Milledge On The Outs?

In an article today, Tom Boswell suggested that the Nationals may unclog their outfield by sending Lastings Milledge back to Triple-A. He suggests that the move would send a message to Milledge that his attitude needs to change. I’d suggest that might be where he belongs anyway.

Yes, Milledge is young and toolsy – he just turned 24 years of age, and he’s been a highly regarded prospect for as long as people can remember. However, he’s been a fairly abysmal major league player so far in his career, and he’s not exactly showing improvement.

Last year, Milledge posted a .325 wOBA, which made him just slightly below average as a hitter. For a center fielder, that’s not bad. Of course, we have some evidence that Milledge isn’t actually a center fielder – his UZR last year in CF was -18.5, which goes along with reports of him running circuitous routes in the outfield. That kind of putrid defense canceled out almost all of his offensive value, so Milledge’s total contribution to the team in 2008 was 0.1 wins.

To begin 2009, he’s 4 for 26 with an ugly 10/1 K/BB ratio. He’s not showing any improved selectivity at the plate, and he doesn’t have the contact abilities to make up for a lousy approach. Toss in some more bad routes in the outfield, and Milledge is simply continuing his pattern of replacement level performance as a major leaguer.

His age and physical abilities will buy him a long leash, but the Nationals are 0-7 in a season where rebuilding credibility with the fan base is a priority. With too many outfielders on the roster, a trip back to the minors might be in everyone’s best interest. Milledge has some significant improving to do before he can lay claim to an everyday job, and the Nationals have better options on the roster. How much longer do they put up with replacement level performance from a kid who should be able to produce much more?

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Dave is a co-founder of and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

21 Responses to “Milledge On The Outs?”

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  1. Tom Au says:

    At his best, Milledge was no more than a role player. “Toolsy” only gets one that far without other intangibles such as “attitude.” It seems that Milledge has regressed from his “high water mark,” and is now no more than a “fourth or fifth” outfielder, if that.

    Perhaps it was too much to expect Milledge to make it with the Mets. But the fact that he’s not “additive” to the WASHINGTON NATIONALS is something else again.

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  2. Jordan Gillis says:

    Elijah Dukes ladies and gentlemen! My fantasy team rejoices!

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  3. JCA says:

    In fairness to Milledge, he had a sustained stretch in the 2d half of 2008 with above average offensive performance. The .325 wOBA really does not capture what the Nats management sees in him. there’s no question he’s cold as heck and playing him means either a better player (Dukes) or a hotter player (Kearns) does not play. also, would Milledge need to clear waivers to be sent down? Last list I saw in the Washington Post did not list him as having options.

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  4. brian recca says:

    If I were the Nationals I would trade Milledge and get some damn pitching. This staff outside of Lannan and some members of the bullpen like S. Rivera, Shell, Hanrahan and Joe Beimel is absolutely atrocious. What do you think would the Nationals go for some established veteran pitcher or would they get some prospects?

    How about a Milledge for Ian Snell deal? Or do you think the Nationals could get more than that?

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  5. Mike G. says:

    The Boswell article is password required.

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    • Teej says:

      As are most things on the Post’s site. It’s worth creating a free log-in; I’ve had one for a decade, and they don’t spam me at all.

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  6. Matt H. says:

    So hard to give up on a player when you really think he has the skills. I’ve been following Milledge since we played against him in high school. I hope he can turn those tools into skills eventually.

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  7. Ryan B says:

    Good call… according to he was sent down today.

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  8. JCA says:

    Guess he had an option.

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  9. TMac says:

    Guess he had an option.

    YES … and here’s another “option” for him …
    He can lose the attitude and devote himself to improving his game. At the MLB level, it takes more than just “tools”.
    If he doesn’t, he’ll be riding the bus to HIS games, for the rest of his shortened career.

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  10. Brian says:

    I am a huge Nats fan and I am thrilled he was sent down. His biggest problem is that he does not appear to like what he is doing. he has this Oh sh!t! look on his face when the ball is hit to him. Lacks instincts in center, and he does not play with intensity. But, I have hope for him long term as a corner OF. He will be good starter when he is 27-28 years old, but man I sure wish we had Church and Schneider back!!! The young pitchers need schneider so badly.

    On the other hand, now he is out of the way, we are going to start winning some games. Donkey, Dukes, and Hammer are a potent offensive outfield, and the amazing willy harris and Kearns have awesome OF gloves, so we are styling in the OF now! We are going to score a bunch of runs this year!

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  11. NatsFan09 says:

    Do you think a barton + pitching for milledge trade would work out?
    Beane gets his holy grail part II. Nats wanted Barton this offseason in discussions with A’s.




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  12. brian recca says:

    i don’t see why the Nationals would want ANOTHER first baseman on top of Nick Johnson. They have Dmitri Young and Adam Dunn sort of also.

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  13. ted says:

    I’d still rather have Milledge right now. Church is playing great and if it lasts a full season I’ll enjoy my dish of crow, but he’s yet to have a great full season.

    The best year of his entire career was .270, 15, 70….which isnt far off from what Milledge did for the Nationals last year as a 23 year old in his first full season. The bonus is we didn’t get stuck with a boat anchor of a catcher and an extra 10 mil of spending money that could have went elsewhere.

    Trading a top prospect to the worst team in the league for their platoon OFer and a washed up catcher…never a great idea. If it works out this time with Church becoming a better player than he’s been in his career, great for the Mets, but still a bad move at the time IMO

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  14. randy says:

    Schneider is the worst starting catcher in basebalkl bar none. We knew he was a wretched hitter I’ve been shocked how bad his defense is. He is as bad as it gets when it comes to blocking pitches in the dirt and pitch selection.

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  15. MG says:

    Irony – Milledge lost his job due to missing/being late for team meetings to a guy who has been a huge behavioral problem (Dukes).

    Still, not like the Mets miss Milledge. He was one of several bad apples (including Lo Duca, Mota) that Minaya looked to get rid to improve the chemistry and attitude in the clubhouse.

    Milledge is like most prospects that are in the NY systems – overexposed and generally overhyped.

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  16. randy says:

    Delgado who completely tanked it for Willie is still around though.

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  17. Tom Au says:

    Milledge for Ian Snell? A good deal for Washington perhaps, not a good deal for the Pirates, which is probably why it won’t get done.

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