In 2008 Brad Lidge was the perfect closer, and I mean perfect in the literal sense. Converting every single save opportunity was an impossible feat but he did it. However, lost amidst the hoopla of the perfect season and the World Series win for the Phillies was the fact that it took a team effort to keep Lidge perfect. It took some great fielding and some scattered hits. It also took a toll, both physically and psychologically on Lidge himself. Going into the 2009 season he was expected to maintain a perfection that we found out all too soon was impossible to maintain. When he blew his first save it was like someone had plunged a needle into a balloon and left it there, with the air slowly being let out. By the time the season ended (inostensibly with a blown opportunity in the World Series) all illusions were gone. Lidge was seen as the lucky recipient of the perfect season in 2008, a season that will live on as the only perfect one he will ever have.
But why did we even expect more from him? He had done all that the Phillies asked for and more for an entire season, the culmination of which was the fulfilled dream of young boys who love baseball, a ring and a championship. There had to be a letdown somewhere. No one pitcher could maintain that luck, perfect fielding, and the ability to stymie all comers. Even the great Mariano Rivera hasn't had a perfect save season, yet Phillies fans felt letdown. Phillies fans felt abused by the man they believed was their messiah. There is no redemption in Philadelphia (unless your name is Michael Vick) because we have an ability to look at everything as "what have you done for us lately?" So Lidge, the hero of 2008, became the goat of 2009, and all as fallout for the one season of perfection. There are always tradeoffs and he was the recipient of one of the big ones in 2009.
So that leaves us with a big question. What do the Phillies do about a closer in 2010? If they trust in Lidge has he finally gotten over the fact that he won't be perfect again but he could still be damn good? Or will the psychological issues keep him in their sway so he doesn't believe in himself anymore. The Phillies do not have on their roster another pitcher who can slide easily into that role for this upcoming season. Ryan Madson has proven he is the ultimate setup man ('09 World Series notwithstanding), but he has also proven that he cannot handle the closer role. It takes a mental toughness that he just does not command. It would behoove the Phillies to acquire another bonafide closer-in-the-making and use him and Lidge interchangeably until one distinguishes himself. One thing they just cannot do is rely solely on Lidge from the start because he will assume that they expect perfection and he will not deliver. Perhaps the best thing for Lidge will be that sense of competition because competition was what always brought out the best in him before. Maybe then he will see that he can still be a really good closer...
before it's too late and the Lidge project becomes a complete failure.