PHILADELPHIA — At the risk of sounding like the first chapter of a bad horror novel, it's a dark and gloomy night here in South Philly. The train ride down Broad Street was a somber one and there's a reserved feeling outside Citizens Bank Park before tonight's Game 5 — a do-or-die situation for the defending world champion Phillies.
After the disappointment of Sunday's 7-4 loss to the Yankees, it's not hard to understand why that sentiment reigns and the natural reaction is to compare Brad Lidge's(notes) three-run meltdown to Mitch Williams' blown save in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. Both rank among the biggest gut punches ever delivered to Philadelphia fans and both came from the arms of relievers who came into the World Series with a reputation for being shaky.
With the exception of a few knee-jerk reactionaries, the overwhelming opinion seems to be that Mitch Williams serving up that legendary three-run homer to Toronto's Joe Carter hurt much worse. I agree with that take, but thought I'd take it a bit further and break it down with a trio of arguments for both bottom-of-the-barrel moments.
Why Mitch Williams in '93 was worse
1. It lost the World Series: This is easily the biggest trump card owned by either side. Wild Thing's down-and-in fastball was caught by Carter's bat, which sent it over the left-field fence for only the second homer to end a World Series. The '93 Phillies had no more life after the blast, whereas the '09 edition could come back and play the next day.
2. Phils were leading at the time: After falling behind to Toronto 5-1 in the fifth inning, the Phillies scored five runs in the seventh to take a one-run lead. Williams could have forced a Game 7 with two more outs, a guarantee that didn't exist with Lidge.
(As much as the feeling in CBP suggested otherwise, there's nothing saying the Phillies definitely would have scored to win the game in the bottom of the ninth.)
3. Philly didn't have previous success: Should the Phillies go on to lose this Series, the '09 Fightins' fans will eventually be able to appreciate how much their team achieved just by successfully defending its '08 NL championship and reaching the Fall Classic for the second straight October. The '93 squad, meanwhile, was the only bright oasis in what was otherwise a dim 25-year period between World Series appearances. The team had a very short window of sucess and once Carter slammed it, there was no opening it back up. You can't say the same about this current core.
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Why Brad Lidge in '09 was worse
1. It came at home: The difference between '09 and '93? Over 45,000 Philadelphians who paid hundreds of dollars to watch the horror and had their soaring hopes stunningly crushed after Pedro Feliz's(notes) tying home run in the eighth inning.
2. It came at the hands of a New York team: With apologies to the fine people of Canada, Toronto-Philly isn't exactly New York-Philly. Preening Yankees fans might always be able to point toward Johnny Damon's double dash as a living moment of New York's baseball superiority and life near the Phillies-Yankees DMZ line in New Jersey suddenly got a lot tougher for those who prefer red.
3. Expectations were higher: The 2009 crew did not enter the season like a bunch of happy go-lucky ballplayers who preferred the mullet. No, they entered the season as WFCs and the pressure to become the first National League team to repeat since the 1976 Reds was enormous. The only way to prove that this edition was better than '08s was with a World Series championship and Lidge's surrender — though it came against three of baseball's best — severely hurt those dreams. Unless Philadelphia can come through and win three straight, the prospect of almost evening up the World Series at 2-2 is going to hurt for awhile.
Which meltdown do you think was worse?