- The Washington Times - Friday, February 20, 2009

VIERA, Fla.

The furor over the player formerly known as “Smiley” at Washington Nationals spring training took the spotlight off what should have been the story of the day Wednesday - the first time their $20 million man appeared on the field.

Any player the Lerners would be willing to give $20 million to is deserving of more attention. So while the Dominican baseball scandal that has rocked the franchise continues to unfold, the time spent on baseball players who actually appear to be who the team says they are should be taken advantage of.

So let’s take another look at Adam Dunn, whose role as savior of the Nationals got even tougher with the revelation that the club paid $1.4 million to a player who turned out to be someone else and four years older than everyone thought.

The more the dysfunction of this franchise makes news off the field, the more important it is for this team to create some positive attention on the field. If Dunn can do that, he will have earned that $20 million.

After his second day on the field Thursday, the big left-handed bat in the middle of the lineup said he is comfortable with his surroundings.

“It’s been easy to fit in here,” Dunn said. “I’ve seen a lot of familiar faces. It has been a very easy transition.”

For any former Cincinnati player, joining the Nationals is familiar given the number of ex-Reds players that general manager Jim Bowden has brought to the organization.

But a former New York Mets player may have made Dunn feel the most comfortable. Lastings Milledge, who has worn No. 44 since he became a major leaguer three years ago, gave the number to Dunn, who wore No. 44 with the Reds.

When Dunn was introduced to Nationals fans at a news conference in the District, he had taken No. 32, which he wore last year when he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He said he was comfortable with 32, but Milledge reached out to him in camp and gave him 44.

“He hit 240 home runs in the last six years, and he is not going to come up short because he doesn’t have his number,” Milledge said.

Dunn did not ask Milledge for it, and Milledge - unlike many situations when players negotiate a price - did not ask for anything.

“It is just the right thing to do,” Milledge said. “We all make good money here.”

Now that is news: a player with a real-world perspective.

Milledge will now wear 85, for 1985, the year he was born. “I wanted a big number,” he said. “I like big numbers.”

Story Continues →