Brad Lidge blew a save Saturday for the fourth time in 14 tries, but came back yesterday with a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 11th save and got a vote of confidence from manager Charlie Manuel:
I’ve definitely got to show him that I’m willing to stay with him and we’ll see what happens. … He definitely wants to prove he’s that man and he can still do it and that he’s good for our team and he can help us and he wants to keep his closer’s role. I feel like we’ve definitely got to give him some time.
That’s a lot of “definitely” in one quote. But wait, there’s more:
Believe me, I’ll never let my heart overrule the fact that we’re a team. I want what’s best for the team. I definitely think he’s got to be better than what he’s been so far. I also feel like, I think at times, I really believe he’s got to save a couple in a row. Today was a good start. Now he’s got to have two or three games in a row and run a clean slate. And then I think he may be all right. Because he’s very capable.
I appreciate the sentiment from Manuel, but since this is basically identical to how things played out with Lidge last season the “we’ve definitely got to give him some time” and “I’ll never let my heart overrule the fact that we’re a team” lines ring particularly hollow.
Philadelphia won the World Series in 2008 while Lidge went 48-for-48 converting saves between the regular season and playoffs, including closing out the decisive Game 5 win over the Rays. Since then he’s blown 15 of 57 save chances while posting a 6.69 ERA in 80.2 innings, serving up 16 homers while allowing opponents to bat .288 with a .508 slugging percentage.
Yes, he’s had some good stretches during that time, both this year and last year, but for the most part he’s been horrible now for two consecutive seasons. When the Phillies were coasting to a division title last year it wasn’t such a huge deal, but now they’re 2.5 games back of the Braves in the NL East and trailing two teams for the Wild Card.
And it’s not as if Manuel lacks options. Jose Contreras has been solid all season with a 3.65 ERA and 40/12 K/BB ratio in 37 innings and Ryan Madson has a 13/0 K/BB ratio in 11.2 innings since returning from the disabled list. Pick one as the new closer, use the other as the primary setup man, and make Lidge earn the job back by actually stringing together some impressive appearances in middle relief, where every ugly outing doesn’t have a chance to cost the Phillies a game.