Funny thing about memories, you don’t get to choose what sticks. Doesn’t matter how many good years you have, years in which you are probably the best reliever in the game, years in which you rack up saves, strikeouts and no-hitter innings. Years in which you post nearly 4 Wins Above Replacement as a reliever, striking out nearly 15 batters per nine innings, it is that one magnificent, monumental home run that stands out.
Doesn’t matter if your team went on to win the series or if you bounced back and won the World Series just four years later. Doesn’t matter at all. When you’re Brad Lidge, you’re the guy who gave up that home run to Albert Pujols. Brad Lidge let his agents and representation know tonight that he plans to retire from baseball after eleven seasons, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.
As mentioned above, Brad Lidge was a dominant reliever for, oh, nine of those years. He retires having struck out more than 30% of the batters he faced in his career, 11.9 per nine innings if you prefer. Lidge leaves the game with the highest ever strikeout rate by a reliever (min 600 innings), tied with Billy Wagner.
All those great years in Houston, the incredible for the Phillies, going 42 for 42 in save opportunities before an eventual World Series triumph in 2008, all forgotten because Albert Pujols hit a hanging slider to the moon — TO THE MOON — in Game Six of the 2005 NLCS. A shame, in some ways. Not really a shame when one realizes Brad Lidge earned in upwards of $50 Million over a career worth 11 Wins Above Replacement on Fangraphs (7 rWAR).
The noteworthy stats will grow less noteworthy by the year and the records will fall. Other closers will strikeout more hitters and other closers will go (and have gone) entire seasons without blowing a save. They’ll get fat contracts and break down and slip from memory. It happens to just about every player. Except Brad Lidge. He, via the magic of a cement mixer slider at the most inopportune time, gets to live forever. Not a bad deal if you ask me.