Last October the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies piled on top of their perfect closer in celebration of his forty eighth save in forty eight chances.
Carlos Ruiz was the first to wrap his arms around perfection and then the rest of the team ensued. The pile on began a celebration that had been almost thirty years in the making. However, it brought out the flaws in a closer who went through a full season and postseason perfect. That closer was Brad Lidge.
Brad Lidge left Houston looking for a new beginning and that's exactly what he got in Philadelphia. With a restored confidence, Lidge entered 2009 with higher expectations than the year before. However, it seems these enhanced expectations were getting to Lidge the same way Pujols got to him in Houston.
Three shaky saves to start the season left Lidge still perfect, but it also left him with a 5.40 ERA after he gave up three runs in three save situations.
Then on April 18th, against the Padres, perfection toppled down upon the Phillies in a big way after Lidge pitched two thirds of an inning and gave up four earned runs. Lidge got his first loss with the Phillies and for the Phillies sake his only, but that would not be his only save blown.
Less than a month later Lidge's imperfection struck again against the Nationals when he squandered a two-run lead to blow his second chance for a save of the season and bumped his ERA over nine.
Just 36 games into the season Lidge is seven for nine in save chances with a staggering 8.31 ERA. In 17 1/3 innings he has 18 strikeouts, however, he has given up 23 hits, 16 runs, and 10 walks. A far change from the Lidge of 2008.
In Houston it was a mammoth home-run by Albert Pujol's that shook Lidge right out of his closer role. It took a complete change of scenery to stabilize his shaken confidence.
After his first blown saves in the last two seasons, Lidge is again starting to look like his confidence had gone from "lights out" to getting lit up every time he takes the mound. Lidge has given up a run or more in nine of his 18 appearances, including six straight from May 5th, to May 15th.
If there is one thing Lidge can do to regain his perfection form back it would be to remember the season he accomplished in front of a city who is known for its harsh treatment of resident athletes.
Lidge will forever be in debt to Philadelphia after closing out his perfect season with the city's first championship in well over twenty years. Until the Phillies, Eagles, Sixers or Flyers capture a title, the image of Lidge falling to his knees in front of a sold out Citizens Bank Park will be the fondest memory of all to Philadelphia sports fans.
If the Phillies are fortunate enough to celebrate another World Series title they will have to remember to celebrate with a high five and a hug rather than a giant pile on. It couldn't hurt to prevent Ryan Howard from diving on their closer, and Cole Hamels for that matter.