Retiring Roy Halladay’s number is a slippery slope for Phils

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

With the Philadelphia Phillies announcing that they will bestow the ultimate honor on Roy Halladay, they’ve changed the rules of retiring a player’s number.

Roy Halladay was fantastic. He was a truly deserving Baseball Hall of Famer, and it’s a terrible shame that he did not live to see his induction day in Cooperstown, to share it with his family, his teammates, and everyone who helped make him the player and the person that he was.

So, on one level, I completely understand that the Philadelphia Phillies would want to retire his #34 to preserve his memory in a special way. It may have even been Bryce Harper himself who opened the door for this last year when he chose #3 upon signing with the Phillies and said “I wore No. 34. But I thought Roy Halladay should be the last to wear it.”

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Maybe the Phillies had the choice made for them and are just going with public sentiment.

After all, Roy Halladay had two amazing seasons with the Phillies. He won a Cy Young Award, threw a perfect game, and added a no-hitter in his first postseason start. It was the stuff of legend.

And then it ended.

In his third year with the Phillies, Halladay began to finally show signs of breaking down. He was average, which was basically “bad” by his lofty standards. In his fourth and final season with the Phillies, he was extremely ineffective and missed three months with an injury.

When that 2013 season ended, he called it a career.

And what a great career it was. But was the Phillies portion of it good enough to merit retiring his number?

Halladay doesn’t make the Hall of Fame without his stint for the Phillies. Those dominant performances, the second Cy Young win of his career, the career win total that nudged past 200 in his final season. His time in Philadelphia truly was an important part of his baseball story.

Still, as transcendent as his 2010 and 2011 seasons were, I don’t feel that those two years were enough for the team to put his number in the same category as the likes of Mike Schmidt’s #20 and Steve Carlton’s #32.

Halladay embraced Philadelphia. His work ethic was second to none. He gave us numerous great moments in his short time here. But it was too short. Now, the Phillies will have some difficult decisions to make.

If they point to Halladay’s enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame as what sealed the deal to retire his number and declare that being a HOFer is a prerequisite for receiving this honor, we are going to have a problem.

You’re telling me that you’re not going to retire #6 for Ryan Howard, #11 for Jimmy Rollins and #26 for Chase Utley? Because it’s highly likely that none of them are headed for Cooperstown.

You’ve got a pair of MVPs and perhaps the most popular player in team history in that group. And they all helped to bring a World Series to Philadelphia, something that Halladay didn’t do, although he was hardly at fault.

Honoring Halladay’s #34 is clearly a move by the organization to appease younger fans, as any Phillies fan under about 40 years old hasn’t been able to watch any players firsthand who ended up having their number retired by the team. And so I get why they want to make this move. The timing is right, as enough time has gone by since Halladay’s passing. Plus, this season conveniently offers the chance to have a ceremony on the 10th anniversary of his perfect game.

But now, I’m telling you, they have to retire #6, #11, and #26 as well. As great as Halladay was, those players all did more for the Phillies franchise than he did. Whether these guys make the Hall of Fame or not, it needs to happen.

And don’t forget Cole Hamels, who is actually likely to end up in Cooperstown. A ceremony to retire #35 must be put on the docket eventually.

Finally, with Curt Schilling supposedly in line to get the call to the Hall next year, the team will have another tough decision, although the Phillies might get let off the hook if Schilling goes in wearing another team’s cap, which he likely will. Still, don’t lose sight of the fact that the largest portion of Schilling’s career came in Philadelphia. He didn’t win a Cy Young or throw any no-hitters like Halladay, but his body of work in Philly dwarfs Halladay’s.

Then again, the Phillies could also cite the fact that nobody likes Curt Schilling as a reason not to honor him, which would probably be fine. Still, it makes you think. In this battle of sentiment vs. objective criteria, is there really a line in the sand when it comes to retiring a number?

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It’s not necessarily the wrong decision for the Phillies to retire Roy Halladay’s number. It just opens the door for a whole lot more after him, because it will be frankly annoying if the team doesn’t bestow the same honor upon several players whose contributions to this team and this city were even greater than his.