In his latest Washington Post column, Thomas Boswell writes that the winless Nationals may send 24-year-old Lastings Milledge back to the minors because they're "tired" of him "acting like a 10-year veteran who has earned a central position in their locker room when, in fact, he has accomplished little."
When he doesn't show up until 30 minutes before team stretching exercises or is late to a team meeting the day before Opening Day, it sends a bad message that honors are given before they are earned in the Nats' world. ... He's a gifted athlete but, both in center field and as a leadoff hitter, he is still an unpolished and undisciplined player. The Nats' front office still refers to the zig-zag routes he runs to fly balls, like two more adventures yesterday, as "pass patterns" because he breaks in so many different directions. As a leadoff man, he seems to have no sense of his get-on-base role.
I'm not going to argue with any of that, but for all Milledge's faults he's not the one in charge of deciding where he plays defensively and where he bats in the lineup. If the Nationals don't like the routes he takes on fly balls--and they shouldn't, given his poor defensive ratings--they ought to stop playing him in center field. If the Nationals don't like his on-base skills atop the lineup--and they shouldn't, given his .326 career on-base percentage--they ought to stop leading him off.
Milledge's work ethic and general behavior are certainly open for criticism, but on the field he's hit .263/.326/.391 in 145 games with the Nationals despite turning 24 years old last week and would likely be a plus defender if moved from center field to a corner spot. That's not a superstar in the making and the team can't be blamed for tiring of his antics, but Milledge looks pretty close to becoming an average all-around player and the Nationals aren't exactly overflowing with guys who can make the same claim.
UPDATE: Milledge has indeed been optioned to Triple-A.