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Roy Halladay: The Blue Collar Surgeon

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There isn't a lot of lustre that comes to mind when you hear the words "Blue Collar".

In an age where it seems society is actively moving away from blue collar jobs, jobs that leave your fingernails dirty, your clothes sweaty and your muscles tired, it seems kind of strange to describe one the greatest pitchers of his generation, if not the greatest, as a blue collar athlete.

But Roy Halladay was far more than blue collar.

Sure, he exemplified many of the characteristics we associate with the blue collar lifestyle: he worked efficiently, methodically, with purpose and with drive. He put his head down and got to work, and didn't bother with the flashiness that often comes, sometimes uninvited, with being a professional athlete. Roy Halladay came to baseball with one thing in mind and that was to do his job.

And yet, to simply call him a work horse is to do him a disservice. He wasn't simply a walking ad for Wrangler jeans, a man to whom a hard day's work meant working hard. He was also an absolute master of his craft. With terrifying efficiency and clarity, Roy Halladay carved up elite hitters in a way only a master surgeon could.

In short, Roy Halladay was baseball's blue collar surgeon, mixing the unbelievable work ethic he possessed with unbelievable skill that left opposing hitters walking back to countless dug outs in a state of perpetual frustration.

But it wasn't always so easy.

Roy Halladay's career started out as nightmare scenario for any aspiring athlete. After finally attaining the dream of being a professional baseball player, Halladay was hit around like he was throwing batting practice. He was, in short, demolished, taking his hits on the chin before suffering what, to many athletes, would've been a career ending confidence killer: a full demotion to the bus trips of Class A ball.

But Halladay wasn't going to take the demotion sitting down.

After working through a delivery change, and adding a few key fundamental changes to his entire repetoire, Halladay didn't just emerge back on the MLB scene, he exploded and served notice that this previously "failed" prospect was in fact just the precursor to what would be one of the finest second acts in baseball history.

Halladay wasn't just a pitcher for Toronto, Halladay was an icon. He was the face of baseball in this city for years, and his status amongst the fans of this city was god-like.

And the accolades followed. Cy Young nominations, a Cy Young win, All Star selections, Halladay earned them all with his hard work and his dedication to being the best athlete he could be.

And when he left, he never really left. Traded in 2009, Halladay remained one of Toronto's favourite sons, his achievements celebrated and not envied, because Halladay was always going to be a Blue Jay, regardless of where he played. Only now two cities would share in their appreciation for his talents.

And as the regular season ended for Toronto, thousands of fans would eagerly support him from afar, watching him show the world just how dominant he could be when faced with the ultimate pressure of the post-season.

Halladay at the peak of his powers. Halladay, perennial Cy Young candidate. Halladay, baseball's best pitcher.

Until all of the sudden he wasn't.

For two years, Halladay put on that same brave face he pitched with for all those years. He walked the same walk to and from the pitcher's mound. Only this time, it wasn't the same.

The delivery wasn't as sharp, the speeds not as dazzling, the pitches not as deceptive.

And just like that, this god amongst men was simply a man.

Sabremetricians and analysts will debate his numbers, whether they are lofty enough for Hall of Fame consideration, whether he should be classified as one of baseball's all-time greats or simply as one of baseball's very-goods.

But for Blue Jays fans, that was never what it was about, nor will it ever be about.

For nearly a decade, fans in Toronto got to witness the most startling metamorphosis of a homegrown pitcher they'd likely ever see. His achievements were legendary, his effectiveness and efficiency once in a lifetime.

Roy Halladay was, and forever will be, a Toronto Blue Jay in my eyes. Some of his greatest accomplishments came while he wasn't with Toronto, but to me, the greatest experiences I ever had at the SkyDome, as a young, bright eyed fan, were the times watching Roy Halladay carve up the beast of the AL East.

Before the WAR values, before the wOBAs, before all of that, Roy Halladay was anecdotally the greatest pitcher I ever had the pleasure of laying eyes on.

With surgeon-like efficiency, and a blue collar attitude, Roy Halladay was the greatest Blue Jay of my lifetime.

So thank you Roy. For coming back and ending your illustrious career in the same place it started.

Now enjoy yourself.

There's not a single baseball fan out there that would say you didn't deserve to.

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