Brad Lidge is a Winner in My Book
Funny how entire careers are defined by one moment, one image. Before October 2008, Brad Lidge's was that of surrendering a mammoth home run to St. Louis Cardinals' slugger Albert Pujols in Game 5 the 2005 National League Championship Series. With Lidge's Astros just one out away from a trip to the World Series, the Cards got two men on and then Pujols struck a towering shot into the Houston air. Houston recovered the next day and went on to the World Series, but the Pujols bomb became the first of many meltdowns for the previously invincible Lidge.
Fast forward to 2008, and most Philadelphians know that Lidge was literally invincible for the World Champion Phillies. Given 48 opportunities to close out a win, Lidge converted all 48, including the deciding Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Rays, ending 25 years of Philadelphia sports futility. The crowning image of Lidge on his knees looking to the sky is forever seared in the minds of hard-luck Philadelphia fans.
And yet, I believe that Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer Andy Martino is absolutely right when he says that Lidge's 2009 season is a more accurate marker of the man's true character. In an article last weekend entitled "Brad Lidge Aces a Test of Character," Martino correctly observes that the now-embattled Lidge, whose 2009 season has been as imperfect as 2008's was perfect, has been nothing but gracious and forthright amidst his many failings. In an era in which we tolerate the petulant and the boastful, how about a hand for someone who makes no excuses and doesn't hide from his mistakes?
Phillies fans may find it difficult to have good feelings about their closer - not after 10 blown saves and many more antacid-inducing moments. But, while everyone loves a winner, the real take-away for me from Brad Lidge's career is how he conducted himself when he didn't win. That he did so with grace and courage, and not that he threw a third strike past Eric Hinske in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series, is what makes him a winner in my book.