This picture look familiar? It should. It is featured on the front page of mlblogs.com. When I logged on this morning I was welcomed with the sight of Bucco. I was shocked, simply because when are the Pirates even merely mentioned? Lastings Milledge was front and center as mlb.com drooled over his fantasy potential.
Lastings Milledge my friends, this guy is going to be good. I’m not the only one who thinks so. Cory Schwartz of Fantasy 411 on mlb.com had this to say about Pittsburgh’s starting left fielder.
Lastings Milledge is something of a forgotten man after being run out of two organizations, and he was further hampered last season by a broken finger, but he’s stolen 28 bases in his last 162 Major League games going back to 2008, along with a .278 average and 17 homers. He seems comfortable in Pittsburgh, especially now that he’s been moved to the less stressful defensive assignment in left field, and he’s still only 24. Milledge’s talent has never been in question, so with a full season of health and calm this could be year he starts converting those skills into big-time fantasy results.
I agree with everything Schwartz mentioned above. When Milledge first came over from Washington I thought we were in for a long, rusty relationship. He had indeed hit his rough patches as a Met and even in Washington he butted heads with those in charge. It looked as if we had traded Nyjer Morgan, one of the nicest guys in the business, for this firecracker.
Within days, Milledge proved us all wrong. Management praised his attitude and worth ethic as he put in the time and effort he never seemed to in previous years. Everytime I saw him last season he had a smile on his face and looked like he belonged.
Hitting the seen near the beginning of 2006, Milledge was heralded as “the future,” a phenom. Whether the hype went to his head is something often discussed but he was never welcomed in New York. As the youngest player in the National League, just a few days into his 21st year, Milledge was never understood by his veteran teammates. Such stars as Cliff Floyd, David Wright and Billy Wagner were reported to have lashed out against their rookie member in the clubhouse. It is safe to say they had a reason. Milledge acted like a kid in a candy score in the Shea Stadium outfield. He celebrated outlandishly, high fived fans and blew up at umpires. Maybe the vets had a point. Milledge definitely had some growing up to do. He got that opportunity in Washington when he was traded to the Nationals. Ironically enough Milledge was swapped for Ryan Church. Now the two pieces of a trade will be united together in ittsburgh as Pirates this year.
In a new setting and a new environment, young Lastings still had to fight to find his niche.
He was welcomed by the younger, more relaxed clubhouse in Nationals Stadium. It was his performance on the field that rolled some eyes. Batting in the third spot Milledge was batting .245 with seven home runs and 32 RBIs. Miniscule numbers for a quality 3rd batter. He suffered through a lingering foot injury suffered while in New York. After the rehab process he showed some life in his bat with an above .300 average to close out the 2008 season. When he was traded near the July 31st trade deadline, Milledge had a hand injury and could not play baseball for the life of him. With a sub-Mendoza Line batting average and nagging metacarpals Milledge came to Pittsburgh amidst the outcrys of Pirates fans who mised their beloved Nyjer Morgan. Like I said before, it was only a matter of days before he put the criticism to rest and strived.
Part of the facts attributing to the resurgence of Lastings was the much younger clubhouse. Stepping in as actually one of the veteran guys at the rip age of 24 was appealing. Also, lets face it, its Pittsburgh. Milledge found a home in the lower part of the batting order and finished the year strong. With our outfield set, he is truly a part of the bright future of the Pirates.
picture credits: mlblogs.com, dailynews.com, postgazette.com, washingtonpost.com