As a Toronto Blue Jays fan all my life, this was a pretty challenging week.
North of the border, we knew it was coming. We’d heard about it daily since July and had seen the stories hit fever pitch a bunch of times – the trade deadline and the Winter Meetings not surprisingly being the biggest culprits. It got curiously quiet last weekend and into the start of the week.
Then, Monday afternoon, headlines broke that Roy Halladay was in Philadelphia. It took a few seconds to gather thoughts before the pieces fit together like a pile of bricks coming down on your already heavy chest. Roy Halladay had been traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. A frenzied night of rumors followed until we finally learned exactly which pieces were going where, but none of that was the real story for Jays fans.
For years, Halladay had been the comforting, reliable ace at the front of the rotation. He was dominant. For us, he threw fastballs with more movement than most curveballs. He put in incomparable effort and dedication to his craft. He gave baseball fans in hockey-dominated Canada a reason to be proud.
Until now, Halladay had been criminally under-recognized in the baseball world. It’s an absolute shame that he’s played in the MLB for 12-years without reaching the playoffs or even being nationally broadcasted in the US on any “Fox Game of the Week” or “ESPN Sunday Night Baseball” broadcast.
That’s where it gets easier to bare for Blue Jays fans.
You can ask any baseball fan in Toronto to tell you who won the big four-way trade that went down this week, and they’ll answer that the Phillies did. Our secret weapon won’t be a secret any longer. Everyone that has seen him work his magic on the mound knows what Roy Halladay is capable of doing. The Phillies may have given up Cliff Lee and a number of great prospects in the deal, but if they have any concerns, I can tell you this with complete honesty: You have no idea the type of talent your team just acquired.
I can go on and on about the emotional side of the Roy Halladay trade, but I’ll throw out a few numbers too. On his way to a 2.79 ERAs in 2009, he made 15 of his 32 starts against the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox – who comprised three of top four teams in wOBA and three of the top five in OPS. Imagine replacing a third of those with starts against the Washington Nationals.
In 2008, C.C. Sabathia essentially destroyed the National League for half a season. In 17 starts, he went 11-2, with 7 complete games, 3 shutouts, a 1.65 ERA and a WHIP barely over 1.00. Not to start a debate over it, but by most metrics, Roy Halladay was better in 2009 that C.C. Sabathia was. Now he gets his turn in the NL, and he gets it for at least four years.
As tough as the last week was for Jays fans, it won’t get much easier any time soon. Opening Day 2010 will be started by someone who isn’t Roy Halladay. When the team gets swept and the back of the rotation gets blown out on consecutive days, Roy Halladay won’t be there the next day to spare the bullpen and give every fan something to be happy about again.
Maybe one day Kyle Drabek will fill a similar role. Maybe Brett Wallace and Travis D’Arnaud will be key parts of an offense able to fight back in those rough stretches.
But at least for the next couple of years, Blue Jays fans will still have an escape when the going gets tough in Toronto. Roy Halladay will be carving out his legacy in the American spotlight, marching towards the playoffs, and fighting to win a World Series.
Philadelphia, I hope you don’t mind when a bunch of Canadians are cheering along with you next October. It will be a victory for us as much as it will be for you.