Knowing that former Phillie and current Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling wanted to come back here and win a championship with the Phillies and that Phillies GM Ed Wade did not make the deal was incredibly hard to take. Watching Curt go to the Playoffs with the Red Sox made it feel like one big slap in the face. But when the season began we were told not to worry. Kevin Millwood was our ace in the hole and Randy Wolf and Vicente Padilla were going to be fantastic; Brett Myers was expected to repeat last year's superb performance. Well…it didn't quite work out that way. There was a not only consistent problem with health in the rotation we now know there was a dissension between recently resigned pitching Coach Joe Kerrigan and some of the pitchers on the team. Things seemed to go from bad to worse as each pitcher struggled with one issue or another. Eric Milton was the only one that stayed strong and very effective in his role.
The Collegeville, PA born lefthander is known for his hard slider and that sweet curveball and when he's on top of his game he has pure flawless command of his pitches. What he does struggle with is his consistency at times, having trouble with control has led to him having a major league high 43 homeruns this year. He ended up finishing sixth this season in the National League with 201 innings pitched.
He had a good first few starts this year. In his first six games his ERA was never above 3.86 but by mid May it would steadily begin to increase and he would finish the season with a 4.82. Through out this year however he was more often than not, solid and dependable. If not for poor run support at times I think it's safe to say he would have had an even better record but as you know all too well some of our best hitters struggled too. Milton also had a few no decisions which cut into his record this season. There are a lot of questions surrounding the future of Eric Milton with the Phillies and obviously there are a number of pros and cons. The central question being is he worth bringing back next year. My answer is yes.
In light of his high ERA and the 43 homeruns there are two factors that I think should come into play when Eddie Wade makes a decision on Eric Milton's future in the red pin stripes and they have everything to do with the particular problems this season saw the Phillies struggling with. First of all his personality is strong and steady and he seems to be very solid mentally. There is a real lack of a strong voice in that clubhouse and Milton appears to me to be the kind of guy who can really lead a team and keep them focused. I looked for those guys this year with that particular focus that creates leadership and Milton was one of the few that fit the bill.
The other reason I think he should be kept around has to do with the mass amount of injuries that the rotation and bullpen suffered. I truly believe that if not for the other starters in front of him who went down he would have performed even better. The pressure of not having the top guys in front of him in my opinion was a recipe for stress and struggle. If the rotation is healthy and strong next year I believe Milton will benefit and so will this frustrating Phillies team.
There is something to be said for the kind of pitcher that he is, a fly ball pitcher and when at home, he's pitching in a hitter's dream park. With that in mind it is hard to say if the Phillies would want to spend the amount it is going to cost them to keep a fly ball guy. While the Phillies do damage control and cut that payroll (Millwood will not be on it as far as i'm concerned) they also have to figure out if Milton is in their price range when we also know they are looking to get a high quality every day Center Fielder. High quality, high price. So whether Eric Milton can even fit into the Phillies budget is going to really determine his future with this team. They need a true ace however, and as I have said bring back Ricky Ledee who is a free agent now after finishing the season with the San Francisco Giants. But all of the guys from top to bottom must be able to pitch deeper into games. I feel strongly that Eric Milton will be absolutely incredible if those factors come together. They need a horse at the top (snivel, snivel, Schill) though who can lead the rotation and have the kind of strength the other starters required this year; they desperately need a leader on the mound to make them feel more confident and Millwood just didn't cut it.
He also proved he is a hometown boy earlier this year and I gotta say I love that. When asked if beating the Florida Marlins had been important Eric Milton replied that for him personally it definitely held meaning. "I'm not real fond of the Marlins", he said. No one on the team has been that candid about that particular rivalry and he spoke for many who feel the Marlins have little respect for the Phillies and how little we appreciate their attitude, especially this season.
Oh and another thing. One of the top worst moments for me this year was watching Eric Milton come within two outs of having the first no hitter in CBP history and having it totally destroyed. I would like him to get another shot. And when Ricky Ledee (Okay I know Beltran, Beltran! But let's be realistic here guys) runs in to make the play he will catch the ball.
Closer Billy Wagner was adamant about wanting to see Eric Milton signed with the Phillies again and that "they" would be crazy not to do so. But General Manager Ed Wade should know a good thing when he sees it….right?