Has Manuel seen enough of Lidge?
- The groundwork was laid hours before, when Charlie Manuel's real emotions about Brad Lidge seeped through in a 22-minute dugout conversation.
"I've always looked at him as our closer," the manager said before the Phillies' hair-raising, 5-3 victory over the Nationals last night. "But also, there comes a time when we have to win a game. It's a touchy situation."
So touchy that Manuel then went on to say, "We can monitor his time and things like that and try to make sure we can put him in the right places."
Here's the after:
- "I definitely am not going to get away from him," Manuel said of Lidge, but then he added this cryptic note:
"We're going to work with him. And we're going to get him back to where he can get consistent and go out there and save games ... I'm not saying he'll close tomorrow or the next day."
But Manuel said he still saw Lidge "as a closer," and before the game said, "We're talking a real fine line." But there is an interpretive gap between the two men as to what exactly that means.
Likable in his toughest hour, Lidge was at his locker quickly after the game, saying things like, "My control wasn't there," "Madson did a great job picking me up," and finally, "Chuck's been awesome."
When he was asked if he was still the team's closer, Lidge answered, "Yeah, he said I was, so that's it."
No more. You simply can't head into October with a question mark so big, and suddenly October is just a few weeks away.
Despite myself -- I have a rule about feeling sorry for a man who owns (or could own) his own plane -- I can't help feeling for Lidge, just a little bit. He seems like a nice enough fellow, and has dealt with the rough patches over the years with some grace. But if he really thinks that he's still the Phillies' closer, that he deserves that job, he's deluding himself.
At some point, probably within the next few hours, Charlie Manuel's going to sit down and have a tough talk with the guy who was perfect, 48 for 48, in 2008 ... but has been far too imperfect in 2009. In October, you have to win 11 games.