'Lights-out' Lidge earns TYIB honor
Phillies pitcher named Closer of the Year after flawless season
As it turns out, a walk-off home run to Albert Pujols in Game 5 of the 2005 National League Championship Series was the greatest thing that ever happened to the Phillies.
Going into that defining moment, Brad Lidge was coming off the best season in his short career. But for the next two years with the Astros, Lidge wouldn't be the same after Pujols' towering three-run homer landed over the train tracks at Minute Maid Park.
It was said that the closer needed a change of scenery. And that new scenery became Philadelphia when the Phillies acquired Lidge from Houston in a five-player trade in November 2007.
Eleven months later, Lidge capped off a historic year that saw him go 41-for-41 in save opportunities during the regular season by striking out Rays outfielder Eric Hinske to nail down a World Series title.
Thanks to a stellar 2008 season, and a brilliant finish, any talk of him being greatly affected by the homer he gave up to the 2008 NL Most Valuable Player can now be put to rest.
Lidge continued to get recognition for that when he was chosen as the 2008 Closer of the Year in MLB.com's annual This Year in Baseball Awards presented by State Farm. A record 12 million votes were cast by fans, eclipsing last year's total of 9.6 million.
"He was perfect," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said after Lidge nailed down his seventh save of the postseason in a 4-3 Game 5 win in the World Series. "What else can you say about what he meant for us? He always made the big pitch at the right time."
Lidge garnered 44 percent of the vote, overtaking Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who finished second with 22.7 percent.
Also nominated were Brian Fuentes (Rockies), Bobby Jenks (White Sox), Joe Nathan (Twins), Jonathan Papelbon (Red Sox), Francisco Rodriguez (Angels), Joakim Soria (Royals), Jose Valverde (Astros) and Kerry Wood (Cubs).
Lidge joined Manuel and former general manager Pat Gillick -- now an advisor with the club -- as TYIB Award winners from the World Series champion Phillies. Manuel and Gillick were named Manager of the Year and Executive of the Year, respectively, on Wednesday.
"[Lidge is] just that type of guy," fellow reliever Chad Durbin said during the postseason. "He wants to be out there, and we'll give him the ball, let him go do his thing."
Lidge's season didn't start off the way he wanted, as lingering problems in his right knee, which was operated on during the offseason, forced him to undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in February. The 31-year-old right-hander wouldn't return until April 6.
But Lidge never took very long to get going.
In the first two months, he converted all 12 of his save chances and posted a miniscule 0.82 ERA, setting a trend for the rest of the year. Lidge's seventh season in the Major Leagues ended with a 2-0 record, a 1.95 ERA, 41 saves and 92 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings.
Lidge also became the first closer in the 126-year-old franchise history to convert all of his saves, and the first player since Eric Gagne in 2003 to have a perfect conversion rate with 30-plus saves. His regular-season success also made him the MLB Comeback Player of the Year and the DHL Delivery Man of the Year.
But all of that paled in comparison to Oct. 29, when the biting slider that made him one of the top closers in the game was whiffed on by a helpless Hinske, and the Phillies had their first World Series title since 1980.
"Thinking about that will always give me goose bumps," Lidge said hours after that moment. "I'll never forget that feeling."
Alden Gonzalez is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.