Lidge's awful performance forces DL trip

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Unlike the Mets with Oliver Perez, the Phillies didn’t dream up a knee
injury to excuse putting Brad Lidge on the DL — the inflammation is
real and has bothered him since April. Still, this is all about lousy
pitching.

Pretty much everything has gone wrong for Lidge since he closed out the
2008 World Series. He complained of forearm tightness during the spring
and didn’t make his Grapefruit League debut until March 17. He was
generally ineffective over the rest of March, and while he did convert
his first three save chances of the regular season, he gave up runs in
two of them. On April 18, his run of 47 straight save conversions (54
including the postseason) ended when he gave up four runs in a loss to
the Padres. Since that date, he’s blown six of his 16 chances. He’s
allowed runs in 13 of his 28 appearances this season, and his ERA
stands at 7.27.

What worked for Lidge last year just isn’t this season. In 2008, he
threw his slider more than half of the time for the first time in his
career. He was doing the same thing this season, but hitters were doing
a much better job of laying off it and waiting for fastballs. It’s no
secret that Lidge doesn’t throw quite as hard as he used to, but that’s
not just a fastball issue. His slider, which once averaged 88 mph, is
down to 85 mph now, giving hitters more time to let it go if it’s a
ball or foul it off if it’s a strike. He still gets his fastball to the
plate at 92-95 mph, but without a lot of movement, it’s a hittable
pitch.

Just look at what’s happened to Lidge when he’s not getting ahead of the count and keeping the hitters honest:

2008
After 1-0 – .271 AVG, .374 SLG in 131 PA
After 0-1 – .130 AVG, .179 SLG in 136 PA

2009
After 1-0 – .354 AVG, .833 SLG in 60 PA
After 0-1 – .226 AVG, .321 SLG in 57 PA

Lidge isn’t as good as usual in slider counts either, but when
hitters can guess fastball, they’re feasting off him. Six of the seven
homers off him have come after 1-0.

I’m not sure what’s next, but I think the DL stint was past due;
Lidge badly needs some time off to think about things. His stuff is
still plenty good enough to get outs. The loss in velocity is quite
real, but there was a bigger drop-off prior to 2008 than there has been
since. Given time to work on his delivery and maybe attempt to hide his
slider a little better, he has a chance to come back and reemerge as a
shutdown closer. In the meantime, the Phillies will be just fine in the
ninth inning with Ryan Madson. Getting to him in the seventh and eighth
could be a problem, but at least they have J.C. Romero back from his
suspension.

Clayton Kershaw’s initial prognosis: 4-6 weeks on the disabled list

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Some seriously bad news for the Dodgers: Ken Rosenthal reports that the initial prognosis on Clayton Kershaw is that he will miss 4-6 weeks with his bad back. A final determination will be made after he gets a second medical consultation.

Kershaw exited Sunday’s start against the Braves with back tightness after just two innings of work. He was seen talking with trainers in the dugout after completing the top of the second inning and did not return to the mound for the third. Kershaw has a history of back problems. Last year he missed over two months with a herniated disc in his back.

Assuming the preliminary schedule holds, Kershaw would be on the shelf until late August at the earliest, but more likely early-to-mid September. The Dodgers currently hold a 10.5 game lead in the NL West so they can withstand his absence. But if they have any hopes of advancing in the playoffs, they’ll need a fully armed and operational Clayton Kershaw to do it.

David Price was a complete jackass to Dennis Eckersley

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In late June, Red Sox pitcher David Price confronted Hall of Famer and NESN analyst Dennis Eckersley during a team flight to Toronto. The circumstances of the argument were not clear at the time and at least one report said that it was a “back and forth,” presumably about some critical comments Eckersley made on the air about Price. We learned a few days after that it was less of a “back and forth” than it was Price merely berating Eckersley.

Now, via this story from Dan Shaugnessy of the Boston Globe, we get the true flavor of the exchange. It does not reflect well on Price or his teammates:

On the day of the episode, Price was standing near the middle of the team aircraft, surrounded by fellow players, waiting for Eckersley. When Eckersley approached, on his way to the back of the plane (Sox broadcasters traditionally sit in the rear of the aircraft), a grandstanding Price stood in front of Eckersley and shouted, “Here he is — the greatest pitcher who ever lived! This game is easy for him!’’

When a stunned Eckersley tried to speak, Price shot back with, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’

Many players applauded.

Eckersley made his way to the back of the plane as players in the middle of the plane started their card games. In the middle of the short flight, Eckersley got up and walked toward the front where Sox boss Dave Dombrowski was seated. When Eckersley passed through the card-playing section in the middle, Price went at him again, shouting, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’

Assuming this account is accurate, Price’s behavior was nothing short of disgraceful. Disgraceful in that Price was too much of a coward to take his issues up with Ecklersley one-on-one. Beyond that, it’s classic bully behavior, with Price waiting until he was surrounded by lackeys to hurl insults in a situation where Eckersley had no opportunity to effectively respond.

But it’s mostly just sad. Sad that David Price is so painfully sensitive that he cannot handle criticism from a man who is, without question, one of the best who has ever played the game. One of the few men who has been in his shoes and stood on that same mound and faced the same sorts of challenges Price has attempted to face. And, it should be noted, faced them with more success in his career than Price has so far.

No one likes criticism, but David Price is at a place in his life where he is, inevitably, going to receive it. And unlike virtually every other person who may offer it to him, Dennis Eckersley knows, quite personally, of what he speaks.

Shame on David Price for acting like a child. Shame on his teammates for backing him up. Shame on John Farrell and the rest of the Red Sox organization for not sitting Price down, explaining that he messed up and encouraging him to apologize. And, of course, if he apologizes now, it’s not because he means it. He’s had a month to reflect. It’s simply because his disgraceful behavior is now all over the pages of the Boston Globe.

What a pathetic display.