On a Thursday night when Brad Lidge was in the house, Jonathan Papelbon reminded fans of the Philadelphia Phillies just how hard it is to do what Lidge did.
Papelbon blew his sixth save in his last 13 outings one week after saying “I didn’t come here for this” and urging Phillies management to blow up the ball club. Phillies fans think Papelbon is doing a nice job of that all by himself these days. He was passed over at the major-league trade deadline despite the team offering him to any and all takers, and now he is proving those teams right.
Lidge was in Philadelphia to retire as a member of the Phillies and said the “decision was an easy one for him to make” even though he spent more of his career in Houston than in Philadelphia. When the Phils won the World Series in 2008, Lidge was arguably the biggest reason why it happened, going 48 for 48 in save opportunities.
Lidge had a split-finger fastball and a slider he could alternate between when one pitch wasn’t working. The same cannot be said for Papelbon, who relies mostly on a moving fastball. When the fastball isn’t moving as it has not been recently, Papelbon gets hit.
The biggest difference between Papelbon’s days in Boston and his days in Philadelphia is the velocity on his fastball. In those days, it topped out at 97 mph consistently. Now it tops out at 92 mph on a good night.
No one knows if this is the result of age, innings or a dead arm, but it’s a problem that the Phillies have invested a guaranteed $50 million in over four years. This is the second year. If Papelbon doesn’t get any better, the Phillies might be forced to eat the final two years.
Papelbon was booed off the mound by the Phillies fans, who do not come to the games to watch innings like this. As Papelbon walked off, a loud chant could be heard: “We want Lidge!”
Or, well, at least someone like Lidge.