I was standing in line at the bakery in my local supermarket waiting to buy fresh bagels the other day, when I overheard the following conversation between the stockboy and the guy behind the counter:
SB (Stock Boy): Where did that guy [Roy] Halladay come from? I thought we were gonna be screwed when we got rid of [Cliff] Lee.
CG (Counter Guy): I know. As good as Lee was in the post-season last year, now you don’t even hear anything about him, and Halladay is pitching his brains out.
SB: He was with Toronto or one of those AL East teams. We just don’t get to see them very much and don’t know their players.
CG: Good thing we got him in that Lee deal.
As some background to this conversation, you should know that the night before, Halladay had just gone 3-0. And his previous outing he had pitched a complete game, the 50th of his career, for his 150th career victory.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Cliff Lee still has yet to throw a pitch this season. He has been on the slow mend from a fairly major abdominal strain. And once he recovers from that, he still faces a five game suspension for throwing at the head of Arizona’s Chris Snyder in a spring training game.
The overheard conversation brings up a couple of interesting points. The first of which, I’ve been saying for many years: Philadelphia sports fans live in a bubble where no other teams exist. Of course I’m painting with a very broad stroke and over-generalizing, but I’ve lived in this city for much of my adult life and I find it to be the rule rather than the exception when talking sports with friends and co-workers.
The very essence of the above conversation is a perfect example. Roy Halladay, a six-time All-Star, has been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball for the past 10 years, regardless of what league or what division he happens to be in. He’s won the Cy Young once, and finished in the top 3 two other times.
Yeah, why would anyone in Philly, especially a baseball fan, ever hear of him?
Cliff Lee, on the other hand, came to Philadelphia at the mid-way point of last season. With then ace staff Cole Hamels not pitching up to his potential, Lee took charge and immediately became the ace of the staff and quickly became a fan favorite.
Once the team made it to the post-season, the former Cy Young winner did what he did best and dominated the opposition. His 4-0, 1.56 ERA is the stuff legends are made of.
When he was traded from the Phillies, the fans went ballistic. The Phillies were actually giving up their new staff ace, a lefty no less, who almost singlehandedly won the World Series last season, for some guy from the AL that no one’s ever heard of? That’s nuts. Even Cliff Lee wasn’t happy about it, according to various reports.
Well, here we are, a mere five months later, and the fans of the Phillies, probably the most fickle in all the land, are singing a different tune.
Oh, they all know who Roy Halladay is now. You can rest assured no one is confusing him with the St. Louis Cardinals’ outfielder, Matt Holliday anymore, either. In fact, now they want to know what took the Phillies’ top brass so long to get him here. And despite all the moaning and bitching in November, there is little doubt that Philadelphia got the better of this deal, which is actually my second point.
In three games, Halladay is 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA, 21 Ks and only 2 BBs, and a complete game. Uh, that’s pretty good.
And Cliff Lee? He’s barely a memory at this point. Sure, they’ll all tell their grandkids about the guy who caught that popup at the pitchers’ mound without even looking, or the bouncer that he caught behind his back. The two coolest plays you’ve ever seen in a World Series game, but most of the Philadelphia Faithful probably have no idea that the reason they haven’t heard his name is because he’s been injured. They probably haven’t even noticed.
The Mariners might as well be a Japanese League team. Seattle? What team is that? Isn’t that one of those West AL teams? Or is it in the Central? Hey, that Ichiro guy is on that team, I think. Ah, what difference does it make? We’ll never see them.
Stats provided by Baseball-Reference.com