For a fanbase becoming accustomed to reports of the near-deaths of their favorite ballplayers, today's announcement that closer Brad Lidge had been diagnosed with a partial tear of his rotator cuff, and would most likely miss the first half of the 2011 season, should come as no surprise.
In a mild surprise, the Phillies announced that Jose Contreras would probably be the go-to closer, and not Ryan Madson. Surprising, because Contreras is in just his second full season as a relief pitcher, and Ryan Madson is one of baseball's best relievers, albeit saddled with the perception that he lacks the "mental toughness" to close games on a regular basis.
On the whole, I am ambivalent about both pieces of news. Lidge has become, well, unreliable. Even his strong second half in 2010 was predicated on some pretty good luck, and covered up a terribly diminished fastball. As far as the "closer" issue, Madson has been an incredibly effective (and valuable!) reliever the past few seasons without the necessity of the "closer" title, and is just as likely (if not moreso) to face important, good hitters than New Guy Closer Contreras. Not likely to see much drop-off in value.
We are fans of a game where marginally effective pieces of whale flop like Francisco Rodriguez and Bobby Jenks are revered and coveted because of "closer pedigree" while guys like Madson are looked at like dirty laundry because they don't have the phony prestige of the stupid role.