The Washington Nationals demoted opening day centerfielder and leadoff man Lastings Milledge to triple-A Syracuse today following a .167 batting average and several not-so-exciting moments in the field.
Last season Milledge was one of the more consistant Major League players for the Nationals batting .268/.330/.402 with 14 homers and 24 stolen bases as a 23 year old. He took over the everyday centerfield role half way through the year and quickly learned how to man the anchor of the outfield.
"He is still a work-in-progress as a leadoff man," assistant general manager Mike Rizzo(Acting General Manager) said during a conference call with the Associated Press. "There is certainly a message that we need for players to perform," Rizzo said. :we need for players to adapt to the major leagues, and we need players to succeed."
So there you have it, after a sample size of 24 at bats the Nationals have already made a drastic decision on their personnel and the outlook on their season. 24 simple at bats have taken a player with who's growth this season many believed held the key to the success to the Nats to triple-A in the blink of an eye.
24 at bats ago Lastings Milledge was a promising future star in the Nationals line-up who not only was named the starting centerfielder but also the clubs leadoff hitter. Now all of the sudden he isn't ready to be on the big league ball club.
This is just sloppy.
What about last year when Milledge hit .336 with six homers and six stolen bases in August? Or in September when he hit .297 with one bomb and five stolen bases? Was he not a Major League ready outfielder then, when he had 121 at-bats as the three hitter, or 141 at bats as the teams clean-up hitter in 2008?
Suppose the Nats believed that he wasn't, then why would they play him everyday in the Majors in a lost season where they easily could have sent him down for seasoning? Where was the executive decision then to worry about Milledge's so called lack of development?
The AP reported that Manny Acta refused to comment on Milledge's demotion. A seemingly bitter move from a man who has long supported Lastings. The two have a relationship dating back to their days with the Mets, and he has long been considered to be Manny's man.
Is it possible that the Nats front office wanted Milledge down in the minors even last year, but wouldn't go against their managers wishes? Is it possible that only now, when Manny Acta has no job security to speak of, the front office asserts itself with its wishes?
Is that okay?
No, its absolutely unacceptable. The organization and decision making on this team has been so awful, so public relations driven, so Bud Selig-esk. For once I would love to see this franchise be run with some sort of organization, or more importantly, a plan.
Lastings Milledge is a Major League centerfielder, keep him there, promise him his job. It will pay off.