Should the Phils Demote Lidge?

The Phillies paid $8.5 million for Adam Eaton to take his awful pitching somewhere else. Brett Myers was sent to the Minors when he couldn’t build up any momentum as a starter. Chris Coste was shipped to Houston so the team could utilize a good defensive back-up catcher. Chan Ho Park was sent to the bullpen after seven ineffective starts. Jamie Moyer was finally removed from the rotation in favor of Pedro Martinez following 22 shoddy starts.

If there’s one thing the Phillies do well, it’s recognizing a problem and patching it up. In the Pat Gillick and Ruben Amaro era, they have been, almost to a fault, notably loyal. They promised Chan Ho Park that he’d start when they offered him a contract, and they gave him seven opportunities to lock up a spot in the rotation. Adam Eaton had two seasons with a three-year deal to prove that he had the ability to compete against Major League hitters. Moyer had four months of leash this season.

Ruben Amaro and Charlie Manuel need to realize — and they already do most likely — that they have given Lidge more than enough time to turn his season around and he hasn’t shown any progress. He has a -1.64 WXRL (win expectation above replacement, lineup-adjusted), which ranks dead last in the Majors, well behind beach ball-throwers Saul Rivera and Rafael Perez. Meanwhile, there are two relievers on the squad who have done their jobs extremely well in Chan Ho Park (1.78 WXRL) and Ryan Madson (1.74 WXRL).

Yes, Lidge was an integral part of the Phillies’ World Series run last year. He absolutely earned the lax tension on the figurative rope. Four-plus months of a 7.27 ERA is way more than the Phillies could have put up with; they’ve shown their loyalty. But, as the Phillies showed by removing their World Series patches from their uniforms, it’s time to move on from last year and focus on the 2009 playoff run.

Ryan Madson and Chan Ho Park have earned their shot at the closer’s role. Madson, as you may recall, was the interim closer when Lidge was on the disabled list and had a rough go of it, with a 5.00 ERA and two blown saves in nine innings between June 7 and 25. If he wants the promotion, he deserves another shot to prove he’s capable, as he’s been one of the best relievers in the Majors this season. If Madson can’t mesh, then Plan B is Park.

The Phillies simply cannot afford to lose close games this way. Visions of Game 6 of the 1993 World Series start creeping in: Curt Schilling in the dugout with his towel wrapped over his face in certifiable fear of Mitch Williams, and Joe Carter pulling a poorly-located fastball over the left field fence. Lidge can no longer be trusted to hold a one-run lead for one inning, and that’s said with all due respect for the outstanding regular season he had in ’08 and his dominance in the post-season.