Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lidge: Phils don't take Nats lightly anymore

Associated Press photo
Brad Lidge joins the Nationals after four seasons in the Phillies' bullpen.
VIERA, Fla. -- For three seasons, from 2008-10, Brad Lidge and his Phillies teammates would take the field against the Nationals and have every reason to believe they'd emerge victorious. Such is life when you play 18 times a year for the perennial division champs against the division dregs.

"You don't take anybody lightly in the major leagues, you don't take anyone for granted," Lidge said. "But at the same time, you felt like if you didn't win a series against them, you did something wrong."

At some point in 2011, though, that vibe changed. Knowing they could no longer enjoy a cakewalk over the Nationals, the Phillies realized they were in for a dogfight every time the two clubs met. And they realized the challenge wasn't about to get any easier.

"Now, it's different," Lidge said. "Now, in order to win a series against the Nationals, you better be at your absolute best. That changed. I really saw it last year. You could see it was kind of moving in that direction, but last year it was a big difference. Playing for the Phillies against the Nationals, you could tangibly see the difference."

The Nationals actually took the season series from their nemeses, 10-8, and that's before they acquired Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson, before Stephen Strasburg was 100 percent healthy and before Bryce Harper ever set foot on a big-league field.

For all of those reasons and more, Lidge didn't have to think twice about signing with Washington this winter. The progress he had seen from across the diamond over the last year played a big role in his decision.

"It absolutely did," he said today as pitchers and catchers formally reported to Space Coast Stadium. "When you see a team going in the right direction and you think they're a team that's going to be competing for the playoffs, and you have an opportunity to play for them, you definitely take that seriously. All the improvements are going to make them a very attractive team, not only for me, but for other people in the future."

Beset by injuries and inconsistencies in recent years, Lidge no longer is the dominant closer who converted a perfect 48-of-48 save opportunities in 2008 while leading Philadelphia to a World Series title. He received only a one-year, $1 million contract with the Nationals (with performance bonuses based on appearances and games finished).

The 35-year-old, though, seems perfectly content with his new role as a setup man and mentor for the Nationals' pair of young, late-inning relievers: Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard.

"I think there's a lot of things I can teach them about approaches to hitters at certain times," he said, citing the lessons he once learned in Houston from then-closer and mentor Billy Wagner. "These guys are good listeners. Hopefully I can show them by example, but also by the things I've learned in my career."

Lidge said he feels 100 percent healthy after spending the first half of last season on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. He returned to post a 1.40 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings, though his fastball averaged only 89.3 mph (down more than 6 mph from its peak in 2007).

"I don't know where that's going to take my fastball, whether it takes it back to where it was a few years ago or not," he said. "But I feel great right now, arms, legs, everything feels in great shape. I've had trouble getting through spring training the last couple of years, for whatever reason. But I think this year I know my body feels real good right now. I'm going to go nice and easy at the beginning of spring training and make sure I'm peaking when the season starts."

If healthy and productive, Lidge gives an already deep and talented Nationals bullpen another boost. That, along with a revamped rotation and reinforced lineup, could put his new club in a strong position to challenge his old club for bragging rights in a division that is suddenly baseball's best.

"There's definitely a new dynamic," Lidge said. "Of course the Phillies are going to be good with that rotation and the veteran leadership they have. They're not going anywhere. But that being said, the wild-card, I would be very surprised if it didn't come out of this division. And if there's two wild-cards this year, I would be very surprised if they both didn't come out of this division. ... It's going to be a nail-biter the whole way. It's going to be a very hard-fought division."


Steady Eddie said...

Actually, Mark, I think it was 10-8 Nats in last year's season series, but the point's the same.

Especially in light of that recent Phila. online poll that showed only about 16% of their fans thought we were their principal competition to win the division, less than half as many as said the Marlins (!) and a third as many as said the Braves.

This shows the reality that the Phillies themselves aren't so foolish and behind the curve.

Another thing that the Phillies themselves know: other than RZim and Lannan, there's no one left on the Nats who actually experienced those painful years of losing to That Team Up North. (Of course, RZim is with Espy the Phils-killers, and Lannan should not pitch against them again even if he's still with the team.) Davie is putting in the heads of the youthful core of this team that that Other Team is just a quality -- but quickly aging -- divisional rival that we're going to dethrone.

Steady Eddie said...

So what I meant to add was, thanks Mark, for this piece showing that the Phils' players know what their miserable fans don't.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Thanks, Steady Eddie, you are indeed correct. The Nats went 10-8 against the Phillies last year. Fixed it.

Original Nats Fan said...

great stuff, Mark Lidge is a good pickup for the Nats. I am so excited about the team this spring.

NatsBrat said...

Nats' pitching is not that far behind the Phils, if it's behind at all.

Our positon players are their equal if not better. Same comparisons to the Braves. The Marlins are not what they think that they are.

Goooooooooooo Nats!

JaneB said...

I like hearing that the players noticed. I also like the idea of Lidge mentoring our guys. He'll have fun with them, too.

A BONANZA of posts today! HURRAH!

C.Cohen said...

Sort of a non-sequitur from this post and this thread, but I wanted to go on record that it is officially time to stop grumbling and moaning about the first 4-5 years of the Lerner ownership.

I have no intention or interest in defending the decisions that that Lerners made after acquiring the team and it certainly led to a lot of embarrassment. But there are 2 important reasons those of us who live and die with the Nats should no longer dwell on this.

1) It's in the past. The ownership learned their lesson. They no longer try to cut corners or "out-smart" the rest of the league. They have invested in scouting and development and we now have one of the best run franchises in the league from top to bottom.

more importantly...

2) It was the best thing that could have happened to us! In most professional sports, the model for success (national attention, championships, etc.) is to be very bad for a period of time and have access to high draft picks that you build your franchise around.

The key, and this part is very tricky, is being that bad in a year when a truly transformational talent is available to be drafted. This complete product of random chance routinely responsible for affecting the fates of a franchise for a decade or longer.

Sometimes, it is not obvious what you have at the top of a draft and sometimes it REALLY is. But the difference that is made by when a team happens upon the "fortune" of picking first is very clear. Entire generations often witness their teams regularly dominate because they were terrible enough in the right year to draft Tim Duncan or Shaq instead of Michael Olowakandi or Joe Smith.

This is true in every sport. See:

Peyton Manning (1998) vs. Tim Couch (1999)

Alex Rodriguez (1993) vs. Paul Wilson (1994)

Those of us who are long suffering D.C. sports fans are reminded all too vividly how high the stakes are when just these two words are uttered: Brown, Kwame.

Ultimately, what I am saying is that every mistake, misstep, and embarrassment perpetrated by the Nationals management since they arrived in D.C. conspired to grant them access to two of the most transcendental players who have entered the league in the last several decades. Had anything been done differently, we would not have been able to produce such a young and dynamically talented team as the one that will be assembled in Viera later this week.

This is the baseball equivalent of getting to draft Tim Duncan and LeBron James in back to back drafts. The last thing we should do is curse the circumstances that brought us here.

Cwj said...

Amen C.Cohen.
Couldn't have said it better myself :-)

I'm so sick of hearing about the past. Yet even when the Nats were perennial losers, I loved them.
And in fact they never went 0-162 so there were always wins to celebrate.
Much much more now with an 87 to 89 win season in 2012!

MicheleS said...

Wow.. A full smorgaboard of posts today!

I can't wait for actual games.

I wonder how the team is adjusting to all this attention?

Section 222 said...

I have high hopes for Lidge. If he's healthy and his velocity is improved, he could be a great addition to our pen. But I also remember the Nats mounting some comebacks against him in the last few years, including this classic walkoff HBP. He's not the lights out reliever he was four seasons ago, and we need to be prepared for that and have realistic expectations.

Anonymous said...

I think this post should limit responses to 50 words or less.

MicheleS said...

Smorgasbord... not smorgaboard... Lord were is my head today!

Steady Eddie said...

I think anonymous whiners should get their own blogs.

The rest of us like it here on Mark's terms just fine, thank you very much.

MicheleS said...

C.Cohen... particularly liked your last sentence...

"The last thing we should do is curse the circumstances that brought us here. "


MicheleS said...

And to our Nats fans up north...

Classy tribute by the Canadiens to The Kid

greg said...

sec222, i think the key to remember when you think of what to expect from lidge is "7th inning RP." shouldn't expect him to be the lights-out 9th inning closer. but solid setup man in the 7th (or 8th when clip needs a break) is a reasonable expectation.

dj in Fl. said...

Thanks, Great picture

I am sure the Nats will do a proper and lasting honor. The Expos are a part of our history, and should be treated it with respect. My Senators were trashed and joked about by their new cities.
I believe we have more class then that, lots more class.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Classy move by the Habs tonight re: Gary Carter tribute. Thanks, Michele!

Mason Reese said...

That's Borgasmord....

Section 222 said...

greg -- Agreed that the expectations can be lower for Lidge than if he was going to be our closer. But runs count just as much when they are scored in the 7th. If he's ineffective there, it can be just as bad as blowing a save. Sometimes the key inning of the game (the defining moment in MASN speak) is the 7th or the 8th, depending on what part of the order comes up in what situation.

greg said...

my point is that you have to compare him to who would be pitching the 7th instead, not compare him to who would pitch the 9th. even the yankees don't have three mariano riveras. he doesn't have to be the lidge of 2009 to be valuable in the 7th inning.

sjm308 said...

great thing about Lidge is he Has pitched the 9th inning and he has pitched the 9th inning in the last world series. I realize he is not the same physically, but that mental toughness, especially for a relief pitcher is huge and he still has that.

When he was healthy last year he was fine. He is not coming in here to replace Drew but I guarantee you that if Storen has pitched 3 days out of 4, and Lidge has shown he is back to 90% of what he was, Davey will have no problem throwing him out there. Its another great job by Rizzo, especially when you see what other pitchers are signing for. This guy wanted to come here and can resurrect his career. Its the same thing with Wang and Jackson being on one year deals. They need to pitch well to get that last big contract. Just another reason to be excited.

By the way, C. Cohen, I just hope our negative naysayer reads the comments of others. Great post!

sjm308 said...

I obviously meant the last game of a world series, not this past world series

Cwj said...

Sjm308- If Clippard has pitched the 7-8th, and Storen is unavailable for the 9th, Lidge will close it out no doubt.

All Lidge has to do is toss out his slider. If there's an increase in his FB velocity, so much more the better.

Cwj said...

I may have mentioned it last year, but I'll say it again this year: Awesome bullpen.

Section 222 said...

I don't disagree. I wasn't comparing him to anyone, except his previous self. I just hope he's decent this year. The Phils wouldn't even pay him a million bucks to bring him back.

Rabbit said...

The length of posts don't need to be limited. Just scroll through them. But, some of the readers just can't get enough of others views and enjoy reading them.

natsfan1a said...

Agreed re. the length of comments. It's easy enough to scroll through if one is too busy/bored/whatever to read each one. Heck, if I'm really busy, I just read Mark's posts and none of the comments (no offense, fellow commenters).

JayB said... what many of you are saying is that.....
If you point out problems and lack of viable solutions in Nov Dec it is too early and Rizzo has time to address the problem stop being negative.
If you point out time is running out in January you are being negative and Rizzo knows what he is doing so it is too early to complain.
If you point out the lack of a viable CF/Leadoff/Bench solution at the start of Spring Training....then you are just a wet blanket who can not see the beauty of this time of year....all is good in Spring training....SO.....When is an acceptable time to point out the lack of progress in Rizzo's self reported KEY AREAs that need work?

Ladson is reporting Rizzo spend a week trying to talk Cameron out of Retirement.....not because he was an important part of Rizzo's plan....he was the RH CF Option.....Now Ladson and Mark and other are looking at Jason M.......35 year old never been.......

Many of you know I am a ST hold since 2005. I point out area's where this team can and should make moves to improve. From Lastings M. to Nook L. and Brandon way past time for this team to address CF.

Anonymous said...

Well......Lidge should be feeling good.....I mean....spring training has just gotten started

N. Cognito said...


Whatsanattau said...

I don't mean to diminish Mike Cameron, but I really don't think he ws acquired with the idea that he'd start 90+ games in CF. The idea that he might platoon with Ankiel in CF was journalist and fan conjecture, not a published plan formed by Mike Rizzo. Maybe Rizzo did hope he would work out, but I suspect Rizzo's hunt for a legitimate starting outfielder has never stopped. The rumors that Lannan would be traded have been that they would acquire a position player. A change in the collective bargaining agreement provides the opportunity to pick veteran players late in spring that might not have been available in previous years. There will be more trades and releases this year. There needs to be a trade because of the number of pitchers on the team.

MicheleS said...

Here is the article that I mentioned yesterday on the Radio Team. It's not in the links to the left yet.

Anonymous said...

JayB, it's perfectly fine to be negative. It's a free country. The problem is you are negative all the time and your posts are like beating a dead horse. It's the same thing over and over and quite frankly it gets tiresome. Perhaps if you are so down on Mike Rizzo, the job he has done and the Nats, you should fine some other team to follow.

JayB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ehay2k said...

JayB - no one here disagrees that the Nats appear right now to have holes at the CF and leadoff spots. What we are tired of is you spitting bile about it. You appear to want to ignore all the good that has been accomplished in order to have the opportunity to stand on your soapbox and scream about how bad the front office is. No one here is buying it because we see the vast improvement from the farm system on up that has been the result of FO activities.

What we continually hear from you JayB is "Rizzo failed" because he said he needed to do something about CF and leadoff (Rizzo has never said he WOULD do something about those holes, and I'm not sure he ever mentioned leadoff.)

What the team needs, even if they are top areas of concern, and what the team GETS, are very often two different things unless you are the Yankees. I'd say the Red Sox too, but after Carl Crawford....

So, please do not fault Rizzo unless you give good examples of players that were:
a) available
b) were affordable (Prince Fielder = unaffordable)
c) wanted to come here
d) were not one year rentals
e) were better acquisitions than Gio (and EJax for that matter)
f) guaranteed to make the OD roster.

JayB said...

This is my team. I want it to be the best it can be. It can be better. Rizzo has done a good job to date. Werth signing was not good. Failure to get M. Bourne from Astro's last July.....REALLY BAD NON MOVE....Nats should have and could have beat the Braves offer for a True Top notch CF/Lead Off.....that cost them last year and this year and maybe they can get it done two years late and much more costly next year.

Rizzo is a huge improvement over that really saying much?

NatsLady said...

I'm sorry Cameron is retiring, but I saw him as a "late-inning defensive replacement" and a pinch-hitter, not on a regular platoon. At 39, with an excellent career behind him, maybe he just didn't want that bit part, given that you still have to work hard to be a major-league ballplayer. The person who posted the predictions said he would retire by May 1, so this is just a little ahead of schedule.

"Some people" are worried EJax will not fit well in the clubhouse. Well, he's a pitcher, and not likely to tangle with Jayson as Nyjer did. (I soured on Nyjer when he didn't want to play winter ball as requested--he's not so great that he shouldn't be working on his skills...

Ejax is one FINE-LOOKING young man, and I hope he gets out in the community.

If Rizzo's attention was a tiny bit distracted in late Nov-early Dec, well, I would rather have Ramos alive and catching than a thousand center-fielders. We'll just have to limp along until some team needs a pitcher. That's how we got Ram in the first place, y'know.

We have one heck of an infield, bullpen, and starting rotation. That's more than a lot of teams can say.

JayB said... do not follow the team and Rizzo's stated needs very closely do you. Yes he has said CF AND Lead off on many MANY occasions....Everyone knows they need it...Ian D is not even a poor option to lead off.

M. Bourne was the best option Rizzo choked on but there have been many others that would be an improvement on his Choice....Roger, Rick and Mike C.....of which Mike C was the best....ouch that is saying something...ops...not positive....bad JayB

MicheleS said...

New Post..

Anonymous said...

JayB said...
This is my team. I want it to be the best it can be. It can be better. Rizzo has done a good job to date. Werth signing was not good. Failure to get M. Bourne from Astro's last July.....REALLY BAD NON MOVE....Nats should have and could have beat the Braves offer for a True Top notch CF/Lead Off.....that cost them last year and this year and maybe they can get it done two years late and much more costly next year.

Rizzo is a huge improvement over that really saying much?

This JayB dude cannot even be positive without being negative. His favorite pick-up line is probably "Gee, for a fat girl you sure don't sweat much."

I think this JayB dude should follow Mike Cameron's lead and retire into obscurity. The Nats320 dude, STH since 2005, Mr. Positivity in direct contrast to JayB's Mr. Negativity, has apparently retired. Why can't JayB do the same?

It's a whole new ballgame in town. Make it so, JayB.

ehay2k said...

JayB, we posted at same time. Otherwise I would have used Bourn as an example. He is a free agent after this year. I think Rizzo is looking for more than a 1 1/2 year rental.

You can't say we could have had Bourn for what Atlanta paid: If we were the only ones interested in Bourn, then maybe you could do the same deal. But the price would have had to have been higher that what the Braves actually paid since we clearly would have had to get into a bidding war with Atlanta. (And no one knows if that wasn't already happening behind the scenes. I wouldn't put it past Rizzo to make an offer just to drive up Atlanta's.)

If I am going to give up 4 prospects, I'd much rather have Gio for several years than Bourn for 1.5 (plus he was arb-eligible for one of those years).

Anonymous said...

JayB - which centerfielder do you think they should have signed this winter? Stating a goal does not mean that the opportunity will come along to fulfill it. That is not a failure. A failure would be if they went all in and decimated the farm system in order to get someone who turned out to be a bust. A failure would be if they signed someone to a massive free agent contract and they stank up the joint (let's see another season of Werth before he gets that tag). A failure would have been not making an effort to get a guy who is on the open market or available by trade (especially if that guy goes for a reasonable price and produces).

So who did we miss this off-season?

Cespedes? (unproven and until I see otherwise, overpaid)

Coco Crisp? (clearly not a long term solution)

B.J. Upton? (do you know what Tampa wanted for him or if he was truly available? Was he worth it on a 1-year rental? Will he be available at the trade deadline? Are we better off waiting until he is a free agent? Besides the fact that he is not a lead-off type)

The guy I found most intriguing was Norichika Aoki, who was posted from the Japan league and signed by the Brewers. But he is 30 and no sure thing when it comes to transitioning to MLB.

What I have heard Rizzo saying is that the free agent class is much better in 2013. Plus, signing a CF would have created a logjam when Bryce is ready to come up. Where do you play Harper, Werth, Centerfielder, Morse and LaRoche? I don't think any plan has been set in stone (look at the pursuit of Prince Fielder), but it seems to me that the primary plan has been to go into this year with some type of platoon in the outfield with Morse and Werth, then move LaRoche and add a CF at the trade deadline, or wait till 2013 and let LaRoche walk to open 1st for Morse. Maybe by that point there is an internal candidate who is ready (Taylor, Goodwin, Perez, Brown, Hood). Or maybe we sign someone like Bourn or Upton, or trade for someone like Bourjos (the odd man out when Trout comes up?)

I believe that this team, as constituted, will be competitive for the NL East. But realistically I see 2013 as the year it all comes together with Strasburg off his innings limit, Harper entrenched in the outfield, Rendon hopefully somewhere in the infield, and someone in centerfield who represents a long-term solution. So yeah, I am excited about spring training getting started and about watching this team grow into a serious power over the next years and beyond.

ehay2k said...

I don't want dissenting posters like JayB to go away. I just want them to be able to make a point without spewing venom at players of management. Less whining about perceived past failures would also be appreciated.

Of the 2013 FA CF market, who would you want, and how much would you be willing to pay for them? That is a much more productive conversation to have.

N. Cognito said...


nationals7 said...

Every day's a holiday!

Post a Comment