As Astro fans know, Brad Lidge – who single-handedly redefined the term “closer,” mostly by not being completely unable to close games – is being demoted to set-up man.
The entire world saw this coming. Especially Chronicle columnist Richard Justice, who wrote this in his blog today:
April 09, 2007
Maybe Lidge can be saved, but not by doing it this way.
The Astros have mishandled Brad Lidge almost every step of the way, and they're doing so again. To keep him on the big league roster at a time when his career is hanging in the balance is dumb. It does neither the organization nor Lidge any good. His problems are way more serious than that.
I have no idea if Lidge can be saved. That Albert Pujols home run--and the problems that followed--may have permanently ruined one of baseball's most dominant relievers. The Astros pretended for too long that Lidge simply was in a slump when it seemed clear from the outside that the problem was far more serious than that. GM Tim Purpura should have convened his people early last season and attacked the problem with instructors, sports psychologists and the like. They should have come up with a plan.
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Damn those inept Astros, pretending that Lidge was okay when any idiot with half a brain could see he wasn’t. What kind of fool would fall for that?
Well, maybe the Richard Justice of a month or so ago, writing a xolumns headlined “There’s Still a Lot to Like About Lidge” at the opening of Spring Training:
At times [in 2006 Lidge] slowed his body and looked as unhittable as ever. Other times, he looked like a guy about to punch a ticket back to the minors. He was better down the stretch as he experimented with different grips on his fastball. He slowed down and his slider was once more among the best pitches in the game. He got some confidence back, too.
"Just when I thought I'd got everything back, the season ended," he said.
He spent the winter focusing on his mechanics. Now he's back, healthy and confident and ready for his fifth season. He vacationed in Europe, is building a dream home in the Denver suburbs and is looking forward.
"I feel confident now," he said. "I'm ready to move on."
“Now he’s back, healthy and confident.” Who needs a sports psychiatrist when you’ve got Richard Justice? -- Richard Connelly