COMMENTARY | Is it appropriate to feel sorry for Roy Halladay?
It was easy to experience some sadness as the Philadelphia Phillies star pitcher trudged off the Citizens Bank Park mound in the fifth inning Monday night against the New York Mets, his face grim in disgust. So many times over most of the past 10 years, this game has appeared like child's play for him. So many times, batters flailed hopelessly at whatever he offered them. He was generally acknowledged as the best in the game as recently as 2011.
Now, it's all different. Shoulder problems sabotaged his 2012 season. His ensuing rehabilitation seems to have sapped a few key miles from his 94-mph fastball. Other pitches in his arsenal aren't dancing to the tunes his mind choreographs. He got hit hard throughout spring training. He's managed to survive only 7 1/3 innings in his first two outings of the 2013 season, yielding 12 hits, three homers, 12 earned runs and six walks.
Right now, he's not Doc Halladay. He's not the guy who has won Cy Young Awards in each league and also finished second in the voting for the same award in each league. He's not the guy who pitched a perfect game and a no-hitter in 2010. As he walked off the field in complete dejection trailing 5-1 on April 8, the Phillies crowd didn't seem to know whether to cheer or boo. Uncharacteristically, they did little of either.
What is the proper emotion here? It's a little difficult to decipher right now. That collective "uh-oh" that's been present in Halladay assessments, both verbal and written, since he arrived at spring training back in February seems to have reached some sort of critical point. Is that reaction warranted? After all, Doc will be 36 years old in May. He's pitched almost 2,700 innings and this is his 16th year in the majors.
The underlying question seems obvious: Is he done?
Maybe that's where the sadness comes in. It's hard to watch the great ones appear mortal. It's hard to watch someone so dedicated to his craft, so admired by everyone in the game, fail to intimidate even average hitters. In baseball lore, when guys like Roy Halladay, Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver walked out to the mound, the scoreboard never mattered. They were already ahead. Right now, that's not Doc, because he's not Doc.
Will he ever be Doc again? What should Phillies followers do? What should the Phillies do? There is only one choice.
Keep the faith.
First and foremost, Roy Halladay isn't going anywhere. Barring injury, he'll be taking the ball every fifth day because the Phillies have a $20 million investment in this the final year of his contract, and there is no serious alternative in the entire organization. But even if there was, this is Roy Halladay, a guy who has won 51 games for the ballclub in the last three seasons. His first 2013 win will be the 200th of his career. You don't send a guy like that to the minors to find himself. He'll get every chance to succeed in deference to who he has been, and because the Phillies as a team won't succeed if he doesn't.
The Phillies must keep the faith for the same reasons this decline has been difficult to watch. This is Roy Halladay. No one works harder. He'll watch every video, examine every mechanic, experiment with every grip in his attempts to restore the Doc we knew. He speaks of years in Toronto when forearm problems limited his velocity, and he found ways to make it work. He's convinced it's all in his command and that some alterations, both physical and mental, will correct it.
Who are we to doubt him? Isn't it logical that if anyone on the planet can figure this out, Halladay is the person?
It's not a time for sadness. It is a time for patience. The Phillies just hope Doc finds it before the season is lost.
Ted Williams lives in Emmaus, PA and is a lifetime Phillies follower. He spent 20 years in print journalism, winning state and national awards. He covered the 1980 World Series, the first championship in Phillies history.
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