It was certainly a worthy attempt to add to the bullpen. Brad Lidge, a former closer who had pitched well in limited time last year, seemed like he could be a good addition. He wasn’t just any former closer, he was one who had been great, then got famously rattled after a crushing playoff loss thanks to an Albert Pujols home run, and then turned his career around with 3 more impressive seasons. And in the midst of those 3 was another horrendous one. But throughout the time there were strikeouts, always. Even in his last 2 seasons in Philly – 75 Ks in 65 IPs.
So he had something to teach the young bullpen about overcoming adversity with sheer talent, trusting your stuff, and not letting one bad outing (or season) get you to lose your confidence. Because he had done that, but had come back. So I don’t fault Mike Rizzo for trying him out, and early on, he seemed alright. April resulted in a poor ERA, but that was on the basis of 2 bad out of 7 outings. And he was still striking out a batter an inning. But he walked guys more than ever, then he got hurt, and coming back he looked worse. It didn’t seem that a few blips in April would be evened out by the end of the year anymore, it seemed like they were going to happen more and more.
So, after making major contributions to being swept by the Yankees, the Nationals’ veteran bullpen guy was designated for assignment. He was a good personality in the pen and made for a good interview, but that’s not enough to keep someone on the team who can’t perform. This could be his last stop, although someone will probably give him another shot if he wants it. And with his history, he may very well come in and save 50 games for someone. But this was a move the Nats had to make – veterans who don’t seem to have it anymore have no room on a team that’s trying to win right now. There isn’t room for the clubhouse presence who can’t contribute on the field.
The question now, for Mike Rizzo, isn’t who fills in for Lidge. They recalled Ryan Mattheus, and have enough arms in the pen. And replacing what he’s done this season certainly shouldn’t be hard. The question now is, who’s next? Which veteran presence who seemed like a perfectly fine signing in March is no longer contributing outside of the locker room? Is Xavier Nady long for this team? Mark DeRosa is set to come back in the next week or two, but for how long? One can only hope that the Lidge move shows that if someone isn’t positively contributing, he won’t be held on to and used just because he was good a few years ago.