There were many things that made Roy Halladay easy to like, though from a distance.
Prime among them was realism and an insistence on calling things by their proper names.
In Halladay’s lexicon, he “felt good” in any game he pitched well in. Didn’t matter if the team lost. Halladay refused to carry on one of the shams of the sport, pretending to share the glory in every victory and the blame in every defeat.
One of the key signs of Halladay’s sad, inevitable decline — one that started as a slow roll in 2011 and has picked up speed and headlines early in this season — is his inability to come to rhetorical terms with what’s happening.
“The more you want it, the harder it is,” the Phillie said after going only four innings and allowing seven runs against the Mets on Monday. “You almost have to really back that off, and put some perspective into the whole thing. It is a job. It is a game. You’re doing it for fun. You’re doing it because you love it.”
That’s an appealing, treacly sentiment, and it’s wrong. You’re doing it at this level because you’re good at it. As soon as you’re not good at it, you can do it because you love it for free.
Halladay will turn 36 in a month. Going back to August of last year, he’s thrown only two quality starts (6 innings pitched or more, and fewer than three earned runs conceded) in his last eight games.
Velocity was never the key to Halladay’s game — command was and is — but it’s the canary in his professional coal mine. His go-to fastballs, the cutter and the two-seamer, were appreciably over 90 mph his entire career. He’s struggling to get them up to that level now.
As the velocity diminishes, he’s forced back onto his B pitches. A man who once used the cutter as an out-pitch has become more and more reliant on off-speed stuff. He’s not trying to outthink hitters any more. He’s trying to surprise them.