Tag: Lastings Milledge

Lastings Milledge Signs with White Sox: The Offseason’s Most Underrated Pickup

With all the money the Chicago White Sox spent this offseason, trying to find a player to use their final expenses on was like Oprah looking for a piece of furniture in a thrift shop. Their final acquisition was outfielder Lastings Milledge who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates last season.

The Sox will be Milledge’s third organization in the last five years. However, this last investment could be a steal when all is said and done.

At the beginning of last year when the Sox were not doing so well, articles were being written about what was missing. From quality hitting to a counselor to sort out the “Guillen-Williams” feud, one intriguing argument stood out: One aspect the White Sox lacked was an “oddball” or a player that could stir up some controversy.

Now, there are not many baseball fans outside the Chicagoland area that would invite Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski over for dinner, let alone accept his friend request on any social networking sites. Still, Pierzynski seems to have lost that “bad boy” label that was stamped on him during the 2005 and 2006 seasons.

Since then he has not been a punching bag or a subject of any beanings. Even when the Sox were being pelted by Twins pitches last season Pierzynski chose to be a spectator and not throw gasoline on the fire. The Sox needed a man that would stick his head out there and cause pitchers to aim at him. This is where Lastings Milledge comes in.

Milledge was once a top prospect in the NewYork Mets organization. His bat and glove did most of the talking while he was in the minors. Then he got the call to join the big league team in New York and his actions began to speak volumes—right away he got under people’s skins.

After belting his first home run he started “high-fiving” the Shea faithful. This and other antics caused pitches to be aimed at his head as well as more sensitive areas. His talk about how superior he thought he was messed with the mindset of his opponents. Instead of trying to strike him out, pitchers tried to hit him at all costs. 

Even if his actions gave his team an extra boost at times, the Mets brass thought his show was too much. Four years and two organizations later, and after conversations about his lack of hustle, Milledge is now wearing a White Sox uniform.

Now, Milledge’s numbers have declined drastically the past few years, but he is only 25 years-old. His $500,000 contract is peanuts to what the Sox spent on other players this offseason. His bat does not have that much pop and he is not a Gold Glove outfielder.

Still for his price tag the Sox are not looking for much.

Milledge’s ability to be hated may be a small quality, but just look at a former White Sox oddball Carl Everett to see the impact that trait can have—Everett was a key part of the 2005 championship team. His lack of belief in dinosaurs and racy comments got him labeled as a “weirdo” who sparked hate in opponents.

When opposing pitchers looked at someone to bean they did not throw at Konerko, Dye or even Pierzynski, they threw at Everett.

The Sox needed depth in their outfield before spring training. Signing the young, hotheaded Milledge fills that void and brings a unique x-factor not seen on the South Side in quite some time.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB Free Agents: Eight Remaining Players Who Could Get a Team to the Playoffs

With Cliff Lee bleeding Philly red, serving the needs of his family and Phanatics, what free agents remaining could possibly take a team into playoff contention?  Adrian Beltre appears to be ready to sign with the Texas Rangers, does that return the Rangers to the playoffs or World Series?  Here are eight remaining free agents could be the missing pieces in the postseason jigsaw puzzle for certain teams. 

Begin Slideshow

Pittsburgh Pirates (and Other Teams): Misunderstanding Lastings Millege

Lastings Milledge, who was most recently with the Pittsburgh Pirates, is no more than a role player. The problem was, he was widely expected to be much more than this.

And when he failed to do so, it came as something of a shock to many, not least of all Milledge himself.

Milledge started as the New York Mets‘ great hope. This was largely based on his record in the minors, which might be characterized as borderline impressive, plus his purported “tools,” which led to a first-round draft pick in 2003.  But the fact was, he never produced (at a major league level) for the Mets.

He was then regarded as a talented, but lazy player, with a “when I get around to it” attitude, and was traded to the Washington Nationals, who thought so much of him that they gave the Mets outfielder Ryan Church (a better player) AND backup catcher Brian Schneider.

And perhaps part of Milledge’s problem was his attitude. On the other hand, in “chicken and egg fashion,” his attitude might have stemmed from a deep-seated fear that he didn’t “have the goods.”

The Nats suffered through a year and half of his mediocrity before trading him in disgust to the Pittsburgh Pirates. During this time, Milledge had improved his attitude to the point where he realized that he needed to earn the status of everyday player.

In accepting Milledge in trade for Nyjer Morgan, the Pirates management (positively) evaluated Milledge’s newfound attitude and “maturity,” meaning that they had done their due diligence. These attributes were, in fact, on display during Milledge’s tenure with the Pirates.

But the underlying problem with Milledge was his basic shortage of talent.

As a Pirate, his batting average of .277 was (barely) above average. If this were true in every other category, he would have been worth keeping. But his fielding was below average, as was his power and his walk rate (which factors into on-base percentage).

At the end of the day, his talent was barely above replacement level.

One factor in the Milledge-Morgan debate was that Milledge, then 24, was five years younger than Morgan. I believe this factor is given far too much weight, and that players really need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

One man may be mediocre and reach his peak at age 24 while another is a late-bloomer that is just hitting his stride at age 29—compare (older) pitcher Brian Burres to Zach Duke—Burres has more room for development.

But the tragedy is that three major league teams failed to evaluate Lastings Milledge for what he really is, a Doug Mientkiewicz-caliber role player.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Pittsburgh Pirates Hot Stove Report: Pirates Release Milledge, Sign Four

General Manager Neal Huntington and the Pittsburgh Pirates were very busy before the midnight deadline to tender players contracts Thursday night.

Both shortstop Ronny Cedeno and pitcher Jeff Karstens were signed to contracts, while pitchers Ross Ohlendorf and Joel Hanrahan were both tendered contracts. All four moves were expected.

In a move that came as a bit of a surprise, outfielder Lastings Milledge was non-tendered, making him a free agent. It’s a tad surprising, but totally understandable why the Pirates made the decision.

Milledge brought a great attitude and gave a tremendous effort. Often you wonder why the other eight guys on the field didn’t look like they gave the same type of effort as Milledge.  However, with all of the hustle came a lot of mental mistakes and short comings.

Left field at PNC Park was way too tough for Milledge and right field wasn’t a walk in the park either.  He was also hands down the worst base runner in the majors.

Milledge wasn’t terrible at the plate.  He hit a respectable .277 at the plate and was fantastic with runners in scoring position, but he didn’t offer up enough power and just isn’t a run producer.  In the end, Milledge just didn’t produce enough to be tendered a contact.

I thought there was a chance they would tender Milledge and keep him as a fourth outfielder, but you can find bench players as free agents.

So was acquiring Milledge a bad trade?  Absolutely not. I will take Hanrahan’s power arm for Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett any day of the week.  Milledge was worth taking a shot on. He has shown at times that he has a wealth of talent, but like so many young players, he has had trouble bringing it out on a consistent basis.

So where do the Pirates turn for a right fielder in 2011?

John Bowker will get a real long look. After the way he performed late in the season he deserves one. In essence, Bowker made Milledge expendable.

There is also the possibility of acquiring a power hitting first baseman and moving Garrett Jones to right field.

Then there is the worst case scenario, and that’s the Pirates don’t move Ryan Doumit and give him a lot of starts in right field.  Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

Instead, look for the club to improve by going outside the organization.  Huntington has said that they will look to improve at shortstop, first base and right field.  They have the young talent to do it, so I look for the Pirates to be aggressive when the Winter Meetings come around.

If a smart baseball deal emerges, Huntington won’t be afraid to pull the trigger.

So far the Pirates have been linked to a couple of shortstops in Tampa’s Jason Bartlett and Minnesota’s J.J. Hardy. Either could be a possible upgrade, but I’ll talk about that next week.

There are also several big named free agents the Pirates have been linked to including Lance Berkman, but I will break down those scenarios in my next article.

For now, it looks like Lastings Milledge couldn’t take advantage of perhaps his last real shot as an everyday major leaguer.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Major League Baseball’s “Fundamental” Flaws

A lot of hot air has been expelled recently with regards to MLB players’ behavior. 

Hanley Ramirez was benched for an impressive combination of clumsiness and laziness in fielding a hit. 

Milton Bradley, in addition to his very successful board game franchise, continues to have very public, shall we say, issues. 

Ken Griffey, Jr. allegedly fell asleep in the clubhouse. 

Lastings Milledge was tagged out while jogging on his home run trot. For a double.

If these sorts of lapses were just one-offs, they would exist as YouTube clips and nothing more. Sadly, they are both frequent and nothing new.

In addition to the many (founded) gripes about the length of games and abuse of performance enhancing drugs, one more thing has been on the decline in professional baseball: fundamentals.

The decline of basic baseball skills (and the accompanying focus and competitive spirit that accompany them) in baseball has been an ongoing process. Watching baseball growing up, I noticed a number of things the pros did differently than what I was coached to do.

Batters were moving the bat while waiting for a pitch to be delivered. They were letting go of the bat with one hand on their follow-through. After making contact, batters were watching the ball instead of running out their hit.

Defense was not nearly as bad, but still unimpressive at times.

I saw players making underhand basket catches instead of positioning themselves under the ball for the catch. They jogged after fly balls that dropped before they could catch them, rather than running them down to avoid giving up bases and runs.

This grew noticeably worse during the steroids era. I’d see gigantic sluggers like Mo Vaughn and Cecil Fielder and be confused as to what constituted an athlete. It was unfathomable to me that any team would want a batter who was subtracting at least one base per hit just because he couldn’t be bothered to eat healthy and work out anywhere outside of the weight room. The same batter was inevitably a defensive liability due to his lack of mobility.

Baseball in the 1990s and 2000s was more like watching a home run derby than actually baseball.

And I guess now we know why.

Unfortunately, the side effect of this style of play is the quality of play (and players) we see now.

The pitching, defense and situational hitting we are seeing currently is a phenomenon born of a reduction in power hitting and seeing this style of play succeed on the world stage, as well as in smaller markets within the MLB (think Tampa Bay). 

But even with this push for fundamentally sound baseball and scrappy run-scoring, we still see remnants of baseball’s old guard. 

True athletes are still quite rare. 

I find this to be one of the strangest things about baseball. In any other sport, a combination of speed, agility and strength are basically required in top athletes. In baseball, this is only the case in the aforementioned small markets. 

Baseball players have no apparent focus on anything other than weight training in most cases. As a result, you have players like Johnny Damon who are considered fielding liabilities. You also see more injuries due to pulled muscles, which is not coincidental.

So instead of high-quality baseball that includes strategy and electric play, what we see in most games is basically a series of stall tactics and examples of what we want our kids to avoid doing in Little League. 

Imagine a team of 8-year-old boys that played like the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry plays out.  At 15 minutes per at bat, the entire outfield would be snoozing.  Not to mention, watching a bunch of children make a ritual out of stepping into the batter’s box or throwing a single pitch would be a tad on the creepy side.

Unfortunately, if this were the case in Little League, it would be the product of what kids are seeing in their MLB role models. 

Personally, I haven’t seen a baseball player as a hero since noticing that none of them played with the fundamentals in mind. Individual achievements have impressed me, and continue to. 

There are definitely a few good apples out there who are rarely injured and don’t make bone-headed mistakes due to mental lapses.

But in terms of overall play, the league is more like Hanley Ramirez than Ichiro Suzuki.

Until players (and coaching staffs) make it a focus to ensure that their players are athletically finely-tuned machines and play fundamentally sound baseball to avoid costing their teams runs and outs, the quality of the game will continue to suffer. 

Silly, preventable injuries will persist in altering our fantasy rosters. We will continue to see the lack of focus that results from a corresponding lack of routine. 

This is not likely to change until a greater focus is made from Little League and up to require these things of baseball players. 

In professional baseball, as fans, we should expect and require the highest level of play night-in and night-out.  And in a culture of individuals that assumed it was better to juice than to work hard for success, regardless of health risks, I suppose it makes sense that we don’t. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Copyright © 1996-2010 Kuzul. All rights reserved.
iDream theme by Templates Next | Powered by WordPress