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RINGOLSBY: Going out on Lidge for MVP

Published September 25, 2008 at 8:09 p.m.

Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Brad Lidge exults after striking out the Florida Marlins' Jorge Cantu to lead the Phillies to victory early this month in Philadelphia.

Photo by Tom Mihalek © Associated Press

Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Brad Lidge exults after striking out the Florida Marlins' Jorge Cantu to lead the Phillies to victory early this month in Philadelphia.

Reliever Brad Lidge never blinked.

His mental toughness questioned in Houston, where he became the scapegoat for former manager Phil Garner's failures, Lidge embraced the challenge of Philadelphia this season, winning over fans who take pride in an image of booing Santa Claus.

He not only put together arguably the most consistent season ever for a closer but was integral in the Phillies' quest to win a second consecutive National League East title and provided a starting point for manager Charlie Manuel.

How consistent has Lidge's season been?

The Cherry Creek High School graduate enters the final weekend of the regular season having converted all 40 of his save opportunities. He has not allowed a run in 59 of 70 appearances. His 1.87 ERA is the lowest of any closer in the NL and the lowest among NL relievers with at least 40 innings of work. He also has struck out 89 in 671/3 innings.

Given the inconsistent season of some offensive players playing for legitimate NL contenders, Lidge has had an MVP-caliber season.

Give St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols his due - .353 average, 35 home runs and 112 RBI. In player-of-the-year terms, he is No. 1, but when it comes to having value on a postseason-bound team, Lidge stands out.

His selection as the MVP would create controversy. He would be only the 10th pitcher to win the NL award since the inception in 1911, the first since Bob Gibson in 1968, and the first NL closer ever.

Pitchers have won the AL award 12 times, including Hal Newhouser of Detroit, who earned back-to-back MVPs in 1944 and 1945. A reliever has earned the AL honor three of the past four times it has gone to a pitcher - Dennis Eckersley in 1992, Willie Hernandez in 1984 and Rollie Fingers in 1981.

Roger Clemens was the AL MVP in 1986.

Infield chatter

* Even with a desire to give first base prospect Chris Davis a shot, Texas could exercise its $6.2 million option on Hank Blalock's contract instead of paying a $250,000 buyout, figuring he would have value on the trade market, or could be moved backto third, his original position.

* Toronto right-hander A.J. Burnett plans to exercise the out clause in his contract, which guarantees him $12 million each of the next two years. Word is he's looking for $15 million annually and more than two years.

* Philadelphia general manager Pat Gillick could wind up with Toronto or Seattle. It's worth noting he announced he is "retiring as a general manager," not from baseball.

The rotation

With the nod to Lidge as the NL MVP, a look at other postseason awards:

* AL MVP: First baseman Justin Morneau, Twins. Never blinked despite a lack of impact support in the lineup.

* NL Cy Young: Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks. Goes into his Saturday start with a chance to become the NL's fourth 23-game winner in 20 years.

* AL Cy Young: Cliff Lee, Indians. Went from a minor league demotion last year to a 22-3 record headed into the final weekend.

* NL Rookie: Catcher Geovany Soto, Cubs. Has had an MVP-potential season playing a key defensive position.

* AL Rookie: Third baseman Evan Longoria, Rays. Arrival in big leagues provided final piece to lineup and defense to win a division title.

* NL Manager: Manuel, Phillies. Behind the aw-shucks personality is a baseball genius.

* AL Manager: Joe Maddon, Rays. Team has no pitcher with 15 wins or a starter with an ERA below 3.60, one hitter with 100 RBI, no hitter with a .300 average and the second-lowest payroll in baseball but finished ahead of the Red Sox and Yankees.

Out in left field

How bad are things in Washington? The Nationals had the smallest attendance for a first-year ballpark among the 17 teams that have opened new stadiums since Baltimore's Camden Yards changed the face of parks in 1992. The television ratings are less than than 10,000 per game. The radio ratings are less than 20,000 a game.

Closing statement

The battle over the legality of the contract that first-round draft choice Pedro Alvarez signed with the Pirates wasn't about money. Wink, wink. But when the Pirates agreed to give Alvarez a bit more money, surprise, surprise, the Major League Baseball Players Association agreed to drop the grievance.

The claim was the Pirates violated major league rules by signing Alvarez to a $6 million bonus shortly after the midnight Aug. 15 deadline. But when the Pirates agreed to a four-year major league deal worth nearly $6.4 million - that allowed agent Scott Boras to claim his client received a bigger deal than the $6.2 million the Giants gave Buster Posey - nobody seemed to care that it was more than a month after the deadline.

The negotiations also underscored the lack of credibility of Pirates president Frank Coonelly, who, in his previous position with Major League Baseball, threatened teams that did not follow guidelines created by the commissioner's office for signing bonuses.

The irony is that instead of having to shell out the $6 million within 12 months, the Pirates actually save money because they can spread out the $6.4 million over four years, which means that, while Alvarez may brag about getting the biggest bonus in the draft, his greed actually resulted in less actual spending money.


* Right-handed pitcher Jhoulys Chacin got the attention of the baseball world this season.

He was ranked the fourth-best prospect in the Low-A South Atlantic League and the fifth-best prospect in the High-A California League in Baseball America's annual survey of minor league managers and scouts.

Chacin split the season between Asheville in the SAL and Modesto in the California League.

He led the minor leagues with 18 wins between the teams and ranked sixth with a 2.03 ERA and 160 strikeouts.

Third baseman Darin Holcomb of Asheville, a 12th-round draft choice in 2007, was ranked the 17th-best prospect in the South Atlantic League. Holcomb hit .318 with 102 RBI and had 65 walks and 60 strikeouts in earning the SAL's MVP honor.

Chacin impressed scouts with his four-pitch approach. He has a sinking, two-seam fastball that is 88 to 90 mph; a rising, four-seam fastball that hits 93 to 94 mph; a changeup that is considered his best pitch; and a "noon-to-six" curveball. He also has begun working on a cut fastball.

"Chacin has good stuff, but it was the way he handled himself on the mound that most impressed scouts and managers," Baseball America noted.

* The Rockies appear to have worked out details with rookie- level Casper and are set to announce a two-year extension of their working agreement with the Ghosts, who have been affiliated with the Rockies since the franchise was created in 2001 as the Casper Rockies. The team changed its nickname to Ghosts last winter.

The Ghosts were 36-31 this year, their first winning season. They were 38-38 in 2005. But they haven't made the playoffs since 2001.

* Bo McLaughlin, pitching coach at Double-A Tulsa, spent most of September with the major league team but returned home a week ago so he can undergo knee-replacement surgery in the offseason.

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