Deja vu all over again: Charlie Manuel dusts off the old "vote of confidence" for Brad Lidge

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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.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.