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Classic Player Profile: Cory Lidle

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Remembering the pitcher whose unique career was tragically cut short.

Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Player: Cory Lidle

Born: March 22nd, 1972

Drafted: Undrafted, signed as an Amateur Free Agent on August 25th, 1990 by the Minnesota Twins

Tenure: 1998-2001

Start of Tenure: On October 7th, 1998 claimed off waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks

End of Tenure: On January 8th, 2001 traded in a 3 team deal to the Oakland Athletics

Teams: Minnesota Twins*, Milwaukee Brewers*, New York Mets, Arizona Diamondbacks*, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Oakland Athletics, Toronto Blue Jays, Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies ,and the New York Yankees

* - Didn't appear in a Major League game

Currently: Sadly, Cory Lidle tragically died in a plane crash on October 11th, 2006 at the age of 34

Rays Stat Line: 0.5 WAR, 5-6 (W-L), 5.13 ERA, 4.50 FIP, 5.8 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 101.2 IP in 36 games

Undrafted Free Agent

1990-1993

Cory Lidle went undrafted after finishing his senior year in high school at South Hills (where he played with Jason Giambi), but he was very eager to begin professionally playing baseball and was signed by the Minnesota Twins on August 25th, 1990. Lidle played in his 1st professional game the following Summer in the Gulf Coast League at the age of 19. He pitched in relief in 4 games, allowing 3 runs in five innings.

In 1992, Lidle was in Elizabethton, Tennessee, playing in the Rookie Leagues. Lidle again worked out of the pen for the Twins, saving 6 games in 19 appearances. In 43.2 IP, Lidle struck out 32 and walked 21. The following year on April 1st, 1993 Lidle was released by the Twins. After his release, Lidle was unwilling to give up on the dream and signed with the Pocatello Posse in the Independent Leagues, where he pitched mainly as a starter. In 17 games (including 3 complete games), Lidle had a 4.12 ERA in 106.2 IP with 91 strikeouts and 54 walks.

Chasing the Dream

1993-1996

When Pocatello's season was coming to a close, the Milwaukee Brewers decided to give Lidle a chance and signed him to a deal on September 17th, 1993. With the start of the 1994 season, the Brewers assigned Lidle to their Single-A team, the Beloit Brewers. Lidle impressed in Beloit, pitching in 13 games (started 9) he accumulated 69 innings, racked up 62 strikeouts and walked 11. He earned a call up to High-A Stockton where he was converted back into a reliever, in 42.2 IP Lidle struck out 38 and walked 13.

In 1995, Lidle was assigned to Double-A El Paso where he turned in another solid season as a reliever. In 45 games (started 9), Lidle accumulated 109.2 IP with a 3.35 ERA and struck out 78 and walked 36. Lidle among the league leaders in wins and was named a Texas League All Star, after the season the Brewers sent him to the Arizona Fall League to get some more work against some of the best prospects in the minors.

On January 17th, 1996 Lidle was traded to the New York Mets in exchange for Kelly Sinnett. The Mets assigned Lidle to Double-A Binghamton, where he pitched exclusively as a starter for the 1st time in his career. In 27 games (6 complete games), Lidle accumulated 190.1 IP with a 3.32 ERA, he also struck out 141 and walked 49.

The Dream followed by a Nightmare

1997-1998

In 1997, Lidle started the season in Triple-A Norfolk, where he started in 7 games. On May 7th, Lidle's hard work from toiling around in the minors for three different teams, plus an independent team payed off as he was promoted the majors. Cory Lidle made his debut the following day in Houston against the Astros. He came on in relief of Rick Reed and finished the game for the Mets. The first batter to face Lidle was Craig Biggio, whom he retired on a flyball. In the bottom of the 8th, Lidle faced his first real challenge, he struck out Sean Berry to start the inning but then gave up three straight hits to Bobby Abreu, Ricky Gutierrez, and Brad Ausmus. On Ausmus's single, Abreu was thrown out at home and Lidle was able to strikeout Thomas Howard to end the inning and the threat; nonetheless, the Mets lost the game 4-2.

Lidle with the Mets

Jason Wise/Getty Images

It took until Lidle's 6th game for the Mets for him to allow a run, it came on a solo home run from the bat of Doug Strange. Lidle would start in two games for New York but didn't fare too well in either of them, but he was able to stay on the Mets roster for the duration of the season. In 54 games (which was good for 3rd highest on the team) Lidle accumulated a 3.53 ERA and a 3.75 FIP in 81.2 IP

On November 18th, 1997 there was an expansion draft held that allowed two new teams (the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays) to select from an allotment of players from every team in the league. With the 13th pick in the draft, the Diamondbacks selected Cory Lidle from the Mets. Unfortunately for Lidle, he felt discomfort in his elbow during spring training in 1998. Lidle tried to rehab through it, but it was decided that he would require surgery which would cause him to miss the rest of the season.

Back in the Majors

1999-2000

In October, Lidle was designated for assignment and claimed off waivers on the seventh by the other expansion team, the Devil Rays. It took until August of 1999 for Lidle to begin his rehab, he began by making two starts for High-A St Petersburg then was sent to Triple-A Durham where he appeared in 3 games. On September 18th, Lidle was ready to returned and was activated, he finished the season having pitched in 5 games going 5 innings and allowing 4 runs to score.

In 2000, Lidle spent several different stints with the D-Rays, mixing between the bullpen and the rotation. Lidle made his 1st start of the season on May 31st, with that start he became the 10th different starter that Tampa had used so far (they'd eventually use 13).

During his time with Tampa, Lidle was a side note in one of the more memorable games during the Devil Rays' era. On August 29th, 2000 the Devil Rays were taking on the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field, a game of inconsequence. Dave Eiland pitched a 1-2-3 first for Tampa and Pedro Martinez went to the mound for Boston, then in stepped Gerald Williams.

Lidle with the Rays

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The count got to 1-2, when Martinez ran a fastball up and in on Williams, but it ran a little too far inside and drilled Williams on the wrist. As Williams was leaving the box and heading towards first, it appeared that he had words with Martinez. He then suddenly charged the mound and starting one wildest brawls in team history. When it ended, Larry Rothschild and Williams were the only ones to be ejected, even though it was clear the Brian Daubach had done something to trigger anger from the D-Rays.

When the top of the 3rd came around, things got interesting again. Dave Eiland allowed the first three hitters to reach base, including hitting Daubach with a pitch. Carl Everett then doubled two runs in, Eiland followed that by Nomar Garciaparra with a pitch, resulting in Eiland's ejection. Cory Lidle then entered the game as Eiland's replacement and pitched solidly with the exception of a HR by Everett. Entering the top of the 7th, Lidle was still in the game.

Trot Nixon led off the inning with a triple, then Brian Daubach came to the plate. Lidle's 1st pitch to him went behind his back. Lidle was immediately tossed, as was bench coach Bill Russell. Tony Fiore took over for Lidle and quickly hit Daubach, causing another bench clearing incident and resulting in Fiore and pitching coach Jose Cardenal's ejection.

One more Devil Ray would be ejected when Greg Vaughn was tossed in bottom half for arguing a strike call making it a total of 8 D-Rays ejected, meanwhile Martinez pitched a 1-hitter and Boston tallied 8 runs. Lidle for his actions was suspended for 3 games, his line on the day:  4 IP / 4 H / 2 ER / 1BB / 1 K

After serving his suspension, Lidle pitched superbly. In  6 games he went 30 innings while allowing 9 earned runs (5 of which came from 1 bad start), striking out 16 and walking 7. His 2 best starts of the year came during that month, the specifics are listed below:

  • The 8th, against Oakland - 7 IP / 2 H / 0 R / 2 BB / 2 SO
  • The 27th, against New York - 7 IP / 5 H / 1 R / 1 BB / 3 SO
Lidle would finished the season with a 5.03 ERA and a 4.59 FIP in 96.2 IP appearing in 31 games with 11 starts.

Moneyball

2001-2003

On January 8th, 2001 Cory Lidle was part of a 3-team deal that sent him to Oakland:

  • TB receives Ben Grieve from Oak
  • OAK receives Mark Ellis and Johnny Damon from KC / Cory Lidle from TB
  • KC receives Angel Berroa and A.J. Hinch from OAK / Roberto Hernandez from TB

Lidle entered the A's spring training battling for a rotation spot, and was able to pitch well enough to win the 5th spot in a rotation that included Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito. The the way the schedule worked out, the A's were off on the day that Lidle was slated to make his debut, so they sent him to Triple-A Sacramento so he'd get so work in. On April 13th he was called back up to Oakland. Lidle made his 1st start later that night, and it went about as badly as possible. Lidle surrendered a HR to Rusty Greer to start the game off and Randy Velarde followed with one of his own. Lidle would eventually leave the game in the third after allowing 8 runs (7 earned).

Despite the poor start, Lidle stuck in the A's rotation and was able to put together a solid season. In fact, from the start of June until the end of the season, Lidle was one of the better starters in the league. During that time (20 games), he went 13-2 with a 2.91 ERA in 136 innings pitched. Lidle would also make his 1st postseason appearance that October. The Athletics finished the season with a record of 102-60, which was only good for 2nd in the AL West, 14 games back (yes, 14 game back) behind the incredible season that the Mariners had, who finished at 116-46. The A's were easily able to win the AL Wildcard race.

The A's took on the Yankees in the ALDS and managed an early series lead, 2-0. They would be shutout in Game 3, and Cory Lidle took the mound in Game 4 with the chance to send the A's to the ALCS. Lidle pitched into the 4th inning of the game, but was taken out after allowing a RBI single to Alfonso Soriano. Lidle finished the day having allowed 6 runs (4 earned) and the Yankees would go on to win the game and the series. They'd advance all the way to the World Series where they lost in a dramatic 7 game series to the Diamondbacks.

Lidle finished the 2001 regular season having appeared in 29 games, with a 3.59 ERA, a 4.29 FIP, and 118 strikeouts in 188 innings.

Lidle with A's

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Lidle started the 2002 season back in the A's rotation and had a solid April for Oakland. He made two starts in May before being sidelined with a strained right-shoulder that put him on the 15-day DL. Lidle made his return on June 5th, then after a poor start on the 10th, was used in a relief appearance. He'd return to the rotation on the 19th and dominant from that point on.

Heading into play on August 13th, the A's were in 3rd place and 4.5 GB in the AL West. On that date, the A's began a record long 3-week stretch with a 20-game winning streak. Lidle was a big part of the A's surge to the top of the AL West with his incredible August; in 6 starts, Lidle was 5-0 with 29 strikeouts in 45.1 IP. The most incredible stat during the month for Lidle: He only allowed 1 earned run and had a 0.20 ERA. For his efforts, Lidle was awarded AL Pitcher of the Month in August.

The A's would win the AL West and play the Twins in the ALDS; Lidle only pitched (in relief) during Game 1. The series would go 5 games, but the Twins prevailed in a dramatic Game 5. Lidle finished the regular season having appeared in 31 games with a 3.89 ERA, a 3.66 FIP, and 111 strikeouts in 192 innings. Lidle also threw 2 complete game shutouts, both were 1-hitters, joining Vida Blue as the only other Athletic to do so.

After spending two seasons as an Athletic, Lidle's tenure in Oakland came to an end on November 16th, 2002 when the A's sent him to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Chris Mowday and Mike Rouse.

Lidle with the Jays

Rick Stewart/Getty Images

During his time in Toronto, Lidle struggled and gave up the most earned runs of any pitcher in the league with 123. His best start of the season came on May 2nd against the Angels when he allowed 3 hits and only 1 runs in a complete game victory. On September 26th, Lidle set a new career high with 10 strikeouts against the Indians. Lidle would finish the season having appeared in 31 games with a 5.75 ERA, a 4.50 FIP and 112 strikeouts in 192.2 innings pitched.

When the 2003 season ended, Lidle became a free agent. He would sign on January 6th with the Cincinnati Reds.

City of Brotherly Love

2004-2005

On April 5th, 2004 Cory Lidle made his 1st opening day start, it was against the Chicago Cubs. Lidle would record the loss, when he only went 5 innings and allowed 5 runs. Lidle was very inconsistent as a great start would be followed by a poor one. On May 18th, he allowed 6 runs in 5 innings, his next start he shutout the Astros in a complete game victory. Lidle was on pace to topple his career high in innings pitched, he already had 3 complete games, when on August 9th he was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Javon Moran, Joseph Wilson, and a PTBNL (team's #8 prospect, Elizardo Ramirez).

Lidle with the Reds

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Lidle had a rough couple outings his first few times out for the Phillies but quickly turned it around. He threw back-to-back complete game shutouts, becoming the 1st Phillies to do that since Curt Schilling did it in 1992. Lidle finished the season having pitched in a career high, 34 games with a 4.90 ERA, a 4.53 FIP, and 126 strikeouts in 211.1 innings pitched.

In 2005, Lidle put in a solid season pitching in the back end of the Phillies' rotation. His best start of the year came on July 9th against the Nationals when he went 8 innings and didn't allow a run on 5 hits. He also threw a complete game earlier in the year on May 22nd against the Orioles, allowing only 2 runs on 6 hits. Lidle would finish the season having pitched in 31 games with a 4.53 ERA, a 3.72 FIP, and 121 strikeouts in 184.2 innings pitched.

Tragic Ending

2006

Lidle began the 2006 season with the Phillies and was slotted into the middle of their rotation. Lidle turned in quality starts going an average of 6 innings while allowing 3 runs a game. In July, with Philadelphia looking to trade him, he put on his best month of the season and on July 30th, he was dealt along with Bobby Abreu to the New York Yankees in exchange for two Top-10 prospects (#4 C.J. Henry and #7 Marcos Vechionacci), Jesus Sanchez, and Matt Smith.

Lidle with the Phils

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Lidle made his Yankee debut on August 3rd against Toronto and threw 6 innings and allowed 1 run on 6 hits for a victory. Again, Lidle struggled to stay consistent as he would mix a quality outing with a poor one. When the season came to close, the Yankees had won the AL East and Lidle would see his 1st postseason action since 2002 with Oakland.

Since Lidle was being used in the backend of the Yankees rotation, he was relegated to the bullpen for the ALDS against Detroit. He would make one appearance and it was disastrous. Heading into Game 4, the Yankees were losing the series 2-1 and were desperate for a victory. Jaret Wright got the start for New York, but was chased by the 3rd after allowing 4 runs. Lidle came into the game to replace Wright and struck out the 1st batter he faced, Craig Monroe.

Lidle pitched a scoreless 4th, but fell apart in the 5th. He gave up 4 straight hits to start the inning and all but one of them would score. Lidle was taken out of the game before recording an out. He finished the regular season having pitched in 31 games with a 4.85 ERA, a 5.12 FIP, and 130 strikeouts in 170.2 innings pitched.

Lidle with the Yanks

Elsa/Getty Images

On October 11th, Lidle was flying in a small plane in New York City and after about 20 minutes, the pilot miscalculated while making a turn and crashed into the 40th story of a high-rise apartment building in Manhattan. Lidle and his flight instructor were the only ones on board and were both sadly killed instantly. There were no other deaths, but numerous injuries from the apartment building and those on the street hit by falling debris. Before any details were really known, fighter jets were scrambled over several major cities just in case this was the beginning of a terrorist attack but it was quickly learned that Lidle was on board after his passport was found in the street below. It is unclear who was piloting the plane.

A moment of silence was held on October 12th before the 1st game of the NLCS was slated to begin. In 2007, tributes were held throughout baseball for Lidle. The Yankees wore black armbands during the 2007 season to honor Lidle, and also held a touching ceremony on opening day where Lidle's son threw out the 1st pitch.

Cory Lidle's story was remarkable for his determination to achieve his goal of playing in the big leagues, from being undrafted and playing independent ball to overcoming surgery to put up some great seasons in Oakland and play in October. Cory Lidle will be remembered as an inspiration for those are willing to pursue their dreams.

Career Stat Line: 10.4 WAR, 82-72 (W-L), 4.57 ERA, 4.28 FIP, 5.7 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 1,322.2 IP in 277 games