Giants Walk Among Us
There have always been giants.
No, I don’t mean the ones who moved from the Polo Grounds to Candlestick Park in the late 1950’s.
I mean the giants that have always, for thousands of years, been a part of human civilization.
Giants have always stood towering over the crossroads of where history and mythology intersect. Hercules was the strongest man of his time, regardless of whether or not his time was mythological.
Giants are not always heroes, and heroes are not always giants. Goliath, slain by David, was a giant who played the role of antagonist in a morality play that still finds common usage in our lexicon even today. When the Dodgers beat the Yankees in the 1955 World Series, many writers of the time used the David vs. Goliath analogy to describe this improbable outcome.
Baseball has always pointed its metaphorical finger up towards the shimmering horizon, whenever giants were needed, to counter the dark clouds of scandal, controversy, and despair: Babe Ruth, the most famous American giant of them all, carrying The National Past-Time on his broad shoulders after the Black Sox Scandal.
Cal Ripkin, Jr., the legendary blue-eyed giant from the land of Perseverence, enabled baseball, game-by-grueling game, to point to his example of selflessness and dedication to something greater than himself as an antidote to the colossal tragedy of the Strike of ’94.
Still, enough giants survive to render baseball an immovable force, even despite the dazzling incompetence and greed of some commissioners, owners and players. Only the fans, the little people of the realm, provide the consistency of memory and dialogue that allows baseball to persevere.
And the fans love and cherish the legendary deeds of Nolan Ryan, Cal Ripkin, and Derek Jeter. These leviathans pull our collective eyes upward to a place barely glimpsed by mere mortals, accessible only to giants.
Not all giants, perhaps paradoxically, are recognized as such immediately. They stride quietly amongst us, satisfied with their achievement and prowess that we somehow see, but don’t always grasp.
Albert Pujols, treading triumphantly in rarefied air that even few giants have ever breathed, appears to many as nothing more than a gifted mortal. But someday, this giant will be revered.
Roy Halladay, recently traded from Toronto to Philadelphia, may very well be another unrecognized giant. This Paul Bunyon of the pitching mound should be paid in homage and verse, not mere cash. His $60 million dollar three-year contract will seem like an insufficient offering to Zeus after the year 2012.
On what evidence do I proclaim him to be a true giant among men? Giants are capable of great feats of strength and physical endurance. Roy Halladay has tossed an AVERAGE of 233 innings per year over the past four seasons. This in an era of 100 pitch limits, sixth-inning relief specialists, and extra rest before the playoffs begin.
In 2003, Halladay pitched a Herculean 266 innings. He has pitched over 200 innings six times in his career, and at age 32, he is fully capable of meeting this challenge annually.
Moreover, we are not talking about a mere innings-eater, although he eats innings the way Babe Ruth devoured hot-dogs. Halladay boasts a career win-lost percentage of .661, which places him in among the top 20 pitchers of all-time.
Hallady has led his league in complete games five times, and has a career total of 49.
A six time All-Star, he has not only won a Cy Young award, but he has already finished in the top five in Cy Young voting four other times in his career.
Finally, according to Baseball Reference, his pitching profile at this point in his career compares favorably to Hall-of-Famers Dizzy Dean and Jim Bunning. He is also well ahead of the career track of both HOF Warren Spahn and future HOF Randy Johnson.
Thus, when the St. Louis Cardinals face the Philadelphia Phillies over the course of the 2010 baseball season, we will have the rare pleasure of watching two giants, Halladay and Pujols, engage in titanic battle against one another.
Memories, legends and myths of giants have always been part of the story of humanity. How lucky we are, then, to live in an age when giants continue to walk among us, creating legends of their own.