from a back issue--Washington needs some middle infield depth. Whether that is Alex Cintron, Pete Orr or someone else--Acting GM Mike Rizzo will need to make that decision and have a new player in place by 7:05PM Wednesday Night. If "The Guz" heads to the DL, possibly there would be the opportunity for a 5th outfielder--someone like Ryan Langerhans, Justin Maxwell or Corey Patterson to play that strictly backup role/pinch hitter. Maxwell the only player mentioned whose recall would not affect The 40-Man Roster.
At the same time, another decision will have to be made on carrying three catchers. Wil Nieves or Josh Bard need to be moved for Jordan Zimmermann on April 19th. Wil Nieves must have the upper hand. He's a far better catcher. Besides, Bard wears Cursed Number 7. The Jersey Number that has befallen so many Nationals Players before him.