Philadelphia Phillies: Should They Let Brad Lidge Close When He Returns?
Brad Lidge of the Philadelphia Phillies will be forever remembered after recording the final out in the 2008 World Series against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Many would argue that Lidge was the MVP of that season, as he went an incredible 48 for 48 in save opportunities.
At that time a three-year, $37.5 million contract, (plus 2012 club option) seemed like an intelligent move. But Lidge has undergone a myriad of surgeries on his knee and shoulder that have kept him off the field.
Lidge hasn't thrown a single pitch in a game this season, due to a partial-tear in his throwing shoulder. Jose Contreras was initially given the job, but he suffered an elbow strain and it was time for the Mad Dog, Ryan Madson, to step up.
Madson blew his first save of the season on Thursday night and the national media is already asking if Brad Lidge should close when he returns.
Allow me to play devil's advocate here.
Here's a look at the pro's and con's of Brad Lidge returning to the closer's role when he rejoins the Philadelphia Phillies roster.
Pro 1: Lidge Has the Experience
Brad Lidge has consistently been closing games since 2004. He has racked up 222 saves over that time during an average of 31.7 games per season.
Lidge has been through the highs and lows of being a closer in MLB. The Philadelphia Phillies are in the midst of their most anticipated season in their entire 121-year history. They have shown that they are the class of the National League East and a decision needs to be made if Ryan Madson can handle the pressure.
Yes, the same Ryan Madson whose toe lost a battle against a folding chair and landed him on the DL in 2010.
Con 1: Show Madson the Money
Ryan Madson is currently making about $5 million a season to be the Phillies set-up man. He has stepped in for the injured Brad Lidge and done a fantastic job.
Every time Madson saves a game, Scott Boras' smile gets a little wider. Madson decided to team up with the superagent, and he is undoubtedly looking for the same type of money that Lidge is currently making.
Madson had many doubters who did not believe he had the mental toughness to be a closer in the major league. He has shown, thus far, that he can be just as dominant a closer as he was a set-up man.
The Phillies need to give Ryan Madson the closer's role for good, so he can show them that he truly deserves closer's money.
This is a win-win situation for the Phillies. If Madson screws up royally, the Phillies can low-ball Scott Boras in contract negotiations.
Even Mr. Boras can use a slice of humble pie every now and then.
Pro 2: Lidge Is Paid to Be a Closer
Brad Lidge makes more than $12 million this season whether he throws a pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies or not. It seems like a guarantee that the 2011 season will be "Lights Out" on Brad Lidge.
There is no way that the Phillies will exercise their club option in 2012 on Brad Lidge.
Still, we've had to endure 0-35 streaks from Raul Ibanez in left field. The only response Philly Nation receives is that he makes $12 million dollars and he isn't going anywhere.
The Phillies are right up against the luxury tax and have no way to move Raul's contract, so what you see is what you get out in left field. The Phillies do have the option of using Ryan Madson as the closer, but Lidge was given the big contract to be that guy.
When Brad Lidge returns, should the Phillies let him earn his money?
Con 2: What Will Lidge Be When He Returns?
As previously mentioned, Brad Lidge has yet to throw a pitch this season for the Philadelphia Phillies. Lidge has been pitching in extended spring training down in Clearwater, but he's now back in Philadelphia after a setback due to elbow soreness.
Hopefully this is a minor setback that a lot of pitchers go through when they begin throwing in spring training. The question remains, what will Brad Lidge look like when he returns to the Phillies?
Ryan Madson has been spectacular as the closer and do the Phillies really want to mess with his confidence? Madson is 13-14 in save situations with a 2.25 ERA, and he has 31 K's in 28 innings pitched.
It looks like Madson is breathing fire when he is closing out games. He has said that realizing there is more pressure on the hitter than on him has made a world of difference.
Do the Phillies stay with a young, flame-throwing guy who has been completely dominant this year or go with a veteran with a cranky elbow (Joe Blanton reference) and sore shoulder?
It's not exactly advanced calculus, is it?
Pro 3: Madson Knows His Role
When Ryan Madson enters the game in the eighth inning, Philadelphia Phillies fans are already looking forward to the ninth inning. Madson is quite simply a top three set-up man in Major League Baseball.
Brad Lidge has already shown that he can get the job done when the games matter most, and Madson has been plain dominant in the postseason.
Madson has 37 K's in 30 innings pitched in the playoffs, and Brad Lidge has a 2.28 ERA in 31 postseason appearances.
This duo has shown that they can "close" the door on teams when the Phillies have a lead in the eighth inning. Should the team stick with the status quo?
Madson in the eighth and Lidge in the ninth has been a staple on this team for years. Does it really hurt the Phillies if Lidge is the guy closing again in 2011—if he's healthy?
Healthy is the key word here.
Con 3: Confidence Is the Key to Success
Many have questioned whether Ryan Madson was "tough enough" to be a closer. In my opinion, he has already shown that he will be a dominant closer in baseball for a long time.
Would it really be smart for the Phillies to take away the closer's role from Ryan Madson when he has been so spectacular? What kind of message would that be sending to him? What kind of message would that be sending to the team?
This team is built to win now. Phillies management and Charlie Manuel have a responsibility to field the best team that they can. Ryan Madson as the closer of the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies is sending the message that this team prioritizes winning more than anything else.
That is all the fans of Philadelphia ask.