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Who Is THE most important Phillies player?

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It really is remarkable what the  Phillies have gone through this season with injuries to Ryan Howard, welcome to the disabled list, where 14 other teammates have been this year.almost all of their everday players and numerous members of the starting rotation and bullpen. Yet in early August, they find themselves just a couple of games out of first place.

So, now that Ryan Howard has become the 15th player to wind up on the disabled list and will be sidelined for two or three weeks, naturally (or at least to my way of thinking) it begs the question: who is the most indispensable member of the team?

Is it Jimmy Rollins, who was supposed to reignite a slumbering offense when he returned from the disabled list for a second time and would realistically be best suited to hit down in the order if the Phillies had a “true leadoff” man?

Is it Chase Utley, the heart and soul of the team who is the perfect third hitter in a lineup and sets the tone with his no-nonsense, “old school” approach to playing the game?

Is it “the Big Piece," since there is nobody on the team who can fill the void left by his absence in the middle of the lineup? Howard was the National League MVP in 2006 and has become a perennial candidate for the award. He has carried the team in the last two months over the last couple of years to get them to the post-season.

Is it Roy Halladay, the staff ace who was brought here with the explicit purpose of stabilizing the rotation, leading by example with his work ethic, and winning the big games necessary to become World Champions again?

All good cases, all lay legitimate claim to the crown of the most valuable, most important player on the team…but they all fall short to one guy.

And that guy is…Brad Lidge!Charlie Manuel has been to the mound in the ninth inning one two many times the last two years. Photo: Joe Vallee Sr.

Yes, that’s right. The wildly inconsistent closer is THE most indispensable part of the team as it bids to get back to the playoffs for the fourth straight year and the World Series for a third straight season.

Any team that has realistic hopes of becoming a champion has to be sound, secure and worry free in the back end of the bullpen. Everybody on the team has to know and have confidence that the ninth inning guy is going to come in and close the door when called upon to do so.

Lidge will never recapture the form he had two years ago and will never be perfect again, but if he can’t get the job done a regular basis and avoid sending Phillies fans throughout the Delaware Valley into panic mode each time he enters the game, the team doesn’t have a shot to get back to the World Series or even the playoffs.

They were fortunate to be able to withstand his struggles last year and take the Yankees to six games, but with better competition (including a better Braves bullpen), it is imperative that Lidge finds himself and rewards the manager’s faith in him as his closer by proving it on the hill.

Charlie Manuel, quite frankly, doesn’t have another option. Ryan Madson proved last year that he isn’t ready for the role, Jose Contreras has proved this year he isn’t ready to step in, and there is clearly nobody else that the skipper has any confidence in. After four months, this justifiably so in a tight late-game spot. Plus, if you do move Lidge out of the role which you are paying him a lot of money to serve in, where do you pitch him? Phil Garner tried it in Houston with decent results but you have to wonder how Lidge would respond at this point in his career.

The way the game is played now is that the bullpen is built from the back forward. You start with your established closer and build backward, going from your eighth inning guy, to your seventh inning guy and/or lefty specialist, and then to your long men. But it all revolves around the guy you believe in when comes to slamming the door in the ninth. If you don’t have that, you don’t have clearly defined roles and that means you don’t have pitchers in the bullpen who have any idea when they are going to be called on to come into a game and that's not good.

So, for the Phillies to get where they want to go, they need Lidge to straighten out and find a way to get the job done on a regular basis because he is the most indispensable player on the team!

Brett Pollock is a 13-year minor league baseball broadcaster. Brett can be contacted at pollock2027@gmail.com

You can also check out Brett's blog at http://pollockonpoint.blogspot.com