Friday, October 16, 2009

Phillies walk the Lidge

Mike Cuellar pitched seven years in regular rotation for Earl Weaver, going 139-75 from 1969-1975. But things didn't go so well in 1976 — he finished the season 4-13 with a 4.96 ERA, this in an era when an ERA in the fours was pretty awful — and Weaver yanked him from the rotation about halfway through the season.

Cuellar complained that Weaver hadn't given him a chance to get straightened out. Weaver's retort: "I gave Mike more chances than my first wife."

How many chances to give a pitcher who's done the job before is a question that has bedeviled many a manager. Charlie Manuel's handling of Brad Lidge this season is an extreme case of patience — of more chances than Weaver's first wife.

Yes, Lidge had 31 saves. He also had an ERA of 7.21. This is not a misprint. He had 11 blown saves and an 0-8 record. There were worse pitchers than him, but not many. And none who are still getting the ball.

Manuel has stuck with Lidge, believing in the talent — and, perhaps, counting on the fact that 58 innings, even over the course of a season, is a small sample size. He spent much of September focused on rebuilding Lidge's psyche and pitches.

Perhaps it has worked. Lidge has three saves so far this postseason. They haven't been pretty ones — on Thursday against the Dodgers, for example, he allowed two baserunners.

Whether he can keep this up, we'll see. But Manuel made his decision, right or wrong, weeks ago.

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