Friday, October 8, 2010
Was that Phillies GM Ruben Amaro in the middle of the celebratory pile-up on the Citizens Bank Park infield Wednesday night after Roy Halladay's no-hitter?
If so, who could blame him?
Front office personnel joining on-field celebrations is a bit unconventional, but Amaro had to be particularly pleased with Halladay's first postseason performance.
Actually, he must have been down right jubilant.
Halladay had been the apple of Amaro's eye for quite some time. After a lengthy flirtation to swing a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays to bring him to Philly during the 2009 season, Amaro decided to go in a different direction.
Of course, the new course of action brought last year's postseason hero to town in the form of Cliff Lee. The "Plan B" deal was lauded as brilliance on RAJ's part and sent the Phillies to a second straight World Series.
Amaro received similar acclaim when he finally pried Halladay away from Toronto last December. Some lamented that he parted with a couple "untouchable" prospects, but who could really take issue with adding arguably the best pitcher in baseball to an already powerful team?
The glow of excitement surrounding a Halladay-Lee starting duo quickly faded when the other shoe dropped. Amaro shuffled Lee to Seattle to "replenish the farm system."
Needless to say, Amaro took considerable heat. And, when the Phillies struggled and fell to third place, seven games off the pace, the climate got hotter.
Criticisms resurfaced about dealing Lee. When the Phillies toyed with re-acquiring the beloved lefty, and he was then dealt to Texas for seemingly more than what the Phillies had received, the winter trade that sent him packing was looking like a colossal error.
Since that time, a few things have changed.
First, Amaro continued his fixation with acquiring other team's staff aces. As the trade deadline was approaching in late July, the Phillies GM pulled off another blockbuster deal to land Astros hurler Roy Oswalt.
Meanwhile, 2008 postseason hero, Cole Hamels, returned to form after a seeming championship hangover that lasted throughout all of 2009 and spilled over into the outset of this season.
"H2O" was born.
Next, Halladay displayed the reason for Amaro's infatuation as he put together what appears to be a Cy Young campaign. He wrapped the bow on the package with a division clinching two-hit shutout.
Down the stretch, "The Big Three" earned its name on merit.
The only test left was to perform well on baseball's big stage. Halladay was unproven in that regard, having never previously reached the playoffs in his hallowed career.
By the time Amaro settled in to watch Halladay's opening pitch on Wednesday, he was surely aware that Lee had just produced another sparkling effort to run his postseason record to 5-0 with a microscopic 1.52 ERA.
Should Halladay have faltered, a 21-10 regular season would quickly be old news. And, the game was no lay-up as he faced the National League's most prolific offense in 2010.
Halladay did not let his suitor and biggest supporter down. In fact, he rewarded him with one of the greatest postseason performances of all-time.
The tall, deeply intense right-hander mixed a seemingly unending array of pitches on his way to a "no-no."
Halladay's dominance spanned from beginning to end, with just one walk being the only thing keeping him from the perfection that he had achieved earlier in the year.
He painted the edges of the strike zone with darting fastballs, diving curveballs, and free falling change-ups— as well as a myriad of other hybrid permutations.
When catcher Carlos Ruiz pounced on a swinging bunt and gunned a throw to Ryan Howard from his knees, the masterpiece was complete.
A celebratory scrum ensued as Phillies players piled onto their new postseason hero.
Halladay had now answered all the questions and validated the Phillies affection- in a huge way.
The only question that now remains— was that Ruben Amaro on the pile?