The 2009 Washington Nationals are not going to win the NL East.

Shocking, I know. But please let me finish.

The 2009 Washington Nationals are not going to win the NL East and are still treating their best talent like they have no idea what the hell to do with them.

elijah-dukesIt started on Opening Day when Manager Manny Acta chose to pencil in Austin Kearns as his starting right fielder over Elijah Dukes. At the time, Acta’s rationale had been thus – Kearns hit four HRs in Spring Training agaisnt the likes of Felipe Paulino, Kyle McClellan, Nate Robertson, and Leo Nunez. That’s it, really. Not because Kearns has more to offer for the future of the franchise (he doesn’t), not because Kearns will end up with better numbers than Dukes (he won’t), but because of four HRs he hit off of mediocre pitching in games that didn’t count.They favored Kearns who slugged .316 last year over Dukes, who was the team’s best hitter in 2008.

And then there comes the news today that the organization is sending another talented young OFer – Lastings Milledge – down to AAA. Why? Because he hasn’t raked in the first 7 games. Cue my confusion.

D052616235.JPGWhat exactly does Milledge have left to learn down in the minors that he can’t learn in the bigs? Why wouldn’t a team that’s going nowhere fast want to groom their best talent at the major league level against major league pitching?

Now I’d be naive if I didn’t mention two things – one, Milledge plays a notoriously shallow CF, a fact that hurt him twice on Opening Day when balls sailed over his head, one resulting in an inside-the-parker by Emilio (EMILIOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!) Bonifacio. It’s becoming clearer by the day that Milledge does not have the skillset to be a good CFer and should be moved to the corners. Two, well, Elijah Dukes hasn’t exactly led the most prudent life.

But I don’t see what these two things have anything to do with playing time in 2009. Lastings Milledge is not a good defensive CFer, but among the other candidates (Dukes, Kearns, Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham, and, I suppose, Willie Harris), he is the most attractive option. And to the best of my knowledge, Dukes has stayed out of trouble since 2007.  Why stifle their development? I simply do not see how this helps the ballclub’s bottom line.

Maybe Milledge should’ve just shook hands with Jim Bowden last year or something…

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