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Sunday's Word: Lidge

(Photo courtesy nj.com)

With the Phillies making it once again to the World series (and, for good measure, facing the hated Yankees in the first-ever Turnpike Series), it's unsurprising that my thoughts on Lehigh football might also turn to baseball.

But in Philly closer Brad "Lidge" there's perhaps something that the Mountain Hawk football team can look to for inspiration as they take on Colgate, Holy Cross, Fordham and "that school in Easton".

Even with a feel-good win this weekend over Bucknell, it feels like Lehigh may as well be taking on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. And with word that freshman QB Michael Colvin being done for the year with a fractured leg - Lehigh's second-leading rusher - and junior RB Jay Campbell sitting out the Bucknell game as well, it will not be easy at all.

Then again, it wasn't easy this year for Lights-Out "Lidge" this year, either.

*****

From "Lidge"'s Wikipedia page, it states that he attended Notre Dame and was drafted in the first round by the Houston Astros in 1998. The kid from Sacramento, CA made it to the majors in late 2003 as a middle reliever, and he quickly rose up the ranks to become the Astros' closer by the end of 2004. (For good measure, he was part of the six Astro pitchers that shut out the Yankees in 2003 and was the winning pitcher.)

By 2005 "Lidge" was the closer on the Astros' relief staff. He had a dominating year, pitching in the all-star game and racking up 42 saves and a 2.29 ERA. But the cracks had started to show. While a little shaky in the NLCS, the Astros did make the World Series - but a walk-off homer to Scott Posdenik (who?) lost Game 2 for Houston, and eventually they would get swept by the White Sox in the Series.

Injuries would take their toll. "Lights-out" would battle injury and ineffectiveness the next few years, and in 2007, "Lidge" was traded to the Phillies for three nobodies - a scrap heap trade to see if "Lights Out" could turn his lights back on for the Phils. And he would in a 2008 season for the record books: appearing again in the all-Star game, battling early-season injury to notch a perfect 41 for 41 in save opportunities, and of course helping give the Phillies their first World Series title since 1980.

****

Like the Mountain Hawks, "Lidge" came into the 2009 season with big expectations in being a dominating force in the National League. But like Lehigh's football team, his early season will mostly be remembered for how bad it was. Six blown saves and a 7.27 ERA, and it didn't get that much better as things wore on. By the time the end of the season rolled around, "Lidge" was not even the closer that manager Charlie Manuel was going to necessarily call upon to win the game in the playoffs.

Yet when elimination time came around in a big game, "Lidge" suddenly and dramatically came back into championship form. Against the Rockies, he saved two of the Phillies' three wins. He appeared three times against the Dodgers, getting one save. He's still strugged with control (3 walks in 5 appearances), but he's been basically unhittable, giving up only one hit and - most importantly - no runs.

"Lidge" is four wins - and potentially a few saves - from being the worst regular season closer to ever win a World Series title.

*****

"Lidge" demonstrates so clearly what can happen in sports. That it doesn't necessarily matter what you've done, or what circumstances you're in. You could have the worst regular season ever. You could be injured half the year. But all that matters is the opportunity that's given to you this day, this week, these coming weeks.

Lehigh has that opportunity, too.

Like "Lidge", they have struggled. But like "Lidge", they have the opportunity to wipe out the bad memories. Lehigh hasn't written a new story for their season yet. Sure, they've had some feel-good wins against teams they have historically beaten in the Patriot League. But they haven't shown that they can hang yet with a top team.

More importantly, though, "Lidge" demonstrated in the postseason so far that he's got what it takes inside to get the job done to win games. He didn't look back at his past record this season and just quit or melt down. He kept plugging and plugging until he got his opportunity, and demonstrated what he's made of.

"Lidge" didn't know if he would get the opportunity to have his role back or make the World Series. But he did get that opportunity, and he would make the most of it. Now, he's going to be taking on the Yankees - and giving the Phillies the chance to win back-to-back world championships for Philadelphia for the first time ever.

"In the last week of the regular season as the postseason started, I started feeling I could really push off my backside and not even have to think about mechanics or what I'm doing out there physically and if I feel good," Lidge said in this USA Today article. "And that leads to a lot of confidence because I know what I'm capable of when I'm feeling good.

"And then the other thing is that once the postseason rolls around, I think there's kind of a different level of focus, and fortunately for me so far it's worked out pretty good to where I feel pretty locked in. A couple things kind of happened at the right time, and you've just got to try and run with it."

If "Lidge" does beat the Yankees, nobody will remember regular-season blown saves and a bad ERA. They'll remember that World Series ring, though, and Lidge's role in it, and how he worked through those problems to succeed on the biggest stage.

Same with Lehigh. Just like Mr. "Lidge" - four wins could potentially erase an entire early season, and deliver the most likely of Patriot League Championships. The opportunity is there. What will happen if Lehigh keeps plugging and plugging? What if they "just try to run with it"?

What will happen?

Comments

Anonymous said…
By the end of this weekend Philly/Lehigh fans will be sick of NY. Lehigh will get trounced by Colgate, the Phillies will be down 2 games to 1 and the Eagles will be embarassed by the Giants.
ngineer said…
Yes, that could happen. On the other hand, if the 'Lidge effect' comes through the 'high' will have long lasting effect. That's what makes sports so great. Despite what we see 'on paper', there is always the unexpected, and let's hope it happens.

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