“Lastings Milledge, whose image needs an overhaul, is nowhere to be found,” wrote John Delcos of the Journal News on February 15. “In fairness, he doesn’t have to be here until next week, but one would think considering his acclimation problems last summer, he’d make the effort to show up early.” Just two Mets, David Wright and Jose Reyes, had arrived at that point.
Delcos and other writers did take positive notice of Milledge’s play in the spring, when he hit .367 and earned his way onto the Opening Day roster. Milledge saw action much of the time in B-squad games, traveling on long bus rides. But his hustle never ceased, and many fans began calling for Lastings to replace Shawn Green as the everyday right fielder, after the veteran starter struggled through a miserable spring.
But by the time he got his chance—Green had cooled off after April and Alou was injured—Milledge had sprained a ligament in his foot. He worked hard to return quickly.
“I knew I’d get my chance,” he said Thursday.
As he rehabbed, however, another media blow-up erupted concerning a rap album that Milledge had produced during the off-season. Appearing on the album as guest rapper “L Millz”, the lyrics he used were considered profane—the song was called “Bend Ya Knees,” and was not an excitation to exercise—and caused the Mets to issue a press release distancing themselves from the album.
The reaction from the media was overwhelming. The Daily News had a two-page spread about the album with a large picture of Milledge, looking downcast. Newsday and the New York Post both featured the story on the back page. The Post’s headline was “Facing a ‘Ho Lot of Woe.”
“His enablers will point (sic) Milledge is still young,” the Post’s Jay Greenberg wrote in a column on May 16, “but clueless at 21 has turned into clueless at 22 with no indication that the kid, who comes from a good family and should know better, is growing up any time soon.”
As Milledge batted .435 with 3 home runs in a rehab stint at AA Binghamton this week, the Journal News’ Delcos caused a stir by referring to Milledge as a “time bomb” in an interview with MetsBlog, an online Mets news site.
Elaborating on the quote at his own blog, Delcos said Wednesday, “The perception of Milledge IS that something could happen with him anytime. Hence, the timebomb reference. Is that fair? Probably not, but it is there. For example, he was all peaches and cream in spring training, then came the issue with the rap record. Big deal or not, something happened and the Mets weren’t happy. Nobody made it up … It happened. Until he goes through a seamless period, there will be those expectations of waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
And, almost inevitably the wood on the back of the July 13th Post, following Milledge’s triumphant return to the majors, was “Hip-Hop Hurray.”
“Maybe the writers want controversy,” said Hyde, who has followed Milledge since the beginning of his professional career. “And there’s not been a lot of controversy about the Mets team last two years. Perhaps when there’s any hint of danger, the media is all over it. Milledge one of the few Mets that can create that–not that he’s dangerous, but there’s that hint, that aura.
Milledge—this year’s model, anyway—doesn’t seem inclined to complain.
“Life isn’t fair,” Milledge said. “You can’t please everybody. I’m here to please my team, the front office, my fans, and my family. And if I play well, that will all take care of itself.”