My hometown Philadelphia Phillies are told all too often they have the worst fans in major league sport. They are too quick to boo players, the story line goes.
Well, the fans should their class a good part of this season, being patient with the implosion of their closer, Brad Lidge. He’s not only been bad, he’s been the worst in the league, blowing 11 saves this year. Recently, he lost the closer spot. This after last year’s amazing performance when he didn’t blow a single save all season and played a pivotal role in getting Philly only its second World Series Title.
Last night, the Phils clinched their third consecutive NL East pennant. In the ninth, manager Charlie Manuel sent Scott Eyre to pitch, protecting a good sized lead, so it wasn’t a save situation where he might call on Lidge.
After two outs, Manuel went to the mound to pull Eyre. He would never had done it in a normal situation. He had a big lead with nobody on base. But this wasn’t a normal situation; it was the night Phils would clinch it.
The crowd roared with anticipation after the second out. The Phillies actually had clinched the division a few minutes earlier when the Marlins beat the Braves in Atlanta, making the Phillies’ magic number zero. But that hardly mattered at the [Citizens Bank Park] because as soon as Eyre got the second out, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel emerged from the dugout.
He wanted Brad Lidge.
"Awesome," Eyre said. "I looked at Charlie and said, ‘I’m good with this.’ Normally I would have been like, ‘Come on!’ But he should be on the mound for the last out."
It seemed like the perfect ending. Lidge’s struggles have been well documented this season, but Manuel wanted Lidge on the mound, just like he was when the Phillies clinched the World Series last year.
The crowd recognized the moment. It knew what was happening and why it was happening.
It roared with approval.
"That’s what I wanted to do," Manuel said. "I wanted him to pitch in front of the crowd. I thought it would be good for him and the crowd and the crowd responded good. It was the ideal situation for me to run him out there. I want to get his confidence back because I know how talented he is. I wanted him pitching in that situation."
Now get off the back of Phillies fans. We’re not overly negative. But we know the game. We don’t suffer fools gladly. But we have no problem dancing with the one who brung us.