That day is finally here. We all knew it was coming (#18).
"Do not dwell in the past. Do not dream of the future. Concentrate the mind on the present moment." - Siddhartha Gautama
"Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone?" - Joni Mitchell
To be fair, we all knew Roy Halladay was special. It is not as though any of us failed to appreciate him. But his overwhelming dominance and durability during 2010 and 2011 did not prepare any of us for what came after. We experienced firsthand the two best rWAR years of Halladay's brilliant career. Of course it would be like this, always. Right? No. It came to and end, like all things. On a slushy, cold day as we recover from one of winter's nasty surprises, we are greeted with more unpleasant news, though not unexpected news.
I was driving back from my compound in western Pennsylvania yesterday on a PA Turnpike covered with slushy ice, and I was trying not to die. I was wondering what Halladay would do this offseson. I talked about it with my kiddo before we started our drive back to central PA. My son decided to play Halladay's playoff no hitter on his video iPod to distract us from our own inevitable deaths. The cattle-chuted double lane stretch past the Blue Mountain exit on the way toward Carlisle was particularly exciting in yesterday's slush-fest sleet storm.
We relived Jayson Werth catching a laser off the bat of Travis Wood. The dearth of "close call" plays other than that one. The hitters who just didn't have a chance. Jay Bruce working that single pebble-in-the-shoe walk from a full count. Chooch making the last out by picking up the dribbler by Brandon Phillips and gunning him down after nearly overrunning the ball when it hit the bat lying on the ground. The noise.
I remember sitting in my living room asking my kids to be quiet. We had been listening to the game on the way home from someplace in the car. I was sitting on my ottoman by the fireplace, anxiously. "What's going on, Dad?" My 9 year old son had at that time no idea what a no-hitter meant, much less one in the playoffs. I remember the visceral joy when that last out was made. Math and statistics and WAR and xFIP and SIERA meant nothing. All of us were just fans mesmerized by a matchless performance against a great hitting club on a gigantic stage.
Roy Halladay, in his playoff debut, threw a no-hitter. The second no-hitter ever thrown in the playoffs, coming over fifty years after Don Larsen's freak game.
Back to the Turnpike. "Dad, did Roy Halladay sign with anyone yet this year?" "No." "Will he play for the Phillies next year?" "I don't know."
Well, now I do.
It's time. We all knew it was coming. At least I got to see him one last time along with my son. It turned out to be his last win. We didn't expect much, but we were overjoyed to get a Phillies win. We were hopeful to see some shoots of green from him, but we went to the game with seriously managed expectations. "Hey, maybe he'll do ok today and get ready for next year." The player I saw was gutty and game, but it was not Roy Halladay. Not the same Roy Halladay I had seen before.
I still remember seeing players like Pete Rose, Steve Carlton, and Mike Schmidt. I remember Curt Schilling mowing people down. Bobby Abreu making it look so easy people thought he was lazy.
When you see a player and you expect to see them every day or every five days, you don't really understand how special it is each time you see them. Greatness is, in the grand scheme of things, so ephemeral and fleeting. Like humanity, it is so fragile. It flickers, and it is gone.
Goodbye, Roy Halladay. I wish we could have known you longer. I will never forget you.