Lidge Forces Manuel's Hand


lidge 0908.jpgCharlie Manuel
had been dreading this move for weeks, but Brad Lidge finally forced his hand.

The Phillies entered last night’s ninth inning against Washington with a 5-3 lead, and Manuel went to Lidge as expected. Manuel told reporters before the game that he had confidence in him, but that his patience had a limit. Lidge needed to start producing consistently with the postseason less than a month away.

“There comes a time when, I don’t know …” Manuel said. “We’re trying to win a championship.”

That time finally came. Lidge allowed a single to Wil Nieves to start the inning. A hit batter, wild pitch and walk later, Manuel pulled Lidge, who had loaded the bases with one out, for Ryan Madson, who retired the next two batters on six pitches to end the game.

“That’s a tough call,” Manuel said. “I have all the respect in the world for Brad. I know how good a closer he is, and I know how great he can be. I’ve still got all the confidence in the world in him. But I’m sitting there and I didn’t have a very good feel about the game. And I made up my mind that I wanted to try Madson. Things will work out and be OK, but at the same it’s real tough.”

Manuel said he continues to have confidence in Lidge, but his actions spoke differently.

“Let me tell you something,” Manuel said. “When I tell you he’s my closer, I don’t tell lies. I don’t like to go back on nothing. But the team and the game is bigger than my heart and it’s bigger than anything else, if you want to know the truth. Winning a game is what it’s all about. It’s baseball and why I manage and it’s what comes first.”

Asked who will close tonight if there is a save situation, Manuel said Lidge could be the guy. But Lidge said Manuel told him in his office that he would get the shot.

“If there is a save situation tomorrow he said he was going to bring me in,” Lidge said.

Why? I believe Manuel has a couple reasons: 1) He realizes this team has its best chance to win if Lidge is right. And because the Phillies have a six-game lead in the National League East they still have time to get him right. 2) Manuel knows he has Lidge as his closer the next two seasons. If he crushes Lidge’s confidence today it could have long lasting effects.

I think Manuel’s first reason far outweighs his second reason. Manuel is focused on this year. He wants to win consecutive World Series. (That’s why he vented Monday in Houston.) But clearly the first domino has fallen for Lidge. I could see Manuel running Lidge out there a couple more weeks before settling on Myers or Madson with a week or two to go in the regular season. I’m sure Manuel would like to feel settled — and have the closer feel settled — entering the postseason.

Lidge still has time, but time is running out. The clock started ticking last night.

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30 Comments

This move absolutely had to be made. I would have made it weeks, heck months ago. Charlie knows these players better than anyone but I don’t know how he had the stomach to stick with him for as long as he has. And sticking with him for that long couldn’t have sat well with other players on the team. Lidge is cooked for the year. They are forcing the issue now. His head is gone. He was aiming the ball last night. Everything he threw was flat and he got pinched on one pitch and that made his mental state even worse. Brad, you aren’t in a position to beg for anything right now buddy. Let’s not make things harder for yourself. And I don’t want to hear about a blister alright. The problem is between his ears. It has nothing to do with a blister. This city doesn’t like excuses. Myers looked great last night. His deuce was disgusting and that split to end the night was tremendous. I love how you could read his mouth and see that he was asking for Chooch to call for the split. Brett has the swagger right now and he’s not scared. Brad is terrified. It’s time to groom Myers. Madson was great last night but Brett (even with his mental issues of the past) has the head for the job and his stuff is rounding into form.

Its interesting how Charlie has given Lidge every opportunity to right the ship yet for some reason he can not. You would think that because Charlie has shown such confidence that it would help Lidge mentally.

It was definitely the right move last night. I think Charlie may send Lidge out there a few more times with someone else in the pen for backup like last night. They’re a bit short staffed with all the injuries to the bullpen at the moment. He might not have another option (especially since Myers has pitched several games in a row)

I think RAUUL may be back in the swing of things. Maybe its the goatee he’s growing that helped (LOL!)

Also how awesome to have 4 players with 30 or more HRs this season. Quite historic!

I’d like to see Madson take on Lidge’s role and have Brett for the eighth, at least until Brett’s location gets a little better. He does look pretty sharp though.

I have to admit publically that Pedro Martinez has been much, much better then I ever thought he would be, and should be the number 5 starter (#4 until Happ is back). He’s looking sharp and, once he gets out of the first, is controlling the games nicely. (all this is contingent on it not raining when he’s due to start, of course)

fij: phan and I tried to tell you. Do you miss Rodrigo Lopez now?

fij, I don’t now if you see the games where you are, but Pedro is a master. He has forgotten twice as much as Happ knows about pitching. I told you before this experiment ever started that you have to get to Pedro early if you want to beat him because he settles in and dazzles hitters. It is his MO and he is not a relief pitcher. He generally dispatches the weaker hitters with ease but he throws a lot of pitches because he will not give in to the better hitters at this stage of his career. I notice he walked Zimmerman at one point on a deep count and I think he actually did it on purpose. The guy fouled off a couple of nasty curveballs so Pedro threw him a fastball off the plate that he tried to get him to chase. It was his only walk of the game.
I think he threw too many pitches last night though, and I think that was because of what Charlie had planned. He wanted to use Myers in the 8th so that he would have Madson as insurance in case of another Lidge meltdown. Charlie is a smart man.

phan, Pedro’s first couple starts were shaky but I think it started to truly click for him right before the one rain delay which is why I was so angry when the rain came and cut his start short. He is a wizard up there and I love watching him throw. I’ve always been a Pedro fan but the way he just plays with hitters is unbelievable. The movement he has on the ball right now is vintage Pedro from the glory days. Granted it was the Nationals but still you can’t argue with the value they are getting right now. Low risk…so far very nice high reward.

My problem with Pedro all along hasn’t been his ability to pitch, but whether he still had that ability. He knows the game, adn when to challenge a hitter and when to pitch around one (Zimmerman last ngiht when count was 3-2). I wasn’t sure if he’d still be able to do his Magic. SO far, so good, but I’m not writing his name in ink yet.

As for Myers, the phillies have a hard decision to make. On one hand, they can let him walk and have a rotation of Lee, Hamels, Blanton, Happ, and either Moyers, Park, or Drabek(?)

on the other hand, they can resing him as a starter and have Lee, Hammels, Myers, Blanton and Happ. On the third hand they can resign him as a closer and move Lidge to being the set up man.
Since he’s coming off an injury, we should be able to sign him to a 1 year arbitration deal for what he’s making this year. I doubt we can replace him (unless we bring up Drabek) for less money.

fij, you really like to get tied up in the future don’t you? I would expect Drabek to get a serious look at being the #5 next year with Myers out of town. It’s possible that the Phillies could cut ties with Lidge (they’ve been eating money as of late, which is unlike them) and keep Myers to close at a nice incentive-laden contract. They could also audition a young power arm like Mathieson for the job, god-willing he is healthy. But really I can’t worry about next year. Right now this team has arm health issues, a closer who is mentally done for the year and the bats are very quiet.

joed: f.i.j. once asked on this board what the lineup would look like in 2012. It’s nice to see he’s focusing on the near-future instead of some crystal ball-type deal. As for me, I couldn’t care less what next season looks like. It’s 2009 and, as any fan old enough to remember 1964 would tell you, a 6-game lead ain’t s**t.
I’m reading and hearing a lot of opinion about how the lights are out on Lidge as a closer. One pundit wondered if Brad would be left off the playoff roster (assuming playoffs at this point).
I’m expecting to see Lidge at the next save opportunity.

Yeah I remember fij posturing about 2012 if the Phillies dealt for Halladay. That confused me too.

As a fan old enough to remember 2007 you should now that a 6 game lead is not safe. A bullpen meltdown is the first ingredient to blowing said lead too. Lidge is basically unusable at this point. He needs to go see a sports shrink pronto. I love the guy for 2008 but business is business.

I like him too. He’s in that pantheon of Philadelphia sports heroes that we will remember fondly – many years from now – not right now necessarily.
It’s interesting to me how he keeps telling us he feels great, his arm feels good, etc. As though he’s trying to convince himself that he’s OK. I think half of these guys are so nicked-up that they’ve forgotten what it really feels like to feel great. Great is relative.
I guess that sports shrink stuff worked for Smoltz. I remember his guy used to go to Braves games. They’d show him sitting in the seats behind home plate. As pitching melt-downs go, it’s hard to top Joe Cowley though.
But the Phils seem to have a history of short-term closers. Al Holland, Steve Bedrosian, Mitchie-p00 and even Tug McGraw weren’t long-term closers like Hoffman, Rivera, Sutter, Gossage, Eckersley and some others have been.
I wonder what it takes to maintain a career that long?

You know what is really interesting about the other 11 teams that have had 4 players with 30+ HR. All but one happened after 1995. Raul Mondesi….hmm….steroids maybe? What happened to him?

I think moving from the AL to the NL is what worked for Smoltz.

As far as your other question, most closers are short term closers, because closer is a pretty overrated title. As soon as some guy gets some saves, managers or GMs decide they’re a closer because they think there is some magical 9th inning voodoo that a “closer” needs to have, when it could well be that the guy just strung a few good outings together.
The long-term closers you listed have something in common – they were all great pitchers who happened to land in the closer role during their career. That’s what makes a great closer – being a great pitcher. I’m not saying that Lidge sucks or anything, but closers make disproportionately high amounts of money because GMs assume it’s a special skill set, when really it’s just how well you pitch – getting strikeouts and not letting guys on base.

I tend to think tht Closer is a fake title. We never called Tugger the Closer, and in fact he wasn’t the only pitcher used in that role in 1980. Reed and others closed games as well. While I understand that the game has changed and everyone needs to know their role (I thought pitching was a role, but wtf do I know?) we now have 7th inning guys, 8th inning guys and closers. I honestly think we have a few options as closer both this year and next. Lidge, Myers, Bastardo, Tyler, Mathieson, Madson and Romero all come to mind. The important think is to remember, very few closers have two great seasons back to back.

phylan: Some of them landed in the closer role, but Hoffman never started a game in his career, Gossage only started about 40 (29 in ’76 and that was it), Rivera started 10 in his first year and none after that and Sutter never started a game – so your argument might be valid, but it doesn’t hold up historically.

If the closer title is overrated, why are we spending so much time gnashing our teeth over it? Sounds like it isn’t overrated to me.

An amazing turnaround from a year ago … perplexing, this game of baseball : )

Buz – http://buzblog.mlblogs.com/

just to let Phan, Phylan and Joed know that we released Lopez today. I think this continues to prove how the Phillies’ organization is good to its players. We released Coste, traded Jamillio and now Lopez. All players who were/are good enough to play in the majors, but not in Phila. By releasing them we are allowing them to hook up with a different team and continue their careers. I wonder how much this is helping to attract players to the organization.

Perhaps, but both Coste and Lopez contributed to the team. I was thinking more in the lines of Cairo/Stairs/ Bako etc. Players who are role players and halp, but if offered a starting job would love to be able to take it

Apparently, it’s helping to attract players that will be released later.

The Phillies would never offer Myers arbitration. He makes way too much money for that and it is possible that the Phillies may have to eat a few more bad contracts next year (Lidge, Moyer). Moyer could well be the fifth starter next year but Lidge is worthless if he’s not the definitive closer. Charlie said as much last night.
I’m not worried about next year anyway. They have enough problems right now, especially with the bullpen. It seems like everybody has a nagging injury and they are down to Taschner as the lone lefty, since Eyre is hurting. Romero took a cortisone shot (finally) so he is a couple of weeks away. Happ may be forced into the role, although he is questionable too.

f.i.j.: The reason others closed in ’80 was because Tug was on the DL until June. Then, he pitched until his arm practically fell off. I remember hearing him talk about “5 Tylenol games” and such. I guess those aren’t PEDs?
If Cairo, Stairs and Bako are offered starting jobs the Phils are in big trouble. I’m still waiting for Stairs and Cairo to contribute this year too. They’re all replaceable parts.

The bench as a whole is terrible. Just absolutely terrible. I like the Francisco addition but the rest can all go and I wouldn’t bat an eye. Dobbs is still a decent player but he was struggling for most of the year before getting hurt.

I don’t know when they are getting Dobbs back. They really don’t have a lot of options from the left side so I would suggest getting Stairs some starts to see if he can get his swing back. The problem is, now Ibanez is hot so you can’t sit him.

As far as Lopez goes, I would have preferred him over Kendrick in the upcoming doubleheaders.

I was at last night’s game. My first road trip. And I got to witness history! Then Lidge’s implosion. The bitter with the sweet. At least the sweet won out!

phan, I prefer you over Kendrick.

muleman, I wasn’t saying they were great starters, just that they were great pitchers. The starter/relief distinction is definitely real and valid, because not every pitcher has the same stamina.
But I maintain that the closer role is overrated. Think about it. The closer’s job, that he gets paid many millions of dollars more than other relievers to do, is come in in the 9th with the lead, no outs, and nobody on base, and get 3 outs. That’s it. Madson’s pitched in much tougher spots than that throughout his career and has succeeded. I don’t buy that there is some special 9th inning magic that makes everything different, although that seems to be the company line.

Also f_i_j I don’t know if you were talking to me but I never said the organization doesn’t treat its players well.

The word “closer” is a fairly recent addition to the baseball lexicon. The point being that you need someone who can finish the game without giving up any runs in the last inning. Does that have to be one person? No, but if it’s possible for one person to do that, it would greatly simplify a manager’s job. Closer-by-committee would complicate the job and would also be a bit like Russian Roulette. But then again, so is the ’09 Lidge.

The word “closer” is a fairly recent addition to the baseball lexicon. The point being that you need someone who can finish the game without giving up any runs in the last inning. Does that have to be one person? No, but if it’s possible for one person to do that, it would greatly simplify a manager’s job. Closer-by-committee would complicate the job and would also be a bit like Russian Roulette. But then again, so is the ’09 Lidge.

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