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TeamBoone
01-10-2006, 12:33 PM
01/09/2006 8:00 AM ET
Mailbag: Will Milton Ruhle the mound?
Beat writer Mark Sheldon answers Reds fans' questions
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com

Welcome to the first Reds mailbag of 2006. I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays.

Spring Training is around the corner. Pitchers and catchers report to camp at Sarasota on Feb. 16. There are, no doubt, plenty of questions to keep us busy until then, so let's get to them.

Will the real Eric Milton please stand up? Hi, Mark. Knowing the Twins as well as you do, what happened to Eric Milton?
-- Greg J., Mason, Ohio

Unfortunately -- or fortunately, depending on how you want to look at it -- I did not see Milton pitch last season with the exception of an occasional TV highlight. But when he signed his lucrative free agent contract with Cincinnati last winter, I do recall thinking a rocky marriage was imminent with a fly-ball pitcher doing much of his work at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.

When I saw him in Minnesota, Milton was probably the most intense competitor around. Back then, he was throwing mid-90s fastballs and was never afraid to be aggressive with hitters in the strike zone. Yes, he was prone to deep hits and the long ball, but he seemed to get those out of the way early. Then, he usually settled in and could often be counted on to work deep into a game, giving his team every chance to win.

From what I understand, Milton was throwing closer to 91-93 mph in 2005 and was still unafraid to challenge hitters. Obviously, he didn't fare too well, but he apparently benefited from working with Vern Ruhle once he became the pitching coach, and the organization feels a full year with Ruhle will help Milton even more.

The rotation of Brandon Claussen, Aaron Harang, Paul Wilson, Dave Williams and Milton, with Luke Hudson and Josh Hancock in long relief, Todd Coffey and Brian Wagner as setup men and Kent Mercker and David Weathers as closers, seems very good. The Reds batters and fielders have proven themselves. I believe a frontline closer is not needed. The Reds should stand pat. Do you agree?
-- Garry C., Taylor Mill, Ky.

No, I disagree with that viewpoint. I'm not a fan of the closer by committee or splitting the job up. I just believe it's usually better to have someone designated for that role. It's a unique, high-pressure role, and most managers seem to feel more comfortable when they can look to one man that can shut the door in tense moments like the ninth inning. Every playoff team from last season had a designated closer, even though a couple of clubs saw those closers either suffer injuries or struggle at some point in the season.

While both veterans performed well in the split role last year, David Weathers and Kent Mercker are better suited to being setup men. They each have established track records in that role. Neither throws particularly hard, nor do they notch a lot of strikeouts.

But here's the issue: There don't appear to be many established closers out there. Tampa Bay's Danys Baez is one of the few on the trading block, and the rumor mill has him headed to the Mets soon. For now, Cincinnati is prepared to let Weathers and Mercker split the role again. Hard-throwing Todd Coffey could be worked into the ninth-inning role slowly and, if he can prove himself, could take over full-time. If so, Coffey could be the latest young closer to emerge like Bobby Jenks (White Sox) and Derrick Turnbow (Brewers) did last year.

Chris Hammond for $800,000 to the Reds, especially after a 5-1 record and 3.84 ERA in 55 games last season for the Padres and a strong history of success with the Braves. Great signing at a great price! Your thoughts?
-- George J., Cincinnati, Ohio

Although more improvements are needed in the bullpen (see previous question), this was a solid signing for Cincinnati. Hammond has been one of the more dependable situational lefty relievers in the game the past four seasons. He doesn't throw particularly hard, but he locates the ball well and gets outs. Nearing 40, he's a veteran who has seen it all and will join Weathers and Mercker in providing leadership and helping the younger pitchers on the staff.

Without significantly upgrading the starting rotation, it could be another replay of last season. What are the odds that the front office lands a No. 1 or even a No. 2 starter by Spring Training?
-- Brad W., Shelbyville, Ky.

The odds are not too strong right now, but you never know. The already-thin free agent market has been pretty much picked over. Jeff Weaver is the biggest name left, and GM Dan O'Brien told me last week he wasn't interested in signing him. It would likely take a trade to get someone, and I don't see too many top guys out there who appear to be on the block.

http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/news/article.jsp?ymd=20060107&content_id=1292520&vkey=news_cin&fext=.jsp&c_id=cin

Puffy
01-10-2006, 12:40 PM
The rotation of Brandon Claussen, Aaron Harang, Paul Wilson, Dave Williams and Milton, with Luke Hudson and Josh Hancock in long relief, Todd Coffey and Brian Wagner as setup men and Kent Mercker and David Weathers as closers, seems very good. The Reds batters and fielders have proven themselves. I believe a frontline closer is not needed. The Reds should stand pat. Do you agree?
-- Dan O'Brien, Cincinnati General Manager

Unassisted
01-10-2006, 12:40 PM
These letter writers display a level of optimism that is mostly absent around these parts. I must say that it makes for much more interesting reading than whining and complaining.

westofyou
01-10-2006, 12:44 PM
These letter writers display a level of optimism that is mostly absent around these parts. I must say that it makes for much more interesting reading than whining and complaining.Tolkien is interesting too, in the end fantasy is just fantasy.

Puffy
01-10-2006, 12:46 PM
These letter writers display a level of optimism that is mostly absent around these parts. I must say that it makes for much more interesting reading than whining and complaining.

Is it really whining and complaining when the lionshare of it is dead on? I mean, sure, some of it is over the top, and some is WAY over the top, but for the most part the "whining and complaining" has been well articulated, thoughtful, and dead on.

As WOY said, fantasy is fantasy.

Unassisted
01-10-2006, 12:54 PM
Every season has its bright spots, though. There will always be players who perform beyond the level of our expectations. The record may not improve, but there will still be reasons to go to the ballpark.

As woy has pointed out many times, even the worst teams win 1/3 of their games. You'd think from what you read here that the Reds aren't even destined to take that many games.

shredda2000
01-10-2006, 01:19 PM
As woy has pointed out many times, even the worst teams win 1/3 of their games. You'd think from what you read here that the Reds aren't even destined to take that many games.

IIRC, I believe Tommy Lasorda said this (I am paraphrasing)...

"Every team will win 54 games"
"Every team will lose 54 games"
"It's what happens in the remaining 54 games that makes a difference"

SteelSD
01-10-2006, 01:38 PM
Every season has its bright spots, though. There will always be players who perform beyond the level of our expectations. The record may not improve, but there will still be reasons to go to the ballpark.

Baseball being played is reason enough to go to the ballpark. But that's not the point.

The truly relevant question during this offseason is, "Is it reasonable to expect that we'll have reason to go to the ballpark after October 1st, 2006?"

The goal of a season isn't to play the games. Playing the games is inevitable. The goal is to produce a ballclub that has a realistic shot at playing games after the date I posted above.

savafan
01-10-2006, 01:42 PM
The rotation of Brandon Claussen, Aaron Harang, Paul Wilson, Dave Williams and Milton, with Luke Hudson and Josh Hancock in long relief, Todd Coffey and Brian Wagner as setup men and Kent Mercker and David Weathers as closers, seems very good. The Reds batters and fielders have proven themselves. I believe a frontline closer is not needed. The Reds should stand pat. Do you agree?
-- Garry C., Taylor Mill, Ky.

Who the hell is Brian Wagner? Is he our secret weapon that will lead us to the promised land?

bucksfan
01-10-2006, 02:00 PM
The rotation of Brandon Claussen, Aaron Harang, Paul Wilson, Dave Williams and Milton, with Luke Hudson and Josh Hancock in long relief, Todd Coffey and Brian Wagner as setup men and Kent Mercker and David Weathers as closers, seems very good. The Reds batters and fielders have proven themselves. I believe a frontline closer is not needed. The Reds should stand pat. Do you agree?
-- Dan O'Brien, Cincinnati General Manager


That was exactly what I was thinking of posting as I read the article.

Puffy
01-10-2006, 02:25 PM
That was exactly what I was thinking of posting as I read the article.

You're a smart cat - thats all I'm sayin'

:D

Doc. Scott
01-10-2006, 02:27 PM
The rotation of Brandon Claussen, Aaron Harang, Paul Wilson, Dave Williams and Milton, with Luke Hudson and Josh Hancock in long relief, Todd Coffey and Brian Wagner as setup men and Kent Mercker and David Weathers as closers, seems very good. The Reds batters and fielders have proven themselves. I believe a frontline closer is not needed. The Reds should stand pat. Do you agree?
-- Dan O'Brien, Cincinnati General Manager

Ha! Nice touch on the Brian. However, I would say that it seems O'Brien thinks we need a frontline closer while I would argue against the need to spend money on one when a) we aren't winning anything in 2006 - maybe .500 - and b) we have that Brian guy.

Aronchis
01-10-2006, 04:53 PM
Hudson's DOA. Time to let that go.

M2
01-10-2006, 05:02 PM
Every season has its bright spots, though. There will always be players who perform beyond the level of our expectations. The record may not improve, but there will still be reasons to go to the ballpark.

As woy has pointed out many times, even the worst teams win 1/3 of their games. You'd think from what you read here that the Reds aren't even destined to take that many games.

Come on now, the Reds should definitely win at least 40% of their games.

FWIW, my complaint is the Reds have spent half a decade with the same problem and aren't anywhere close to fixing it. I'll watch the games. I'll enjoy the good and laugh off the bad, but it would be nice to see the club not lay there like a beached harp seal helpless to keep the seagulls from picking at its eyeballs.

Aronchis
01-10-2006, 05:12 PM
Come on now, the Reds should definitely win at least 40% of their games.

FWIW, my complaint is the Reds have spent half a decade with the same problem and aren't anywhere close to fixing it. I'll watch the games. I'll enjoy the good and laugh off the bad, but it would be nice to see the club not lay there like a beached harp seal helpless to keep the seagulls from picking at its eyeballs.

Well, I am not sure that could be done this year.
1)You could have fixed the "problems" by carving up the offense, though created a set of new problems and have a poor GM running the trades.
2)You could have added 20 million to payroll to add Burnett and Wagner/Ryan type along with the DanO 'moves'. I don't think Cast let it happen. He sure could of. But tell me if you put Burnett and Ryan on the Reds staff, if people wouldn't be jumping, they sure would.

So we are stuck in a year where we essentially have the outgoing staff waiting to be shelled, and a new one brought in to replace them. Nothing got done by the old staff just as the new regime wanted.

In the end, it could be the signal of a major "Marlins" style firesale is close. That means if the new Operations Pres finds his GM in Spring, Dunn could be sent packing ala Burba..............right before opening day. Harang, Kearns,Pena,Lopez,Larue will soon follow. If they can, Griffey will be out of here faster than a eye wink.

You think things look ugly now, the onfield product may just be about ready to get far worse.

BRM
01-10-2006, 05:13 PM
From what I understand, Milton was throwing closer to 91-93 mph in 2005 and was still unafraid to challenge hitters. Obviously, he didn't fare too well, but he apparently benefited from working with Vern Ruhle once he became the pitching coach, and the organization feels a full year with Ruhle will help Milton even more.

Yeah, that 5.87 ERA in the second half was amazing. Let's hope for a repeat of that performance. :help:

M2
01-10-2006, 06:46 PM
Well, I am not sure that could be done this year.

I don't think it could have gotten done either, but I'm still wondering when it gets started. Draft and wait isn't a plan, it's the fetal position.

FWIW, I could totally get behind a Marlins-style rebuild. At the least the Marlins landed some young players worth something.

Falls City Beer
01-10-2006, 06:59 PM
I don't think it could have gotten done either, but I'm still wondering when it gets started. Draft and wait isn't a plan, it's the fetal position.

And drafting and waiting on high school kids is even more retrograde than the fetal position: Mom and Dad haven't even taken off their pants yet.

Nugget
01-10-2006, 07:49 PM
Ha! Nice touch on the Brian. However, I would say that it seems O'Brien thinks we need a frontline closer while I would argue against the need to spend money on one when a) we aren't winning anything in 2006 - maybe .500 - and b) we have that Brian guy.

Actually Sheldon believes in having a frontline closer. I think the amazing thing from the mailbag is that Sheldon hasn't seen anything of the REDS from 2005 - nadah, zilch. So we have a guy answering questions on how good the REDS will be this year compared to last and he hasn't seen what they did last year!!!

I agree that some form of optimism should prevail we have written off the yaer and ST hasn't even started yet. If thats the case we may as well shut down the board and wait for next year.

Doc. Scott
01-10-2006, 07:56 PM
Actually Sheldon believes in having a frontline closer. I think the amazing thing from the mailbag is that Sheldon hasn't seen anything of the REDS from 2005 - nadah, zilch. So we have a guy answering questions on how good the REDS will be this year compared to last and he hasn't seen what they did last year!!!

I agree that some form of optimism should prevail we have written off the yaer and ST hasn't even started yet. If thats the case we may as well shut down the board and wait for next year.

Oh, that's a relief.

---
No, you didn't. A Sheldon can do your income taxes. If you need a root canal, Sheldon's your man... ...it's the name. 'Do it to me, Sheldon.' 'You're an animal, Sheldon.' 'Ride me, big Sheldon.' It doesn't work.
---

KronoRed
01-10-2006, 09:33 PM
Umm..The Real Milton is a terrible pitcher and pretty much always has been.

We pay him like an ace, doesn't mean he will ever be one ;)