Will Brad Lidge be trusted right away?

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Brad Lidge.jpgEntering Friday, it was assumed that Brad Lidge would be eased back into the closer’s role, sharing the responsibility with Ryan Madson. Well, now the Phillies are without their safety net.

Madson was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Friday afternoon after breaking his right toe. He told of Todd Zolecki of MLB.com that he suffered the injury after kicking a metal folding chair in frustration following a blown save against the Giants on Wednesday afternoon.

“I’m embarrassed, I let down my teammates,” Madson said. “I let down the
fans that want us all to be out there playing hard for them. I feel
terrible about that. That’s probably the worst part. It is the worst
part. I’ve done it before. Not kick stuff, but I’ve gotten upset before
and never broken a bone. It’s just one of those things. I learned from
it. I won’t do it again. I realize how much I’m letting my teammates
down and the fans.”

In turn, Lidge made his season debut in a non-save situation against the Mets on Friday night and was rudely welcomed by Rod Barajas, who slugged his second home run of the game. Lidge was pulled by manager Charlie Manuel after just 11 pitches and three hard-hit balls. According to Brooks Baseball, he averaged just under 92 mph on his fastball and topped out at 93 mph. It’s hard to take many positives from Friday’s performance if you are a Phillies fan, but Manuel tells Zolecki that he only wanted Lidge to get his feet wet.

“He still needs work,” Manuel said. “I was just putting him in for a
couple of hitters, really; I wanted to get J.C. Romero in the game for a
couple of hitters. But Lidge needs work.”

Doesn’t exactly sound like someone who is going to pitch the ninth inning right away.

Looking at the alternatives, Danys Baez has the most closer experience, though the Mets torched him for four runs on Friday night. For what it’s worth, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer believes that Jose Contreras is the backup to Lidge at this point. And with a 1.35 ERA and a 12/0 K/BB ratio over his first eight appearances this season, he certainly deserves to be.

As for Saturday, Manuel is probably hoping Roy Halladay can make it a moot point and all go all nine.
 

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.