(Long Island, NY) Give Lastings Milledge a break, Willie Randolph. I know that you come from the ‘corporate’ Yankees, and have their mentality of ‘act like you have been there.’ When Milledge ran down the right filed line and exchanged some hand slaps with the fans at the railing, it was a spur of the moment reaction. The kid just tied up a game at home with his first major league home run. By the way, it came in the 10th inning with two outs off of former Met closer, Armando Benitez.
Was he showing up the opponent by doing this? Hardly. This is a 21-year old rookie that was just called up from Triple-A Norfolk. He has been the talk of the town and also speculated as trade bait for a pitcher by the trading deadline on July 31st. He was excited and giving something back to the fans that had been seated by him the entire game. Jogging out to his position after the big long ball, he was merely showing some normal emotions.
Is there anything wrong with this behavior when football and basketball players indulge in similar conduct all the time? The ‘Lambeau Leap’ is player/fan interaction at its greatest. Following a big hoop, how many times have we seen a player jogging back down the floor high fiving the lucky fans in the front row courtside seats?
Mets manager Willie Randolph stated that he spoke to Milledge following the game and instructed him not to do that anymore. Point taken by Milledge, who said that he would not do it again but didn’t regret it, either. But for the fans that were part of his celebration, they will always remember that day. Especially the younger fans. A much better experience than waiting for an autograph and getting ignored by a rich veteran walking back to his BMW after a game.
Milledge is a great prospect that will be with the Mets for a long time, pending any potential deals. If by doing this he endeared himself further with the Mets fans, good for him. Randolph’s reaction is understood and he wants his team to only make headlines by winning and not doing anything that can be perceived controversial in any way. The average professional baseball player would not think of this as a ‘hot dog’ or taunting act. An opposing pitcher may take it upon himself to conduct a little ‘chin music’ at Milledge, but that’s the game of baseball. Hopefully that will not change Milledge’s exuberance and he continues towards a long and popular career at Shea.