The Doctor’s last house call (and/or getting depressed over the Toronto Blue Jays)

It’s weird being a sports fan.

(K&C, you can sit this one out, this is about sports.)

It’s weird to look at it, I mean.To try and analyze it, find out the how and why of it. Is it tradition? Is it testosterone?

I recall Alex asking me questions about what appealed to me about sports, picking at the rules while I watched it, asking “Can they do this or that” or why things were arranged a certain way. He looked at the mechanics, and got me to think about them. But for a lot of fans (the longer term being “fanatics”, which is more appropriate in some cases), it’s the connection to the team as much as it is the particular variety of sport. Without that connection to the team, we don’t necessarily have as much invested in it.

I don’t know what I’m going to do when Roy Halladay is no longer a Blue Jay.

The doctor is in.

The doctor is in.

*****

It is a matter of when at this point. Maybe tonight, maybe in the offseason, maybe next year, when he finally walks away.

Roy Halladay is everything you want in a pitcher, and a player, and has been for the Jays during his time with them. He’s the ace, the rock upon which you build a team. Goes out there every five days and gives you a chance to win. 200+ innings, a bunch of complete games, 20 wins, and opposing hitters walking away saying, “Wow, what was that?” Quiet, professional, humble, and remarkable on the field. That is Roy Halladay. Every year, you could count on him.

I don’t blame him for wanting to go. He’s been the best pitcher in baseball for some time, on a team that has done virtually nothing around him. He’s played the good soldier, took the discount, and watched great players come and go, organizations that built up and came down while he wasted away prime years on a middling team.

They tried, the Jays. Moneyball 2.0, mini-Sawx/Yanks, but usually “if everything breaks right, we have a chance”, only to see- well, everything break. Injuries, slumps, inconsistency, or the Rays finally becoming a juggernaut, there were excuses every year.  Some legit, and some that made you wave them off and ignore them. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember. I apparently watched Joe Carter hit the home run off Mitch Williams that gave the Jays the ’93 World Series, but I can barely remember it now. The years since them, have been numb, bland, running together (Probably why they’re cashing in on the nostalgia so much now).

This year, we were prepared for the worst. The team had lost players, had injuries, and needed a whole ton of things to break right. GM JP Ricciardi was bracing us for it right out of the gate… we were loading up for 2010. Next year. Always next year.

A funny thing happened on the way to inevitable, crushing defeat. The Jays started out hot. The bats were hitting, the pitchers were pitching. Everything was breaking RIGHT, for a change. We were making up for the tasteless, boring year that 2008 had been.

Which made the inevitable fall even worse, and somehow harder to take. We’d gotten invested, interested, had gotten hope again. We were talking about the playoffs, about meaningful games in the final couple of months, became interested in baseball again. The Blue Jays were relevant.

But back to Roy Halladay. He was the Terminator-faced, consistent, machine-gunning linchpin, there with that same stubbly face with every game, coming out and giving his all. He was even a good story, having almost gotten a no hitter, lost then going all the way down to A-ball before coming back up and becoming the dominating pitcher he is today.

I look at that paragraph and notice I’m already talking about him in the past tense. This makes me sad.

*****

If you’re not a Jays fan, you can’t understand how hard this is. I don’t have enough paragraphs to explain what he meant to this team. If you don’t understand the kind of connection people make with their teams, with their players, you can’t understand. It’s crazy, and weird, and draining, and taxing, especially when they struggle like this, when you see things happen that you don’t want to happen.

He hasn’t left yet, but I’m pretty sure I’ve gone through the stages of grief on this one.

Denial: No way they trade him. He’s the linchpin, the #1 starter. They can’t get equal value for him. (Twitter-ed here)

Anger: Why do people keep bringing this up? It’s not happening! Give it a rest! (More examples)

Bargaining: If someone’s dumb enough to take Vernon’s contract, MAYBE we can keep him…

Depression: Everyone’s believing this now. Can it really happen? Will they really trade him? (Heyo)

Acceptance: Well, if they’re going to deal him, they should try and make the best of it. (From today, after his last start)

I railed at Sportsnet West for a good half an hour once I found out the game wasn’t on TV tonight (which made it even better that I was home alone). Might have been Halladay’s last start as a Jay, and there was nowhere to see it. Of course, he went nine strong innings, letting in only two runs, and the Jays lost in extras, 4-2. It would be a fitting ending to his tenure with the team… Halladay throwing incredibly, pouring himself into it, but the Jays coming up short.

I love Roy Halladay. I love the kind of player he is, and the kind of person he seems to be. He’s the guy you want to throw the money at to stay on your team, the one you want to win it all with. And I hope he gets the chance to pitch on a higher stage under brighter lights than he did in Toronto.

On that day, I will root for Roy Halladay. But it will be twinned with sadness at what could have been, and wondering about if he could have accomplished this with the Blue Jays, the team he’ll always be associated with. With MY team.

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