It certainly wasn't the Roy Halladay signing a certain sentimental (read: stuck in the 2000s) segment of the Blue Jays fan base was hoping for, was it? All snark aside though, there was a certain warm fuzziness about Roy Halladay's decision to retire as a member of the team he began his dominant career with, and I say that as a pretty unsentimental sports fan. So, that even I was a bit moved to learn that Halladay was announcing his retirement, and had signed a one-day contract so that he could do it as a Blue Jay, should say something about the significance of Roy Halladay to Blue Jays fans and the organization.
It would be really easy for me to just stuff a post full of the Doc's career numbers, accomplishments, and great moments and call it content, but quite frankly if you care enough to be reading this I'm sure you know all that stuff already. In fact, many of you probably have more vivid memories of some of them than I do.
Confession time. There was a period in my life when I just wasn't much of a baseball fan. Lacrosse had become my summer sport of choice. Somewhere along the way I decided that when it came to hitting things with a stick I was much better at hitting people than hurled projectiles. If you don't see how this fact is relevant to my baseball fandom, I have a challenge for you. Try to find a minor lacrosse tournament that isn't selling "The Boys of Summer Play Baseball, The Men of Summer Play Lacrosse" t-shirts. Yeah. It was like that.
So, by the time I made my way back to the flock after a few years in the wilderness, Halladay was already well established as the dominant starter he would remain for years to come. I had missed the debut, the demotion, and the triumphant return. I had missed much of the first Cy Young campaign, but the second was still to come. I missed a chunk of Halladay's great career, but still witnessed enough special moments to define many a lesser pitcher.
Now, due to the serious injuries that have plagued him for the last two seasons (he pitched through back fractures...WTF!), we'll be spared (or robbed of, depending on your perspective) watching him slowly decline into just that, a lesser pitcher. Sure, his last couple of seasons were pretty hard to watch for those that got to see vintage Doc take the hill every fifth day, but at least now he's going out on his own terms to some degree, rather than sticking around any longer as a pale imitation of his former self. In a way, it seems the pinnacle of Halladay's well documented professionalism that he chose to retire rather than continue pitching at a level below his own high standards and, perhaps more tellingly, below the level he felt he would owe any organization he signed with. It also somehow seems very Halladay that he would be able to recognize and accept the end of his own phenomenal career while some Blue Jays fans, still clinging to memories of that greatness, were clamouring for his return just days before.
To me, I much preferred today's outcome to watching Halladay return as anything less than his former dominant self. His 2009 trade to the Phillies symbolized the end of an era for the Toronto Blue Jays, a fact only made clearer when you consider that it was pretty much Alex Anthopoulos' first order of business as the new general manager of the team. It was as clear a passing of the torch from the Halladay/Ricciardi era to the Bautista/Anthopoulos era as you could hope for, and that Halladay so personified an era in the history of the franchise is a testament to his great stature. It's not as though the Blue Jays post-Halladay have been devoid of great performances, but nobody has risen to the level of sustained dominance that Doc demonstrated. That's no surprise though, as not many in the history of the game have achieved his level of greatness.
It's odd that on the first day of the winter meetings, with all their implications for the future of the Toronto Blue Jays, that we should end up spending so much time reflecting on the past. So let's take the time to remember Halladay's career fondly, and then return our attention to the team as it attempts to improve for 2014 and beyond. After all, it seems like that's what he might be doing.
Thanks for the memories Doc. All the best.
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