Watching Roy Halladay pitch these days is both jarring and sad. It is jarring because the memories of his brilliance are still fresh— memories of 2010’s perfect game and playoff no-hitter and so many other masterful performances. It is sad because those days are over.
Halladay gave Phillies fans some reason for hope Sunday when he pitched eight solid innings in a 2-1 win over the Marlins. Unfortunately, it is false hope because, even in victory, it is painfully obvious the proud pitcher has lost his fastball, lost his precise control and lost much of the amazing movement on his pitches.
And what makes every start so compelling is that he deserves a much better ending than this. His will to succeed is legendary, and his determination has not waned in these humbling times. The sweat pours off him as he tries to wrench another mile per hour or two out of an arm that has already delivered 2,695 big-league innings.
When Halladay waived his no-trade clause and came to Philadelphia three years ago, he had one overriding goal – to culminate his extraordinary career with a championship. Now, at 35, he will not make it, at least in part because he got so old, so fast. The Phillies with three ace pitchers have a chance to defy the odds this season. With two aces? Forget it.
Even during his best performance of the season Sunday, Halladay was impressive only when contrasted with the feeble nature of the offense he was facing. He rarely was able to throw the first pitch for a strike, he never made it past 90 mph with his fastball and he profited greatly from the generous dimensions of Miami’s stadium.
Barring a sudden reversal of fortune, Halladay will get annihilated by Atlanta or Washington with the same lackluster pitches he slipped past the Marlins. All he really has left now is his desire to succeed. It won’t be enough. It won’t be nearly enough.
Halladay is one of the smartest pitchers ever to play the game, and he is no fool at this fragile point in his career. After he was bludgeoned by the Mets (the Mets!) last week, he hinted at his career demise when he spoke about having fun again playing baseball and about the great life the game has given him.
“My son sent me a text: You’re my hero,” Halladay said in a soul-searching news conference that was unusual for the normally unemotional, robotic man. “That means a lot.”
Halladay will be a hero regardless of how this season unfolds. Unfortunately, heroes in real life don’t always get to write their own happy ending. And, more and more with every start, it’s becoming obvious that Roy Halladay’s ending will not be a happy one at all.
Collins exit can’t come soon enough
Doug Collins doesn’t like the people who run the Sixers, and his bosses have had enough of his manic, obnoxious behavior. The coach will be gone by Thursday, a failure at his goal of reviving the franchise.
The sad truth is, Collins was terrible at his job over the past three years. He bungled the development of Evan Turner, completely ignored the rebounding talents of Nik Vucevic, failed to turn Andre Iguodala into a leader and— oh, yes— advised fans who had lost thousands on worthless tickets to “pray” for lazy, no-show center Andrew Bynum.
Yes, Collins did oversee the progress of Jrue Holiday, he did lead the Sixers deep into the second round of the playoffs last season (thanks to the Derrick Rose injury) and he revived some interest in the moribund franchise, at least initially. He was better than Eddie Jordan. Whoopie.
Unfortunately, when Collins came here, he said his one overriding objective was to reinstate the Sixers as a championship contender and to leave the franchise in better shape than when he arrived. Instead, the team is at its lowest ebb in decades, with no gate attractions on the court and no clue in the front office.
During this meltdown, Collins became the kind of tone-deaf ingrate he never was as a player— evasive and antagonistic toward the media, and abrupt and headstrong in dealing with his bosses. The speculation now is he planted the story last week that the Sixers owners don’t want him back to pave the way for a smooth departure.
It’s usually hard to say goodbye, especially to a hero. But not this time. This time, it’s not just goodbye to Collins. It’s good riddance.
Asleep at the net
The furor over whether Ilya Bryzgalov fell asleep during a team meeting last week is nothing more than a silly diversion during a lost season. The real question everyone should be asking is, were the Flyers in a coma when they decided to invest $51 million in a petulant, underachieving goaltender? And we all know the answer to that one, don’t we?
What made the most recent controversy so absurd was the way everyone reacted to it. The Flyers’ coaching staff and players joined together and lambasted the original broadcast report that Bryzgalov had nodded off. It was actually the first evidence of teamwork on the Flyers all season.
Then the kennel of media lapdogs covering the team barked out their anguished denials on Twitter. No Philadelphia team has a better-trained group of adoring reporters than the Flyers— even in a season when the team is not worthy of any such affection.
And then there was Bryzgalov himself, who will soon find out how sincere all of this support is when the Flyers buy out his bloated contract. In a historic display of gall, this Russian blowhard actually ripped into the media for making up stories and demanded that they “do your job better.” Right back at ya, Ilya.
The disastrous original decision to bring a major head case into a city that really, really cares about hockey was the handiwork of overrated general manager Paul Holmgren and over-the-hill chairman Ed Snider. As usual, however, they are escaping most of the blame here. Why? Because both of those loyal Flyers have lifetime passes.
Was Bryzgalov sleeping last week? Maybe he was. Maybe we all are. Maybe this whole season is just a bad dream.
Idle thoughts …
» Go out today— this minute— and see the new movie “42.” The story of Jackie Robinson’s introduction to the big leagues is well known, but it has never been presented in such a compelling and emotional way. You will hate Philadelphia for its racist attitudes, but you will admire Robinson that much more for teaching us a better way.
» Disgraced Rutgers coach Mike Rice is back in coaching again. Well, he actually never left. The lunatic who lost his job last month for physically and emotionally attacking his college players has continued to coach an AAU girls team. The kids are 12 years old. Their parents are fine with this arrangement. The world is officially insane.
» Eddie Jordan, the worst coach in Sixers history— a man who joined the Lakers this season and instantly ruined their offense— is the choice to replace Mike Rice at Rutgers. For the first time, I actually feel some sympathy for that school. After a few weeks with the Professor, even Rice won’t seem all that bad.
» San Diego slugger Carlos Quentin attacked Zack Grienke last week and broke the L.A. pitcher’s collarbone. Grienke will be out eight weeks, and Quentin was suspended for eight games. Hmmmm. Eight weeks for the guy who was blameless, and eight games for a repeat offender. OK, I give up. Somebody’s joking here, right?
» Andrew Bynum was a no-show for the Sixers team photo last week, thereby blowing his last chance to preserve on film forever one of his amazing hairstyles. What a loss.