Last week, the World Chmapion Phillies team from 2008 took another loss, when relief pitcher Brad Lidge signed a one-year deal with the Washington Nationals. He leaves Philadelphia with a 3.73 ERA in 214 games, where he notched 100 saves, including the biggest one of his career, when he struck out Eric Hinske to end the 2008 World Series.
And just like that, he's gone. 100 miles south to the division-rival Nationals, leaving behind a World Series trophy, a bevy of nervously chewed fingernails, a handful of great memories, and a legacy.
What that legacy is, however, depends largely on who you ask.
If you ask the die-hards who suffered through the ups and downs the 90s and early part of the last decade, then Brad Lidge was the savior of the city. A true closer in every since of the word, he used an unhittable slider to set down his opponents at will. While he also relied on luck and a handful of fortunate breaks to pitch his way to a perfect season, his performance in 2008 was among the greatest in Phillies history.
Without Lidge's perfection, it's likely that the parade down Broad Street never happens. And without that, Citizens Bank Park doesn't get sold out on consecutive nights for three straight seasons. And without that, there might not be the money for those contract for Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee.
Sure, a team is composed of 25 guys, but in 2008, few were more important than Brad Lidge.
On the other hand, his legacy could he one of failure, especially if you ask the “what have you done for me lately” crowd, who will focus not on his spectacular achievement in 2008, but instead on his magnificent failure in 2009, when he blew 11 saves en route to a historically bad 7.21 ERA.
Indeed, 2009 was hard to watch. Lidge, whose entrance in the ninth inning one year earlier meant another notch in the win column, was fallible. He blew his first save since 2007 in April. Then he blew another one. Then another. When all was said and done, Lidge was a shell of the pitcher he was only one year prior.
Despite his ineffectiveness, Charlie Manuel kept giving him the ball. “He's my guy,” Charlie would say, loyal to his closer until the end. But it was that loyalty that ultimately cost the Phillies, as Lidge would go on to cough up three runs in a decisive Game Four loss to the New York Yankees in the World Series, which would all but end it for the Phillies. The parade, which one year earlier came on the back of Lidge's elbow, was now gone because of it.
He would bounce back, to a degree, in 2010 and 2011. Limited to just 75 games due to injuries, Lidge pitched his way to a 2.49 ERA in his final two years in red pinstripes, with his trademark slider leading the way to 10.4 strikeouts per nine inning. He wasn't the Lidge of old, but there were worse guys to turn to out of the bullpen.
Whatever you think of Brad Lidge, I suspect that, in 20 years, we will all think fondly of him and his four year run with the Phillies. His unhittable slider will be etched into the folklore of the city, as will the indelible image of him as the 2008 World Series ended: On his knees, arms raised in triumph, shouting towards the heavens.
Brad Lidge wasn't always great. In fact, he wasn't always good. And sometimes, he was downright awful.
But he was perfect when he needed to be.