Brad Lidge quietly announced his retirement from baseball on Sunday night. The World Series hero of 2008 saved 100 games during his four seasons with the Phillies.
Here’s something you might not know …
Essentially the message was even though Lidge received all of the glory for saving 48 straight games, including the last pitches to sew up the Phillies’ second World Series title in their 129 seasons, he couldn’t have done it without his teammates in the ‘pen.
It was a dream season for Lidge where everything he touched went beautifully. Better yet, it was an even better season off the field for Lidge.
The dream season of 2008 was followed by a nightmare in 2009. That’s where Lidge set a record for the worst ERA in Major League Baseball history for a pitcher with at least 30 saves. But as dreadful as it was for Lidge in 2009 with those eight losses and 11 blown saves, Lidge bravely faced the music with his teammates, coaches and media. That's a bit of a rarity these days. Better yet, not only was he consistent in demeanor, he has been accountable and kept his dignity.
In fact, Lidge has been no different in 2009 when talking about his performance than he was in 2008. No matter what, he would stand there for you and deconstruct every pitch of every inning all while indulging every question and reliving the horror—or the glory—after every game.
During the 2009 season, Phil Taylor of Sports Illustrated weighed in on how Lidge handled the season with great dignity and aplomb. As Taylor wrote:
It's like going to sleep as James Bond and waking up as Inspector Clouseau. "My preparation is the same, my intensity, my focus, my effort, they're all the same as last season, but the results just—aren't," the 32-year-old Lidge says. "There are definitely times when I wonder, What's going on here?"
The rest of us are wondering the same thing, but not so much about his pitching. What's going on with all this self-control? No athlete in recent memory has gone from being perfect one season to putrid the next, so if ever a player could be forgiven for snapping, it's Lidge. Yet he continues to handle his struggles with grace and civility, which is just so ... unfashionable.
Hasn't he been paying attention? That's not the way it's done at a time when rage is all the rage. If you're on the verge of losing to an underdog in the U.S. Open, you take it out on your racket and the line judge, the way Serena Williams did. If an opponent shows little class by taunting, you show even less by slugging him, as Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount did after the Ducks' loss to Boise State. If the kick returner on your team lets a shot at a season-opening upset slip away, you take your frustrations out by spray-painting his lawn, the way Bills fans did after Leodis McKelvin's fumble at New England.
Even with all of those angry precedents to follow, Lidge's stack remains unblown; not once has he had to release an insincere, intentionally vague apology for some embarrassing loss of temper. Manager Charlie Manuel pulled him in a save situation against the Nationals two weeks ago, the first time as a Phillie that Lidge had suffered that indignity. Some relievers might have grabbed the biggest bat they could find and done a little impromptu demolition work in the clubhouse, but Lidge stayed in the dugout, demonstrably rooting on his replacement, Ryan Madson.
Staring out at a light rain last week, Lidge matter-of-factly discussed his performance, his affable demeanor never changing even as he used words like "crappy" and "terrible." After a particularly galling blown save against the Astros, his former team, he had sat in front of his locker so distraught that a Phillies staffer told him it would be fine if he chose not to speak to the media. Instead of taking the invitation to duck out, he took a deep breath and relived the ugly outing for his questioners—facing things, as Manuel puts it, "like a man."
More than the 48 saves in 2008 and the goose-bump raising celebration after throwing the final strike to Eric Hinske, Lidge will be remembered in Philadelphia as a classy guy and a good dude who never big timed anyone. Hell, after getting a Rolex for his teammates after the 2008 season, many of them went out of their way to randomly bestow gifts on him. Before the 2010 playoffs, Scott Eyre had Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello send Lidge one of his custom made axes.
Pretty sweet gift.
And in the end, Lidge will most be remembered for how he treated others rather than those pitches he threw to win the World Series for the Phils.