Milledge Does It His Way and Fails

Manny needs to manage Lastings' talent

There was hope that when Manny Acta named Lastings Milledge the team's lead-off hitter and centerfielder, the security of the role would lead to greater focus, allowing L-Millz to harness his talent.

That hope died on the first pitch.

Milly came out of his shoes, overswung and tapped it weakly to second base.

Aggressiveness has a time and a place.  Milly thinks he's going to succeed as a lead-off hitter if he's aggressive like Cristian Guzman.  Guzman succeeds despite his aggressiveness -- because he shows a pretty strong ability to put good wood on the ball. 

Milledge isn't the same type of hitter.  He's got the talent to be more like Nick Johnson -- waiting for his pitch and hitting it if it comes or walking if it doesn't.

But what's worrisome about Milledge is his attitude.  He's got a "damned if I care" spirit that doesn't work given his meager results.

On Sunday, Acta held a mandatory pre-season meeting, talking to the team about expectations, and setting the tone for the season.  Milledge showed up late.

Sure, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't much matter.  But it's an indication of how he views things.  He's going to do them his way, on his terms, exerting just the amount of effort he thinks is necessary.

So far, that hasn't been good enough.

We saw that on defense yesterday.  Statistically, he's among the league's worst centerfielders, turning fewer fly balls into outs than most others.  Yet, it appears he's barely worked at it -- just doing the minimum to keep the coaches off his back.

The Nats need to stop coddling him.  After he missed that mandatory meeting, the proper response was not the fine they gave him: he should have been benched.

Acta needs to play bad cop.  Nothing else is getting through to the kid.

And unless something does, all the talent in the world isn't going to make him a ballplayer.

Chris Needham used to write Capitol Punishment.  He wishes those pesky kids would stay off his lawn.

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