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Brett Myers Closing? Now THAT'S Ironic

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It was late May of 1993 and I was wrapping up my Freshman year in high school. As my dad picked me up from school one afternoon, local sports talk radio was bombarded with calls concerning the previous night's Phillies game. A game that Mitch Williams handed to the Mets after Danny Jackson pitched eight masterful innings.

"I'll tell you something," said my dad. "Can you imagine if the Phillies get to the World Series this year and the same thing happens with Mitch on the mound?" I couldn't help but agree with him. Granted, Mitch didn't blow many games that year, but nonetheless he ALWAYS made it interesting. Too interesting for a "World Series contender" (go ahead and laugh) like the Phillies turned out to be in 1993. Nobody was laughing when the Phillies actually DID get to the World Series several months later, and the words of my dad eerily came to life.

Sixteen years later, I can't help but feel the same way about Brad Lidge.

It has been less than ten months since Lidge closed out just the second title in Phillies history. And the term "what a difference a year makes" was never so unfortunately poetic. As a Philadelphia sports fan, we are raised to expect the unexpected, if not the worst. But did anyone expect the Tug McGraw of our generation to be so unreliable in just under a year's time? These days, I don't know if Lidge is trying to convince his teammates, the fans, the coaching staff, or himself about the way he is throwing the baseball. He can only offer the excuse that he feels great so many times before he needs to show it and not say it.

The Phillies are a championship team. Until this year, I sadly never had the chance to follow one. However, I (along with the Delaware Valley) are getting a fast reminder from Phillies management that last year was last year. And regardless of who you are (Chris Coste) or what your role was in 2008 and/or what your salary is in 2009 (Jamie Moyer), the ever increasing talent from your minor league system (J.A. Happ), latest trade acquisition (Cliff Lee), or free agency pickup (Pedro Martinez) is ready to take your place if you can't do the job. This is not the old Phillies, where players took the field because of their grandiose pay checks despite their shoddy performance.

Maybe we aren't even talking about this if 1993 never happened. Despite the Phillies' World Series "redemption" last October, game six of the 1993 World Series will NEVER really go away, nor should it. It's part of our battle armor. And whether you like it or not, it IS preparing us for what could happen come October if the Philles make the playoffs and Lidge can't get his act together. Cliff Lee can have an ERA of 1.13 all he wants. Those last three outs are what completes the box score. This ISN'T 1993. This isn't some fairy tale and we're supposed to be happy no matter what the end result is with this team. We've been to Mount Everest, and damn it, we want to stay there. The 2009 Phillies faithful EXPECTS to win! Which brings us to Brett Myers.

Two months ago, Myers (as we were all led to believe), had probably thrown his last pitch as a Phillie. But in true Brett Myers fashion, it looks like he may surprise us once again. Say what you want about Myers, but one thing he isn't (for better or for worse) is predictable. From the lofty and most likely unrealistic expectations set for him by the Phillies brass, to his off the field incidents, to his improbable return to the Phillies rotation after a visit to the minor leagues last summer, to his post season heroics (with the glove AND the bat), Brett Myers in all likelihood has one of the most eventful careers of any player to wear the Phillies uniform for a lifetime record that would indicate otherwise. Graceful? Not in the least. Rough around the edges? Without a doubt. A competitor who will always take the ball? No question. Oh and yeah, he also replaced the oft-injured Tom Gordon in 2007, only to suffer an injury in the now infamous "Rod Barajas Game," only to return to the team late in the season to close out their first division crown since 1993. When the Phillies acquired Lidge, Myers was devastated at the fact that he lost his new role, which he had grown to love. Phillies management made it abundantly clear to him that there was no way he would be a closer in a Phillies uniform.

That was in 2008.

Though sources say that Myers lacks the stamina to return to the starting rotation, Phils management hasn't ruled out a return to the bullpen. And if Myers finally gets to make his scheduled rehab appearance (we won't rehash the three possible scenarios in the latest Jeff Kent-like saga. Hey, we said he's not predicable!), a return to the majors is not so much of a stretch. The "closer by committee" usually isn't recommended unless you are The Nasty Boys from 1990. Although it was only for one year, Myers has the pedigree and is more qualified than any reliever on the staff to close if needed. Myers is indeed a gamer, but he also has something to prove. He is a free agent after this season, and most signs indicate that he is unlikely to return to the Phils in 2010. Myers will to win is not an issue. However, he looks a lot more attractive to a team inquiring about his services if his last pitch is thrown in November as opposed to last June.

Let's hope however, that it doesn't have to come to this. Maybe Myers can return to the pen as a solid reliever and quietly help the Phils win another title. Truth be told, all of this is probably a little surreal. I find myself rooting for Lidge more than any of the players on the team. Watching him do what he did last October 29th before your very eyes can change a man. I don't want his critics to be proven right. I don't want him left for dead again like he was in Houston. As strange as it sounds, I'm rooting for Brad Lidge the person just as much as I'm rooting for Brad Lidge the pitcher. But there comes a time when Charlie Manuel and his staff need to stop being polite, and start getting real. If Myers is healthy, and can do the job better than Lidge can, it's a no-brainer.

And perhaps the most fitting way for him to end his Phillies career. And after everything we've been through with Brett Myers, would you be at all surprised?

photo: www.sportsillustrated.cnn.com

 

 

 

 


Comments


9:08 AM
Thu Aug 20 2009
Bret Meyers closing? Now THAT'S ironic

Nice article Joe!


11:38 PM
Thu Aug 20 2009
Thanks!

Thanks Smitty.  I love Lidge, but he is one of several reasons why I'm a little skeptical of the Phils repeating.  The other is hitting with RISP.  They can't ALWAYS hit the long ball.  There will be close games in the playoffs.  Cliff Lee can't always go nine innings.  We shall see..................