Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Ryan Madson again a key to a team’s World Series dreams

Ryan Madson is a key to the Nationals' playoff success
Philadelphia fans remember Ryan Madson fondly, and for good reason. Madson was perhaps the most important member of the Phillies 2008 World Series champion “Bridge to Lidge” bullpen.

Selected by the Phillies with their 9th round pick in the 1998 MLB Amateur Draft out of a California high school, Madson would become one of the most important pitchers for the franchise during the 2000’s.

From 2003-11, Madson would appear in 491 games. Included in that total were 18 starting assignments, 17 of those coming in the 2006 season. Madson allowed 624 hits over 630 innings with the Phillies, with a 547/191 K:BB ratio.

In that magical 2008 postseason, the right-hander appeared in 11 of the Phillies’ 14 playoff games, and was the primary setup man to closer Brad Lidge. Madson surrendered just 10 hits over 12.2 innings that October, with a 12/1 K:BB ratio and stellar .217 Batting Average Against.

After Lidge left, the Phillies struggled for a while to find their next closer. Madson got a chance, saving 15 games over the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

Then in 2011, the Phillies set a franchise record with 102 regular season victories. That pitching staff is most remembered for the “Four Aces” rotation of starters Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels.

What many forget is that Madson was the closer for that record-setting team. He registered 32 Saves that season with a 2.37 ERA and a 62/16 K:BB over 60 innings pitched.

It was following that strong season when, at age 31 misfortune struck. First came an unexpected divorce from the only organization he had ever known. It was reported that Madson had a verbal agreement with then-GM Ruben Amaro towards a four-year contract.

Amaro instead became enamored with free agent Jonathan Papelbon, inking the former Red Sox closer to a four-year deal. After his success in that 2011 season, Madson was looking for the opportunity to be a full-time closer, with the financial reward that comes with that role.

The Cincinnati Reds offered a one-year, $8.5 million deal and their closer job. Madson took it, leaving Philadelphia. It was then that disaster struck.

During spring training prior to the 2012 season, Madson tore the UCL in his right elbow. He would require Tommy John surgery. There are many stories of pitchers recovering successfully and getting back onto the mound in about a year following that surgery. Madson would not be one of them.

Having never pitched for the Reds, Madson signed a one-year deal with the Angels in November 2012. He would also never pitch for them, finding himself released by the Halos in early August after he was unable to get on the mound.

When Madson couldn’t find a team to take him for 2014, the 33-year old decided to retire. That 2014 season would be the third in a row in which he did not pitch at the big-league level. He made just one minor league appearance in that time. And then, what seems to be a miracle.

In January of 2015, Madson was signed by the Kansas City Royals to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. He shined almost from the beginning, his stuff appearing to be all the way back to where he had been with the Phillies. Madson not only made the team, he became a key piece of the Royals bullpen. He allowed just 47 hits over 63.1 innings with a 0.963 WHIP.

That October, Madson appeared in nine of the Royals 16 postseason games, three each in the ALDS, ALCS, and then in the Fall Classic. The Royals captured that World Series in five games over the New York Mets, and Madson incredibly had the second World Series ring of his career.

That comeback season would prove to be a rebirth and not an aberration. It also led to his finally getting that big payday. Nearly two months after that 2015 World Series had ended, Madson inked a three-year, $22-million-dollar deal with the Oakland Athletics.

"My career could have been done very easily," Madson said per Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly earlier this month. "Thankfully, I found some trainers that got me healthy and got me strong."


Madson pitched the entire 2016 season and much of this past summer in an A’s uniform, and continued having success. In fact, this season was proving to be perhaps the best statistical season of his career.

In his first 40 games this season in Oakland, Madson allowed just 38 hits over 58 innings with a dominating 66/9 K:BB ratio.

Those numbers caught the eye of GM Mike Rizzo of the Washington Nationals. The Nats were running away with the NL East Division, but that was despite a bullpen that was an obvious weakness.

Realizing that he had to address that weakness if the Nats were going to have a chance at postseason success, Rizzo struck a deal with Oakland GM Billy Beane.

Two weeks prior to the trade deadline, Madson was sent to Washington along with fellow reliever Sean Doolittle in exchange for pitcher Blake Treinen and a pair of minor league prospects.


Madson suddenly was back with a legitimate contender once again. With the Nationals, the now 37-year old has turned his game up a notch. In 19 games in D.C., Madson has allowed just 13 hits over 18.1 innings. He has also continued his early season dominance with a 27/3 K:BB ratio. He spent a brief stint on the DL, but has been back with the team since the start of September.

The man known since his Phillies days as ‘Mad Dog’ is now a key member of manager Dusty Baker’s bullpen. As such, he accompanies the Nationals to Citizens Bank Park this week along with fellow 2008 World Series heroes Jayson Werth and Joe Blanton for a three-game series against the Phillies.

Madson has faced the Phillies before, but has yet to find success against his former team. In two games he has allowed a pair of earned runs and four hits, striking out three and walking none.
The Nationals are now riding out the regular season. They are all about October, and winning the first World Series in franchise history.

If that happens, Madson is going to be a bullpen key. And if that happens, Madson will earn the third World Series ring of his career, the second since his nearly miraculous return to Major League Baseball.
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Follow Matthew on Twitter: @MatthewVeasey
BY MATTHEW VEASEY
Contributing Writer
matthew.veasey@verizon.net

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