The day Ruben Amaro Jr. traded for Roy Halladay had everyone in the city of Philadelphia envisioning more parade floats driving down Broad Street in the cool November air. Even after Ruben inexplicably and, quite frankly, stupidly traded away Clifton Phifer Lee for reasons that made very little sense given how insanely dominant Lee was in his brief first stint with the Phillies, Roy Halladay was here to help Cole Hamels rebound from a subpar 2009, stabilize the pitching staff and lead the Phillies right back to the World Series for a third straight year and more. He was one of, if not the, best pitcher in baseball, after all.
All Doc did from there was go 21-10 in his first season in red pinstripes, toss a perfect game, lead the Phillies to the best record in baseball, win the National League Cy Young, toss a no-hitter in the first playoff start of his career, and help the Phillies stave off elimination for one more day pitching with a pulled groin.
He was everything we hoped he'd be and more … but sadly the Phillies succumbed to Cody Ross and his stupid face, as the pesky San Francisco Giants wound up winning the whole damn thing.
It was annoying and disheartening to see the Phillies bow out in the NLCS, but it was hardly the fault of Halladay. It's hard to get to the World Series if your bats are silent.
In year one, Halladay was everything Phillies fans and the front office had hoped for and more. He was the best pitcher in the game, or at least the best pitcher in the National League, and he was all ours for at least three more years. Certainly another parade was in store … especially after Ruben righted his insanely stupid wrong by swooping in during the darkness of the night and bringing back Cliff Lee to join forces with Halladay, Hamels and Roy Oswalt.
Well, in 2011, Roy was Roy yet again, going 19-6 with a 2.35 ERA and a career-high 220 strikeouts, finishing second behind Clayton Kershaw in the NL Cy Young race. The Phillies won a franchise-high 102 games, best in the Majors yet again, and were the odds-on favorite to win the World Series. Halladay was still as dominant as anyone, Lee was coming off one of the most remarkable two-year playoff runs in history, Hamels was back to his 2008 postseason form and Oswalt was there as the steady veteran to round out the league's best rotation.
Roy did his job to give the Phils a 1-0 series lead in the first round against the St. Louis Cardinals, going 8 innings and securing the victory. And when the Phillies went up by four in game two, it looked like they were all set to run right through the National League and on to the World Series. Only Lee couldn't hold the lead, a shocking revelation given his prior postseason success, and the wheels came off. Halladay was outdueled by his good friend Chris Carpenter in game 5, ending the season without even a playoff series victory, and neither the Phillies nor Halladay have been the same since.
Early on last season, Roy just didn't seem right. Opponents were jumping all over him in the first inning, and his command was nowhere near what we've come to expect — which is to say nearly perfect. Shit, this is a guy whose goal every year is to have less walks than games started, something he's done several times in his career. He was getting knocked around, and Halladay just didn't look like himself.
A guy whose "bad outings" would be giving up four runs over 7 or 8 innings was suddenly getting shelled. Turns out, Doc was pitching hurt, and he eventually landed on the DL with shoulder troubles in his pitching arm. His arm has been dead ever since.
Stupidly, Halladay came back last season when it was pretty clear the Phillies were going to have to go on a miracle run to make the postseason. Admittedly, they almost did, and while you can't fault Halladay for wanting to be out there for his teammates, he still wasn't himself. As it turned out, he wound up doing more harm than good.
His arm and his team have never recovered. He doesn't have the same velocity, the same command or, perhaps most importantly, the same bite to his pitches. He's become a guy with average stuff, and thus he's become an average pitcher. Actually, after last night's debacle against the Indians — lasting just 3 and 2/3 innings while surrendering 8 earned runs on 9 hits, including three home runs and two walks — his numbers suggest he's not even that.
In the blink of an eye, Roy Halladay went from the best in the game to mediocre at best. His legend has faded, and it continues to fade.
It's always sad to see this happen to the superstars of the game. They usually look the same and sound the same, still have the confidence that they can do what they've always done, but their bodies betray them.
Halladay's body, specifically his arm, simply won't allow him to be the pitcher he's accustomed to being. As a result, he's trying even harder to pinpoint his pitches that no longer have the same movent, which is resulting in command problems — both in the zone and out. Last night, he threw meatball after meatball, while also throwing an inordinate amount of balls. His pitches simply don't go where he wants them to go anymore, don't move like he wants them to move anymore, which is sad beyond belief for a guy who has made a career off pinpoint accuracy.
As David Murphy alluded to today, Halladay isn't necessarily done. He'll still give you good outings, some really good outings. However, they'll be followed by bad outings, some really bad outings — just like a lot of MLB pitchers. But the Roy Halladay the baseball world has known over the years is done. He's gone. And the Roy Halladay we saw dominate the National League his first two seasons in Philadelphia is fading away.
So are the Phillies are their chances for that parade we've been expecting ever since Doc arrived.