August 26, 2009

There's a darkness at the edge of town.

His 7.33 ERA is the highest amongst qualifying relief pitchers in baseball.

His nine blown saves in 2009 are tied for third most in Phillies history.

He's on pace to shatter the record for "most homers allowed by a closer" (11 in 46 2/3 innings so far).

He is Brad Lidge, and for him, 2009 has been a nightmare.

And yet, people still make excuses for him.

"Underworked," they'd say, when the Phillies wouldn't use him for three or four days. "Overworked," they'd say, when he gives up three runs while recording no outs on his fourth straight day of pitching. "Unlucky," they'd say, when a seeing-eye single turns into a steal of second base and, eventually, the game-tying run.

Granted, most people are furious, and they're through accepting the excuses of Lidge and Charlie Manuel. But there are still voices popping up defending Lidge, throwing out the arguments I've mentioned and more, saying that there's no one to take his spot, that his removal would start a domino effect that would cripple the entire bullpen.

My point is simple - what could possibly be worse?

Almost single-handedly, Brad Lidge is holding back the 2009 Phillies. Not only is he losing them games, he's doing so in back-breaking fashion, ruining exciting comebacks like last night's and presumably deflating his hard-working, never-say-die teammates.

Was Ryan Madson shaky as the closer earlier this year? Yes, but it's almost impossible that he'd be as bad as Lidge is now, considering that he's the worst in baseball. It's so frustrating to see Tyler Walker, a pitcher of considerably less stature, pitch two scoreless innings and Lidge not record a single out. And if it's killing the fans, one can only wonder how the rest of the organization feels.

Any talk about trading or DFAing Lidge is nuts - we saw what he can do last year, and the team needs to do whatever it can to work towards reanimating that Brad Lidge. My advice to the Phillies in that regard is simple - switch Lidge and Madson. This experiment will be two-fold: See if Madson can close, and see if Lidge can effectively pitch the eighth. If he can, maybe the problem is more in his head than his knee, and the Phillies can proceed accordingly to get that part of him straight.

If he can't setup Madson appropriately, then we have to assume it's something physical, or something that can't be fixed before October. He can then be shut down, as he's hurting the team more than helping, and the Phillies can start hoping Brett Myers will be able to pitch on consecutive days. This isn't an attractive solution, but neither is sitting on our hands and acting like things will get better. September starts in six days, and the Phillies won't make it out of the NLDS with issues like these.

Almost everyone associated with the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies is currently above reproach in Philadelphia, and that includes Charlie Manuel and Brad Lidge. No matter how mad we might get at their actions in 2009, it's hard to imagine that they won't be beloved for years, nay, decades, in the City of Brotherly Love. But if Charlie's stubbornness and Lidge's ineffectiveness are the main factors in costing the Phillies a World Series in 2009, the shine from 2008 will start to fade. Calling the 2008 team a fluke as a whole is a ridiculous statement, but by October, it might be fair to say that last year's performances from Uncle Charlie and Lights Out Lidge were of the "lightning in a bottle" variety.

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