We all know that Charlie Manuel has been publicly supportive of Brad Lidge. But what does Ruben Amaro Jr. think, on a day when all of Philly seems to be buzzing with Lidge-related anxiety? After all, he’s the general manager, "the decider," to quote a former president.
Reached by phone a few hours ago, Amaro did not say, suggest, hint or imply that he was thinking about making a change at the position. But he did place the onus for any decision largely on Manuel.
“Those are mainly decisions for Charlie to make,” Amaro said. “But I believe in Charlie and I believe in Lidge. There is no question he has had some rough games. He has had some struggles, but when Lidge is pitching right, I’ll put my money on Lidge.”
Of course, Lidge isn’t pitching right this season, and I don’t have to retype the stats to prove it. My personal opinion hasn’t evolved on this since I blogged last night. It’s a problem for the team. Some of the more sabermetrically-inclined members of the Philles Zone community have rightly pointed out that a closer’s importance is overstated, and the Phils should just put different people in that role or mix-and-match. I almost always agree with sabermetric arguments, but actually covering baseball has changed my view on this one.
Yes, the save stat is one of the dumbest metrics in baseball, and middle-relief swingmen are more valuable than closers—at least modern, one-inning closers in the post-Eckersley/Sutter/Lee Smith era. But actually getting to know relief pitchers has taught me that they like to be in prescribed roles, and they really do believe that the ninth inning is different from any other.
So while the Jamesian crowd smartly notes that stuff that works in the seventh innings should translate to the ninth, it just doesn’t seem to work that way for the humans who play the game. That’s why demoting Lidge would potentially create new and serious problems for the bullpen, reshuffling the whole mix with weeks to go before the playoffs.
Also, Manuel was also asked today whether he would use Lidge again four days in a row. “If he’s sore or if he’s stiff or whatever and he feels like it’s going to be tough for him, if he tells me I won’t use him,” Manuel said. “I mean that. But at the same time, I felt like he was ready.”
Tomorrow, Antonio Bastardo (shoulder strain) will pitch a Gulf Coast League rehab game, Clay Condrey (oblique) will throw in a simulated game, and J.C. Romero (forearm strain) will throw a bullpen session, according to Amaro. The GM said that he still hopes to have all three back this season.