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Has Roy Halladay won over the Phillies fans yet?

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"KEEP ON PHIGHTIN' WITH JOE VALLEE" 

The Braves had already won Friday afternoon on another miraculous come-from-behind victory. The kind of victory that has come all too often for them this year. The kind of victory that foreshadows a team of their caliber playing deep into October.

Roy Halladay knew this. The whole Phillies team knew this. And while the offense didn't exactly hold up their end of the deal in Halladay's start Friday night, Halladay held up his end with seven shutout innings in a Phillies 1-0 win over the Nationals. Halladay has now won six straight games and stopped the Phillies' last two losing streaks.

Prior to 2010, Halladay's brilliant pitching performances in his career with the Blue Jays were never in games that were too meaningful. With the Yankees and Red Sox (and now the Rays) slugging it out for the division/wild card lead year after year, this is Halladay's first true pennant race. With 16 wins at the end of August (one of them of course, his perfect game in May), he is set to become the Phillies first starter to notch 17 wins since Jon Lieber in 2005. And with most of the Cy Young Award talk this year going to Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez and St. Louis' Adam Wainwright, Halladay is slowly but surely making his case for Cy Young number two in his trophy case.

Don't get me wrong, lots of things can go wrong in the last month and change of a baseball season. Shane Rawley  had 17 wins at the end of August 1987 for the Phillies, and everyone was already giving him the award. The Phillies then took a downward turn, and Rawley finished with just that-17 victories. However, the '87 squad wasn't built quite like the '10 squad, so the chances are better than not that Halladay will become the Phillies first 20-game winner since Steve Carlton went 23-11 in his Cy Young Award winning season of 1982.

Which brings me to my next question:

There is no doubt that Phillies fans appreciate the kind of work ethic and talentRoy Halladay photo: www.gather.com that Halladay has brought to the team in 2010. The real question however, is if Halladay has met the expectations of Phillies fans.

Truth be told, the fans would probably appreciate Halladay even more if it weren't for the circumstances that led to the Phillies getting him.

I know, I know, how bittersweet can getting one of the best pitchers in baseball be? Well, pretty damn bittersweet if your team traded the only pitcher to beat the Yankees in the World Series  just a little more than a month beforehand on the same day Halladay was acquired. In just a little under four months, Cliff Lee won the hearts of the Phillies faithful with ice water in his veins and a very similar bulldog attitude shared by Halladay. No athlete in the history of Philadelphia sports won the fans over in this town the way Lee did in his limited time here. The thought of having Halladay and Lee on the same staff would have made the Phillies practically a shoe-in for their third consecutive World Series appearance. Although statistically Halladay is the better pitcher than Lee, the trade left most fans in the Delaware Valley with the thought that the Phillies had simply replaced one ace with another. Lee however, was much more than an ace to the fans as well as teammates, whom according to sources have privately stewed over his departure.

The Lee trade has quickly become what is considered to be one of the worst trades in the history of baseball. The recent off-the-field issues of Tyson Gillies (one of the three prospects Ruben Amaro received for Lee) furthermore prove this. Needless to say, Halladay had some big shoes to fill before he threw a pitch for the Phillies. He has been exactly as advertised, and has helped keep the Phils in the thick of things all year, despite the fact that the entire team (at one point or another) has been ravaged by injuries.

Final Thought:

For starters (no pun intended), watching Roy Halladay this season has been a thrill. His perfect game on Memorial Day Weekend  will always be a great Phillies memory.  His dedication and work ethic fit the mold of the ideal Philadelphia athlete. It was a no-brainer to acquire him last December. He was however, acquired for one reason: to help get the Phillies another World Series ring. Halladay's true legacy in a Phillies uniform will come during the playoffs in October if the Phillies are fortunate enough to return to the post season. Halladay has never pitched in the playoffs, but neither did Lee prior to 2009. With Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels, the Phillies starting rotation is positioned to make a deeper playoff run this year than last year.

Depending on the rotation setup, Halladay could pitch as often as two to three times in a series. If he fails to duplicate the success of Lee (or come close) in the 2010 playoffs, Halladay can win as many Cy Young's and regular season games as possible, but the team's success over the last three seasons yields greater expectations from the fan base. The complaints over the Lee trade have quieted down lately. However, the backlash could resurface if the Phillies don't win the World Series this year, and Halladay could unfairly be labeled as "the guy who took the place of Cliff Lee."

In the meantime, Keep On Phightin.'

Joe Vallee is a lifelong Phillies fan and former Phillies batboy. Joe has claimed to have seen about 98% of every Phillies game since the early 1980's

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

Photo: www.gather.com