Monday morning, the first bombshell of the Phillies offseason occurred but it probably was not the type of news people were expecting regarding the team.
Roy Halladay is retiring
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 9, 2013
At 36 years old, Halladay officially will end his illustrious career after signing a one-day contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, a team he spent 12 seasons with before finishing his career in Philadelphia. Many look at Halladay as the most consistently dominant pitcher of this era. In 16 seasons in the Major Leagues, Halladay reached 20 wins on three different occasions, was an 8-time all-star, and won two Cy Young awards (2003-TOR, 2010-PHI) for MLB’s best pitcher.
While Halladay was a model of consistency and efficiency in Toronto, his play over his first two seasons with the Phillies was arguably his most prolific stretch. Along with winning a Cy Young his first season and runner-up in 2011, Halladay pitched in some of the most marquee games in his career and had some legendary performances. Halladay immediately put a stamp on his Philadelphia career, when he threw the franchise’s second perfect game in a May 29, 1-0 win on the road against the Marlins. ‘Doc’ one-upped himself in the postseason, when he tossed a one-walk no-hitter in game 1 against the Cincinnati Reds. The second no-hitter in postseason history, was thrown by a player pitching in his first postseason game ever, truly astounding.
Halladay would post a 3-2 postseason record with an impressive 2.37 ERA in 5 starts, but it is unfortunately his final playoff start that I look back on now and truly appreciate how great Halladay was. In game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Halladay took the mound pitted against his good friend and Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter. Halladay surrendered a first-inning run on an RBI double by Skip Schumaker. After that, for the next eight innings, Halladay pitched arguably the most impressive game of his life. He kept the potent Cardinals offense from scoring any more runs over eight innings to keep his team in it. Unfortunately, the Phillies offense did not support their ace in what is now looked at as the game that ended the Phillies dynasty. St. Louis would win by a measly 1-0 score, as the Phils registered just three hits against Carpenter and bowed out in the first round. The Phillies have not returned to the postseason since.
In the time since the 2011 postseason, Halladay’s regression became the most scrutinized topic with a floundering team. Devastating drops in velocity and lack of control puzzled fans and analysts alike, as people tried to figure out how the most dominant pitcher in baseball could become ineffective so quickly. In 2012, Halladay made his first trip to the disabled list since 2009 with shoulder issues. He would go on to finish the season 11-8 with a 6.82 ERA, his highest since 2000.
Despite the struggles, Halladay insisted his issues could be resolved and that he ultimately wanted to finish his career with the Phillies and winning a world championship. He entered the 2013 campaign healthy, as he stated, and with the spotlight fixed on him, as many hitched his success to the Phillies chances to contend in an improving NL East. Halladay’s 2013 season was one that reminded you that not every story in sports has a good ending. Halladay was on-and-off the disabled list with rotator cuff issues and bone spurs, and would make only 13 starts as the once fear-inducing ‘Doc’ had become a shell of his former self. His final start, a September 23 game in Miami, was almost depressing. He would leave the game after recording just one out, walking two batters, allowing an earned run, and facing just three hitters. Halladay’s 2013 statistics during his final season with the Phillies: 4-5, 6.82 ERA, 51 K, 36 BB, 12 Home Runs allowed, 62.0 IP.
Upon season’s end, the Phillies held a team option regarding possibly renewing Halladay for the 2014 season. Ruben Amaro Jr. is as heavily criticized as any GM in baseball, but even he could see that bringing Halladay back would be ludicrous given his downfall. He would enter free agency, hoping he could prove to a team that he could still win games at the major league level if his body allowed him to.
It was not to be for Halladay however, as he goes down with a 203-105 record, 3.38 career ERA, and 2,117 strikeouts. While there is no way of determining it, and Halladay obviously preferred things a certain way, but many speculate as to whether his tireless workout regimens and long outings deep into games caused his career to turn so quickly. Halladay’s offseason and in-season preparation became the stuff of folklore. Many credited him for the improvements made across the board on the Phillies pitching staff during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. However, to see a pitcher who was a runner-up for the Cy Young one year, turn into what Halladay was in 2012, one cannot help but speculate if Halladay let his workhorse approach to the game get the best of him.
Even though Halladay spent only 4 seasons with the Phillies and was only effective in 2 of them, he holds an interesting spot in Philadelphia sports lore. The 2010 and 2011 Phillies were two of the best Philadelphia sports teams, regardless of sport, this area has ever seen. As painful as their two playoff exits were, their regular season dominance and the nature of the long baseball season made them such a big part of the best stretch of baseball the city has known. When the team adopted the ‘four aces’ pitching staff, Halladay was the leader and thus, the most important player on the team. His postseason no-hitter was a historical moment and one of the single most exciting performances to watch since I’ve become a sports fan.
As there have been so many types of these players in this city, Halladay is one that truly deserved a championship. Despite being on the best team for two straight seasons, the baseball Gods don’t always allow the best team to come out on top. Still, it was easy to see that Halladay loved pitching in the high-pressure, sports-crazed environment of Citizen’s Bank Park. It is understandable as to why he decided to officially retire as a Blue Jay, but I’m sure if you asked him, those two seasons of success in Philadelphia probably were the high-point of his career.