I never knew Roy Halladay as a Blue Jay.
It seems blasphemous to admit this, as if I carry a Blue Jays fan badge which will be revoked at the mere suggestion that I didn’t see every single one of his starts. I saw none of them. Nothing until a year after he’d been traded to the Phillies, when I watched him start the All-Star Game and lose in the playoffs to Chris Carpenter. The trade itself, back in 2009, was one of the first baseball events I ever actually noticed— it was the talk of the town, obviously, and I had almost no idea who he was.
Sometime after the 2010 playoffs, I went to a party where someone lamented having lost Halladay. Feeling smart that I actually knew the name of a current and good Blue Jay (how far we come, I guess), I said “well, at least we have Jose Bautista,” vaguely aware that it wasn’t quite the same—uh, I think one of them hits the ball and one of them pitches it? “I guess.”
Roy Halladay retired yesterday. Even though I’ve only known him a few years, it feels exceedingly strange to say that. I just assumed we would have so many more chances to see him be Doc, even if he wasn’t who he once was. He came back in July 2011, only a few months after I dove into baseball; Jose Bautista hit a home run off him, and I was listening intently on the radio, remembering that party and imagining them playing side by side. I never saw him pitch in person.
All this seems particularly poignant because Jarome Iginla is playing against the Calgary Flames tonight, and for all the hero I never had in Roy Halladay, I had it—have it—in Jarome. I never knew the Calgary Flames without him. He arrived when I was six years old and I don’t remember that trade even a little—at the first game I went to, two years later, he was there. He was always there. For so many of us, there were no Flames without that creased-forehead smile and the hundreds and hundreds of goal celebrations, year after year after year.
Jarome meant everything to us. He was the beacon of hope that we still had a chance, that 2004 would end in joy instead of wrenching disappointment, that he could pull the team through its darkest days into a chance to hoist the Cup after fifteen, sixteen, seventeen years. And even though we could all feel it coming, letting him go was one of the most surreal moments of my sports life—seeing the press conference where they announced it for real, that first sad Flames game without him, and the afternoon when we turned on our TVs to see him in the Penguins blue thirds, skating with guys who weren’t ours.
I don’t have personal memories about Doc, but I imagine that if I did, they wouldn’t be so different. He, too, was one of the best his team had ever seen. He brought fans together and gave them hope. And he felt such a connection to the team that he signed a one-day contract in order to retire a Blue Jay, an acknowledgment of the consuming emotional ties of sports. Roy Halladay retired without ever pitching in a World Series, foiled by the luck of baseball and a mortal body—sometimes life is just not magic enough.
I don’t think it’s reaching too far to say that in some ways I project Iginla onto Halladay, and a little vice versa—if I’d known Halladay in his Toronto years, or even his first as a Phillie, I’d have loved him with every part of myself, in that way you love sports heroes that transcends all other boundaries. Blue Jays fans still rooted for him after he left, and Calgary picked up where they’d left off with Jarome in Pittsburgh. Both deserve piles of championships, and I’m truly sorry we’ll never see Halladay celebrate one on the mound. All I can do is hope that Jarome doesn’t end up that way, too. I don’t want to regret another thing I’ll never see.
The Blue Jays played their 162nd game of the season yesterday.
There won’t be any more this year.
I think that was the most fun I’ve had at a game all year, aside from the tenth win of the streak. Yes, even though the Blue Jays lost by six runs and Mark Buehrle couldn’t get out of the fifth. It’s liberating to go to a game with absolutely no expectations—for the season, the game, the players, anything.
Mike Trout was the DH, which was dumb.
Mark Trumbo went 5-5 with (wait for it) three doubles and a homer. He scored five runs. It was incredible and my mind was blown—when he hit his last double I yelled “Good God” really loud before realizing it—and I honestly don’t know why more people aren’t talking about it. It’s probably the best performance I’ve scored. (I originally wrote him down as having had four doubles, but in the eighth it was a single and a one-base error. Still amazing.)
The Blue Jays are 67-77 and playing out the string; nice things are few and far between, but that makes them feel just that much better when they appear. And there were a few pretty cool things:
Anthony Gose hit a grand slam. Anthony Gose hit a grand slam. I can’t believe it happened.
Ricky Romero pitched two innings, and his first (two groundouts and a strikeout) was just perfect, exactly what he needed. He allowed a few hits and a run in the second, but it was really nice to see him pull it together, and the sparse Rogers Centre crowd was surprisingly supportive. It’s heartening to know that Blue Jays fans are still pulling for him, especially when there is nothing left.
Rajai Davis hit a homer! Luis Perez pitched! Things are still happening and some of them are good.
This is the last series against a non-AL East team, so we’d better sharpen our season-spoiling skills because there could be some chaos ahead. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s welcome Team Entropy back into our lives, shall we?
Mark Buehrle tonight against the Houston Astros:
9 IP, 2H, 2BB, 9K, 0R, 108 P.
We needed every bit of that. Thanks, pal.
It’s not often I’m this sad about the result of a baseball game. But then, it’s not often your team comes into a season with colossal expectations, falls unbelievably flat, picks themself up with a franchise-record-tying winning streak, and then finds new and creative ways to dig that hole once again.
The Dodgers were down to their last strike tonight. Those are five of my least favourite words in all of baseball. Down to their last strike. They factor into some of the most heart-wrenching games I’ve seen (or best, if you’re a Cardinals fan)—the Rangers in the World Series, the Nationals in the NLDS. The Blue Jays have some happy ones, like the two-out, two-strike home run by Jose Bautista in Chicago to start the winning streak, but tonight … this one stung.
It’s the kind of game that makes me not want to talk about baseball. I don’t want to analyze the injuries or mediocre performances. I don’t want to talk about the bullpen construction. I don’t want to talk about what the hell Colby Rasmus did in center field to blow the save and force an absolutely gut-wrenching tenth inning. I don’t care what you think. Everything just hurts, like i’ve fallen down three sets of stairs and am lying in a daze on the floor.
Earlier this evening, the Blue Jays were getting merrily no-hit by Ricky Nolasco for almost five innings until Brett Lawrie doubled in the tying runs (Nolasco issued a few free passes before allowing a hit). Then, with a one-run lead, Casey Janssen came in for the ninth to try for the save. It didn’t go as planned.
What else is there to say? Everything sucks. The Jays haven’t won since the All-Star Break. That’s six games, plus one loss before the break, too. Everyone has their scapegoat, founded or otherwise, but the whole team is underperforming together, everyone pitching in to snap each bit of hope. The close losses are the worst ones—so many games where the winning run’s in scoring position, or a blooper could tie it, or (in this case) one last strike would do it. Down to their last strike. One swing. Toast.
Sometimes baseball isn’t the escape we wish for.