He signed the largest contract of his life in the morning — one that will pay him $37.5 million for the next three years — and by mid-afternoon, he learned his brilliant first half as the Phillies’ closer earned him a second All-Star appearance.
And his wife, Lindsay, is 4 1/2 months pregnant with the couple’s second child. Not too shabby.
“I didn’t put any goals on what I wanted to do this year, but I felt this was going to be a good year for me,” Lidge said. “I felt that coming in. I hope to keep pitching this way through the season and the postseason.”
But first the All-Star Game. Lidge and second baseman Chase Utley earned their respective spots for the July 15 All-Star Game in different ways. Utley blazed through the fan voting as the NL’s leading vote-getter, making his participation a formality.
Since the day fans began casting ballots, Utley was the NL’s most clicked name, at 3,889,602 times. He edged out the Brewers’ Ryan Braun for the most NL votes, and would’ve had the most overall if not for a late surge by the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez.
“I never thought that would happen,” Utley said. “The fans in Philadelphia have always supported me, and I appreciate that. I’ve never been to Yankee Stadium, so I’m excited to see it. I’m going to try and enjoy it.”
Utley knew he couldn’t make alternate plans for the break after he destroyed the second-base field. The powerful second baseman has led the Phils’ offense all season, with a Major League-leading 24 homers through Sunday. He may show off his compact stroke on a national stage, should he participate in the State Farm Home Run Derby. He approached catching instructor Mick Billmeyer about pitching to him, a job that will likely be accepted.
“Maybe,” Utley said, when asked whether he’d participate. “It’s a possibility, put it that way. Nothing is set in stone.”
He’s not concerned that it would mess up his swing, a popular theory of some participants.
“I don’t think there’s too much to that,” he said. “It’s just one day of batting practice. I have plenty of bad batting practice.”
Lidge topped the players’ ballot among relievers, meaning his dominance was recognized by his peers.
“I feel like I’m at the top of my game, and I’ve learned a lot,” Lidge said. “The experiences I’ve had have definitely helped me get to where I’m at. I’m not really trying to compare it to years I’ve had in Houston, but I know how I felt then and how I feel now. I feel as good as ever.”
Utley and Lidge could be joined by Pat Burrell, if he holds off four contenders to capture the Monster 2008 All-Star Final Vote.
The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.
Utley is making his third All-Star appearance. With four at-bats, he has one hit, a single off Kenny Rogers in 2006.
Lidge returns to the Midsummer Classic for the first time since ’05, when he was with the Astros. He has a fond memory of pitching in Yankee Stadium. On July 11, 2003, he tossed the sixth and seventh innings of a six-pitcher combined no-hitter.
After arriving in a five-player November trade, the right-hander has reestablished himself as one of baseball’s elite closers. He and the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera are the only full-time stoppers to nail down all of their save opportunities. Through Sunday, Lidge is 19-for-19 with a 1.00 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 36 innings.
His first All-Star appearance in ’05 was memorable. He relieved Dontrelle Willis in the seventh and struck out Melvin Mora, Mike Sweeney and Garrett Anderson.
“That was an adrenaline-filled experience and a lot of fun,” Lidge said. “Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to pitch again, and hopefully, get the same result. That’s a memory I’ll never forget and that was a pretty awesome experience.”
Lidge’s goal is the same goal as Utley, to enjoy it more.
“The first time, your head’s on a swivel and you go through everything as fast as you can,” Lidge said. “This time, I’m really going to suck it in and appreciate the little things that you miss the first time.” (H/T Phillies.com)
Well, looks like Cole Hamels got the short end of the stick this year. Sorry to see it. Anyway, I hope Lidge and Utley will have fun in New York next week. Now to see about getting Burrrell in there as well. 🙂
The same can be said for his performance in the All-Star Game balloting.
Never mind that Utley is crushing the competition at second base, but he also entered his third week as the leading National League vote-getter, with 1,284,961 votes — far ahead of the second place second baseman, Mark DeRosa of the Cubs.
Last week, Utley completed a run of homering in five straight games — May 28-June 2 — for the second time this season. He started the 2007 All-Star Game, going 0-for-2 in San Francisco at AT&T Park, and he played in the 2006 contest, going 1-for-2 in Pittsburgh at PNC Park.
The Phillies superstar with the special left-handed stroke is lined up for his third appearance and second start.
“Every time he hits a home run, half the dugout looks at each other and goes, ‘Wow, how does he do it so easily?'” Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino said. “There are athletes in every game that you can say are great, and some are just good. Chase is a great player, probably the best in the game.”
This would be Utley’s first career appearance at Yankee Stadium, the final season of the historic ballpark.
Teammate Jimmy Rollins, the reigning NL Most Valuable Player, has held steady at fifth place among shortstops, with his first-half production slowed because of a sprained left ankle.
The 79th annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 15 will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM Radio will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.
The Midsummer Classic will be the fourth held at Yankee Stadium and the eighth one in New York City. The Yankees previously hosted the All-Star Game in 1939, ’60 and ’77; the Polo Grounds held the game in ’34 and ’42; Ebbets Field was the site in ’49; and Shea Stadium hosted the ’64 tilt.
Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times with the Monster 2008 All-Star Game Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club sites until Wednesday, July 2 at 11:59 p.m. ET. Starting rosters will be announced during the 2008 All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Chevrolet on TBS on July 6. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the Monster 2008 All-Star Final Vote at MLB.com.
But the voting doesn’t end there. Fans will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet at the All-Star Game via the Monster 2008 All-Star Game MVP vote at MLB.com.
There are other Phillies who could join Utley. Ryan Howard, who has gotten hot after batting .163 in his first 35 games, ranks fourth among NL first basemen on the ballot, up from fifth a week ago. Pat Burrell dropped to ninth among outfielders.
I think it’s safe to say that Utley is a lock as the National League starter at Second Base for this year’s All-Star Game at Yankees Stadium. Too bad it doesn’t look like any of the other Phillies will be at the game as starters.