Hubris. It has been the ruin of many of humanity’s greatest figures. Odysseus, defying Poseidon and shouting his true name to the cyclops Polyphemus. Napoleon, leading the grand armée into a wintry death in Russia. Davey Johnson, drinking one non-alcoholic beer too many on his 43rd birthday. On October 17, 2005, a new name was added to this ignominious list: Brad Lidge.
In 2004 and 2005, Brad Lidge was homerically good, posting ERA+s of 230 and 185, respectively. In the second of those years, his Houston Astros made it to the NLCS, where they took a commanding 3-1 series lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. With the Astros up 4-2 with two outs it the ninth, Lidge was one strike away from sending his team to the World Series. Lidge instead decided, presumably for the sake of extra drama, that he would allow two baserunners to bring Albert Pujols to the plate as the go-ahead run. After getting a first pitch strike, Lidge used his intra-baseball-player-telepathy that all baseball players have to talk to Albert Pujols:
“Albert Pujols, if anyone asks you who struck you out and ended your season, say that it was the valiant warrior Brad Lidge, son of Dad Lidge, who once played summer ball in Ithaca, New York.*”
“…I already know who you are,” replied a confused Pujols, who had clearly not read Shane Butler’s translation of The Odyssey and thus did not get Lidge’s oddly erudite reference.
Lidge threw Albert Pujols a hanging slider down the middle. Pujols, who through sheer coincidence happens to be the son of Poseidon, ended Lidge’s happiness forever. Since then, Lidge has been been almost entirely awful, pitching with cowardice to avoid incurring the wrath of any sea gods (the one exception was 2008, when he must have sacrificed a truly immoral number of animals/Phillies fans).
Now he is a National, signed to a one year contract for the small price of a $1 million plus incentives and the possibility of Nationals Park getting hit with a tsunami.
Accordingly, after each Lidge appearance, The Zimmerman(n) Telegram will evaluate the quality of his pregame sacrificial offering.
*This last is, surprisingly, true.