Press Row: Is Milledge the answer?

Lastings Milledge has played 56 major league games and logged 166 at-bats, and the Mets' big question now is as follows: Has that exposure helped or hurt Milledge's value, both in the eyes of other clubs and in their own?

With Cliff Floyd a large question mark to return in 2007 (though early indications are that Floyd is at least a sentimental pick for one more season), the Mets will be forced to consider a 21-year-old Milledge as a possible Opening Day left fielder – one of their large holes that needs to be filled during the offseason.

As the Bergen Record's Steve Popper examines in Thursday's paper, Milledge's subject goes well beyond his .241 batting average, four home runs and flashes of ability.

It's difficult to disregard the day in Philadelphia when Milledge showed up 70 minutes before game time, claiming he'd missed a bus from the team's downtown hotel and didn't know what time to show up for a day game (Milledge broke the cardinal rule of the Mets clubhouse: Never let Pedro Martinez, who always marches to his own drummer, beat you to the park).

Later, inexplicably, Milledge claimed that he'd never really had much coaching coming up through the minors. Even the perpetually positive David Wright called Milledge onto the carpet that day.

To be fair, Milledge also had his share of promising plays, like his stunning outfield assist at Shea Stadium against Arizona and his memorable first major league home run off the Giants' Armando Benitez.

And no one is blaming him for having trouble with the Green Monster at Fenway Park - that seems to happen on a near-nightly basis to Boston's own left fielder, Manny Ramirez.

But when making a final evaluation on how Milledge would fit in with the 2007 Mets, you would not want to overlook the "KNOW YOUR PLACE, ROOK" sign that a veteran member of the Mets hung over in Milledge's locker in Washington.

It was also curious that the team gave so little consideration to having Milledge active on the playoff roster for the postseason, particularly given Floyd's injury status. One could make the case that taking Milledge over Anderson Hernandez would have been much more useful.

As more than one player intoned during the season, Milledge has a lot of growing to do in adapting to major league life. There's no question he'll get there someday, and many expect him to be an upper-tier big league talent. Whether that growth comes in 2007 remains to be seen.

What are your thoughts on Milledge? Should he be in the outfield mix? Hit the e-mail link at the bottom of this article.

  • Cliff Floyd underwent successful surgery Wednesday to repair his strained left Achilles tendon. The procedure was performed by team physician Dr. Struan Coleman at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan.

  • Mets fans, you booed Braden Looper every time the St. Louis Cardinals came to town in 2006 – heck, booing Looper is nothing new, you were doing that when he was wearing a Mets uniform.

    But now that the Mets are home and the Cardinals are waiting for the World Series to resume after Wednesday's washout, Looper is feeling as though he got the last laugh.

    The New York Daily News' Adam Rubin writes up the Cards' right-hander, who has allowed three earned runs in 8 1/3 innings this postseason.

    Contact Inside Pitch's Bryan Hoch at metsinsidepitch@aol.com.


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