Lidge Forces Manuel's 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.