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Lastings but not Least

Alrighty, a rainout tonight, so I can catch up on this blogging thing a little bit.

I like what Lastings Milledge brings to the table in a number of different respects. I think the best thing about Milledge is that every time I've seen him, he's done something different that impressed me. I drove three hours last year to soggy New Hampshire to watch Milledge and Yusmiero Petit near the conclusion of last season. Milledge rewarded me with an opposite-field home run and Petit, now a Marlin, pitched a gem. Milledge has been swinging a good bat all spring, and made a laser of a throw to home plate (he was cost a putout by the catcher, whomever it was) in that Orioles game that the Mets botched earlier this week. He's got a nice hop in his step when he runs, whether its on the bases, or in pursuit of fly balls.

I've heard those on television describe Milledge as a "5-tool player," referencing his ability to hit, hit with power, run, field, and throw, but let us laud his sixth tool, or perhaps the mysterious "sixth sense" -- walk-offability. This is a guy who doesn't discriminate when it comes to walk-offs. He gets them in spring training, he gets them in the Arizona Fall League (see link in previous entry), and yes, he gets them in the regular season.

Milledge had two walk-offs within a three-week span for the Binghamton Mets during his brief stint with the team last season. The first came in the second game of a doubleheader sweep of the Portland Sea Dogs on August 6 and is the type of walk-off unique to minor league baseball. In an Eastern League doubleheader, the games are only seven innings in length and Game 2 was tied after 7, not long after pinch-runner Milledge scored the tying run on a base hit by Mike Jacobs. So the game went the bonus baseball route, though it was decided in the eighth inning

The Mets put a runner on third with one out and Portland's strategy was to walk the bases loaded and set up a force play at home plate. The plan backfired when Milledge walked on a 3-2 pitch to force in the game-ending run. Plate patience is the one area in which Milledge is lacking (he strikes out a lot, which is to be expected for a young talent) but on this instance, his sixth sense was heightened and he was able to come through with what was needed.

Milledge's second walk-off came 19 days later against the Harrisburg Senators, a line drive single down the right field line that snapped a 10th inning tie and gave the Mets a 4-3 victory. Again, it was the smart type of at bat that the Mets needed, as Milledge took a pitch the other way, rather than trying to do too much. It was one of the 65 hits that Milledge had in 48 games at Double-A, en route to hitting a very robust .337.

Milledge is hitting an equally stellar .347 this spring and has shown a penchant for playing winning baseball. Some ballplayers just seem to have that "it" quality that makes them capable of significant accomplishments in key situations. It's a special skill that doesn't surface very often. Sometimes it surfaces in the likes of a pinch-hitting master, like Chris Jones. Sometimes it develops within someone like an ultra-clutch Keith Hernandez. Whether Milledge develops further and lives up to the high expectations remains to be seen, but he seems to be someone capable of producing a lot of excitement, wherever he plays, in the near-future. I can "sense" it.

True Mettedges know...The only Met with the initials LM to get a walk-off hit in a regular season game is Lee Mazzilli, who tallied five.

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