Now that all three participants of the Milledge deal back in 2007 are no longer with their respective teams, I thought it was a good time to look back at a deal that at the time stirred up alot of debate and controversy. In 2005, Omar Minaya deemed Lastings Milledge as one of his “untouchable” minor league players after Milledge post up a .318 batting avg with 8 home runs and 29 stolen bases (for single A advanced and AA). In 2006, Milledge continued to show promise in AAA with a line of .277 avg, 7 home runs, 13 stolen bases and a .388 on base percentage in 84 games until being called up to the majors on May 30th.
Milledge saw very limited plate appearances in 2006 but his most memorable was in the game versus the Giants on June 4th. Milledge hit his first career home run against former Mets closer Armando Benitez to tie the game 6-6 in the bottom of the tenth. On the way back to the out field the next half inning, Milledge high-fived several Mets fans in attendance. This drew the ire of several veteran Met players, most notably Billy Wagner who posted a sign “Know your place, rook” on Milledge’s locker. In 185 plate apperances in 2006, Milledge finished with a .241 batting average with 4 home runs and one stolen base.
Milledge made the opening day roster in 2007 and played about the same amount of time he did in 2006, Milledge spent some time between the majors and minors to make room for players but finished with a .272 batting average with 7 home runs and 3 stolen bases in 206 games. However, that same year under his rap name “L-Millz”, Milledge recorded a song that included…lets just say language that gave Mets public relations personnel a headache. The “hype” of Milledge was clearly dying down from where it was in 2005 and Omar sought to cash in before it was too late.
“Not long ago,Â the Mets considered Lastings Milledge their top positional prospect and untouchable in trade talks. Friday they dealt him to the Washington Nationals for two veterans GM Omar Minaya called “not known names,” but who he said would be everyday players. The Mets got Brian Schneider, a solid defensive catcher who ranked fourth in the NL in throwing out base-stealers, and Ryan Church, an outfielder who hit .272 with 15 home runs and 70 RBI last season”- ROGER RUBIN DAILY
Reactions from some Metsblog members…
“…As for the Milledge for Church/Schnider deal, I would have liked it to have been expanded to get a quality reliever. Maybe Milledge and Humber for Church/Shcnider and Rauch?
We really have no idea how much Milledgeâ€™s stock had fallen. I for one am content right now with Church in RF.” - December 7, 2007 at 12:13 pm
- December 10, 2007 at 11:34 am Milledge continued to make the same (baseball) mistakes over and over (not hustling, swinging at horrible breaking pitches) and showed little sign that he was correcting his mistakes, which made him a hard guy to root for. Church made one (non-baseball) mistake, apologized for it, and has not repeated it. IMO unless it comes to light at some point in the future that he has continued his bigoted thinking, the guy who admitted the error, apologized for it and didnâ€™t repeat it is the easier guy to root for” –
“But Church is just as likely to go .280, 20, 85, and probably play better (if less impassioned!) defense. That trade was personality driven, not talent, anyway. Other than a few hot weeks in September, LoDuca stunk most of the year, and was hurt a lot. No loss. Schneider will be an improvement overall. The key is how Omar builds the bench, and how Willie uses it. If Castro gets 50 or so starts, and plays against most lefties, then the platoon will be solid. Castro + Schneider platoon (he actually hit fairly well against righties) should be much more productive than LoDuca as a FT catcher, with occasional days off (and when he is hurt and canâ€™t go). Same with RF. They just need that strong RH bat with some pop (Nady, Mench) so they can sit Church against the tougher lefites. Mench + CHurch should give them as much as Green + Milledge did.” -December 12, 2007 at 11:50 am
The Mets traded Lastings Milledge for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider. Those that were for the deal saw it as a way to “kill two birds with one stone” by filling two holes the Mets had going into 2008 with a defensive catcher and a serviceable right fielder. Milledge was becoming more of a headache to deal with and the Mets could not afford to keep defending or talking their way out of controversy surrounding him. A change of scenery to a team with less media hype was the only logical news. Those against it, saw Milledge at worst another Rickey Henderson personality who had incredible upside but just lacked the maturity. The sky was the limit for Milledge and some fans just saw a home grown star in the making shipped within the division for a right fielder who never played a full season and a light hitting catcher.
Fresh off the collapse of 2007 and the most controversial trade since Scott Kasmir, Ryan Church and Brian Schneider had alot to prove in 2008. Ryan got off to an extremely hot start in 2008, hitting .307 with 11 home runs and 36 RBI’s in the first half. Unfortunately, another freak concussion (Ryan suffered a grade 2 concussion in spring training) in the middle of his hot streak on May 20 against the Braves turned him ice cold when he came off the DL in June. Ryan ended the second half batting .219 with 2 home runs and 13 RBI’s. Brian was touted as a “light hitting defensive catcher” and defiantly lived up to the bill. Brian finished the year hitting .257 with 9 home runs and 38 RBI’s. While his CS% was better than Paul Loduca in 2007, Brian did not improve much from his 2007 percentage and finished with a 34% CS%. The pitching staff under Brian Schneider were charged with 37 wild pitches, just about the same he had in 2007 with 38.
Lastings Milledge had some parting words for the Mets on the way out in 2008:
â€œA lot of veterans didnâ€™t like the way I play the game. They thought I didnâ€™t respect it, but the vets here(Nationals) have no problem with me. They know I respect it. They know I work hard. I canâ€™t go through anything worse than I went through in New York. It only gets better from here. I don’t have anything to prove to nobody but my manager, my front office and my family. I don’t have anything to prove to them. Everyone knows what I can do.”
This did not rub to well with the Mets, including the usually quiet David Wright who had this to say:
â€œEnough is enough. Youâ€™re a Washington National now. Donâ€™t worry about what happened last year or the year before that. Just go out there and try to help the Nationals win. It makes no sense to bash your former team. He just needs to turn the page and worry about helping the Washington Nationals. Forget about what weâ€™re doing over here. Forget about the New York Mets.â€
Lastings took Wrights advice to heart and entered 2008 as the Nationals starting center fielder.Â He was doing well, hitting .245 with 9 home runs and 32 RBI’s until he strained his groin in late June. Lastings came off the DL in late July and went 2-18 until the month of August where he batted .336 with 6 HR and 16 RBI. Lastings finished out 2008 with a .268 batting avg, 14 home runs and 61 RBI’s.
Unfortunately, 2009 was not a kind year for any of these players. Mets fans were hoping for Ryan to repeat his 2008 early season success and he did in April by hitting .313 with a homer and 8 RBI’s. Ryan however went ice cold in May, hitting .224 and costing the Mets a go ahead run in a game against the Dodgers with the infamous “missing third base” incident. While increasing tension between Mets manager Jerry Manuel and Ryan Church were debatable, Church was ultimately traded for Jeff Francoeur in July. Ryan finished the year hitting .260 with 2 home runs and 18 RBI’s for the Braves and was later non-tendered, making him a free agent.
Brian would not face any better luck. Brian spent most of the year injured and a spectator to a “breakout” year from Omir Santos. Brian only played in 59 games in 2009, hitting .218 with 3 home runs and 24 RBI’s. Brian’s CS% was a percent better than 2008 but there were much less base runners for Brian that year. The Mets did not resign Brian after 2009 but the Philadelphia Phillies did for 2 years.
Milledge started 2009 hitting .167 with 0 home run and 1 RBI in April, which lead to a demotion to AAA. Milledge suffered through various injuries and was ultimately traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 30th. Lastings spent most of the year in AAA for the Pirates as well but managed to play 58 games for them to finish the year hitting .290 with 4 home runs and 20 RBI’s.
Im sure with reading this, you can remember your position with respect to this deal. Do you think its too early to judge the winners of this deal or if you can choose a winner, who would you say won out? The Mets or the Nationals?