In Murray Chass's Sunday New York Times baseball column entitled, "Whither the Game? Just Asking", Mr. Chass, in one of a series of rhetorical questions about the upcoming 2008 MLB campaign, asks:
"Will Lastings Milledge mature and blossom among the
cherry blossoms in Washington?"
First of all...Yes! There will be real cherry trees in Nationals Park, the Washington Nationals new stadium, which is still under construction on the Anacostia River. The trees in the stadium, located above the stands in left field, will be set to bloom for a fourteen day period that annually falls somewhere around March 15 and as late as April 18, during which time the stadium's trees will blossom along with those located in or around DC's Tidal Basin, East Potomac Park and Washington Monument, as a reminder of the original sign of "friendship" the Japanese sent to Washington, DC in the year 1912.
Secondly, if you believe the 81 voting readers of Federal Baseball, Lastings Milledge will blossom in center field with the Nationals in 2008. 56 of the 81 votes cast in response to the question, "Who Is The Best Nationals' Pickup Of The Offseason So Far????" were cast for Lastings Milledge.
The most-likely choice for the hole in center on the Nationals' roster, Milledge, who will turn twenty-three a few days into the '08 season, has done about all that could be expected of him in the Mets' Minor League system, combining to hit .305 with 86 doubles, 34 HR's, 163 RBI's and 79 steals over five seasons at every level of the organization.
Prompting Baseball America's Matt Meyers, on December 11, 2005, in his report entitled, "Top Ten Prospects: New York Mets", to list Milledge as the best prospect in the Mets' system, as well as labeling Milledge, "Best Hitter for Average", "Best Athlete", and "Best Defensive Outfielder."
In his two stints in the Majors with the Mets, Milledge's numbers are less impressive, a .257 AVG with 16 doubles, 11 HR's and 51 RBI's in 115 games, and the emergence of several other prospects in the Mets' organization convinced NYM's GM Omar Minaya that Milledge was expendable, in spite of the fact that Minaya had chosen not to include his young outfielder in a package that could, theoretically, have brought Manny Ramirez from Boston to New York just a few years earlier. (ed. note- I say "theoretically" because I think Manny just likes to feel wanted each offseason.)...
...Three years later, if the preseason prognosticators are right, Milledge will be starting the '08 season in the outfield for the Washington Nationals. After the trade to DC, Milledge himself addressed his departure from the Mets in another NY Times article by Ben Shpigel, who quoted Miledge's opinion that, "Sometimes you feel you get the raw end of the deal, but it made me a better person and a better ballplayer." Let's just hope the "Bettered-Milledge's" blossoming coincides with that of those famous DC cherry trees, so the Nationals can get off to a good start this time around...
*Lastings Milledge Links*
Thomas Heath's Washington Post article, "Cherry Trees Among Enhancements to Nationals' New Ballpark in Southeast" at washingtonpost.com:
Ben Shpigel's New York Times article, "Mets Trade Milledge and Fill Two Holes" at nytimes.com:
Baseball America's Matt Meyers' list of, "Top Ten Prospects: New York Mets":