Fresh off another embarrassing drubbing at the hands of the lowly Miami Marlins this past Sunday, Phillies ace Roy Halladay is at this very minute awaiting results of a medical exam that could determine his season, his future, and his legacy. Nothing about his current situation looks very promising, which is provoking both fans and players to ponder a future without perhaps the most dominant pitcher of the past decade. In a strange way, however, Halladay’s untimely demise and a Phillies run to the post-season could actually enhance his legacy and popularity.
This week has seen a blame game erupt among Phillies faithful over who is responsible for the Halladay situation. Many fans are pointing fingers at Ruben Amaro for basically accepting the word of Roy Halladay unconditionally that he was feeling fine, despite an obvious decline in production since last season. Others are pointing to Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee (including myself) as being the guilty parties for allowing a player to dictate his own terms at the expense of his team’s fortunes, which is basically what they have done since the second half of last season. More tellingly, however, is a trend toward many fans placing the blame on Halladay himself, for concealing his own injury or ailment despite the fact that doing so resulted in a team that is desperately seeking its probable final shot at the post-season losing several games the past two years due to insurmountable leads being placed against them.
The tide of fan opinion against Doc in this situation, although not overwhelming, is significant in that he has enjoyed unprecedented popularity since his acquisition by the Phillies for the 2010 season. His initial season was fantastic, as he amassed 21 wins, 9 complete games, 4 shut-outs, a perfect game against the Marlins and a no-hitter against Dusty Baker‘s Reds in the playoffs. The result was a Cy Young Award and fan adulation that was well-deserved. The following season saw him reach 19 wins and finish second in the Cy Young voting. Since 2011, he has gone 13-12, and has seen his ERA balloon from under 3 to over 4.00 in 2012, and nearly 9.00 this season. His decline has been sudden and alarming, but given his age (35) and collection of innings pitched over his career (over 2,700 in 16 years), not completely shocking.
Given all the gloom and doom surrounding Doc’s future at this point, which includes Phillies starter Cliff Lee stating that the team must move on even if Doc is “gone forever”, I actually believe that should the Phillies somehow turn this season around, Doc’s legacy will actually be helped, not damaged. Consider the scenario: The Phillies thus far putrid offense begins to heat up to the point that less strain is placed on their mediocre bullpen. Kyle Kendrick continues to have a career season (utilizing much of what he learned under the tutelage of Roy Halladay), Cole Hamels begins to get the run support he has lacked all season, and Cliff Lee basically has his typical above average season as the number 2 starter. All of these factors are not completely unrealistic given the tendency for this team to hit their stride as the season progresses. In addition, should Doc be declared out for the season, or worse yet for his career, the team would undoubtedly dedicate their final playoff push to the popular pitcher, whose heart and determination were never in question from the day he became a Phillie. In addition, a strong push by the Doc-less Phillies in a division that thus far seems wide open for the taking would easily erase any negative sentiment toward Halladay as it exist these days.
Doc’s legacy should be comparable to Don Mattingly, who, despite never winning a World Series ring with the New York Yankees, is hailed as a hero by Yankee fans for his heart and determination during a career also shortened by injury, ironically at the same age as Doc. The miserable end Doc’s career seems to be heading toward should be viewed far more positively as the last gasps of a true baseball warrior, not as an embarrassing turn for a pitcher who placed himself above the team. Halladay gave us his best, and he deserves the same from us. Knowing the passion and baseball smarts of Phillies fans as I do, there’s no doubt that’s exactly what he will get.Tags: Charlie Manuel, Cole Hamels, injury, Kyle Kendrick, MLB, Philadelphia Phillies, Rich Dubee, Roy Halladay, Ruben Amaro