The date was September 27th 1998, the location; Skydome in Toronto Ontario. The Blue Jays were playing out the final game of another dismal season and they had a relative no-name on the mound by the name of Roy Halladay.
I was sitting in the outfield over the Detroit Tigers bullpen, just like Roy Halladay that would be my second game at Skydome to see my beloved Blue Jays play live.
On that day this no-name pitcher would pitch a one hitter, losing the no-no with a heart-breaking homerun over the left field fence with two out in the ninth. In a wonderful twist of fate the ball was caught by none other than Dave Steib, the last man to throw a no-no himself and also a mutliple victim of the dreaded 2 out basehit to kill the no-hitter.
On the other hand I saw that day the potential for Blue Jays to trot out a starting rotation in 1999 of Roger Clemens, Pat Hentgen, Chris Carpentier and Roy Halladay. If our projected fourth starter could nearly toss a no hitter in just his second start, I remember thinking that 1999 might very well be the year we return to the post season.
Unfortunately, things didn't pan out that way, Chris Carpentier blew out his arm, Roger Clemens demanded a trade to those vile Yankees and Roy Halladay, well he would go on to set the record for the highest ERA ever recorded in one season by a pitcher with more than 50 innings of work, an abysmal 10.53.
Yes Roy, we have been through some good times and some bad times. It would have been easy to write off Roy Halladay after the mess that was 2000.
Roy hit rock bottom when he was demoted all the way back down to Single A. Through the patience of then pitching coach Mel Queen, and the hard work and dedication that would come to define Roy Halladay throughout his career, they tore apart the mechanics of his pitching delivery and rebuilt it from the ground up. The result of that work wouldn't be fully be realised until the 2002 season.
In 2002 Halladay won 19 games for a terrible Blue Jays squad. The Jays would finish 25 Games behind the Yankees in spit of the fact their ace lost only 4 games all season. With his performance in 2002 Halladay didn't win the Cy Young award, but he served noticed that he was a pitcher to be reckoned with.
If Halladay put the MLB world on notice in 2002, he delivered in 2003. Posting 22 Wins against 7 Losses, and tossing 204 Strikeouts enroute to his first Cy Young award. Behind the pitching of Roy Halladay the jays would finish with 86 wins, 9 games out of a wildcard spot.
In 2005, Roy Halladay was coasting to his second Cy Young award in 3 years. He was the class of the AL Pitching crop approaching the All-star break until a freakish line drive off Kevin Mench ended the Doc's season.
At the time of the injury he was on pace for 25 Wins and 216 Strikeouts. Needless to say as a Jays fan I found it a little awkward last year when Kevin Mench came aboard as a Jay. I still hold a fair bit of resentment towards him for Halladay's missing Cy Young award.
As we close the book on the decade I would argue that Roy Halladay has established himself as the greatest pitcher of this decade. There are certainly others who had greater seasons but none that can claim the consistency of "The Doc" over the last 10 years. I am quietly optimistic that with another strong 2009 season there will be no doubt left in anyone's mind.
I know its easy to play the what if game but I dont believe its a stretch to think that without that inujury in 2005 Roy Halladay easily wins the Cy Young that year. I also dont believe that anyone outside of Cleveland would have felt Halladay was any less deserving of the Cy Young last year after posting a 20 win season.
I am thankful that the Jays have had a solid player like Roy Halladay in the organization for the last 10 years. I have been able to watch him grow as player, as a pitcher and as a leader. In a time of steroid accusations and me-first players Roy Halladay is a refreshing throw back to the way the game used to be played.
I fear this is possibly Roy's last season as a Blue Jays. He has earned the right to chase the big money and promise of a championship that comes with playing for one of the bigger markets.
Unlike when Roger Clemens, AJ Burnett and even Carlos Delgado left the fold I will hold no ill will towards Halladay if he decides its time for a change. He has earned my respect and admiration and I will continue to cheer "THE DOC" no matter the uniform he wears.