When I was about 10 years old, I remember seeing an open poll from Sports Illustrated For Kids. They used to do this a lot: they’d ask the readers a question, readers would submit an answer, they’d pick a handful of them. Simple stuff.
“Who’s the best pitcher in baseball right now?”
Without much of a though, I typed in my answer.
Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays.
He was the first guy I remember seeing dominate teams live and in the flesh. I was alive when Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, and Pedro Martinez were still kickin’, yes, but Doc was the first guy who really registered with me. My vote was really between him and the Twins’ Johan Santana, another one of the first aces I explicitly recall dealing. Other guys like Brandon Webb and Jake Peavy were certainly up there, but Halladay was in a different stratosphere.
Because Halladay was a rare bread of ace.
Sure, Johan would mow you down with an abundance of strikeouts. But Doc didn’t need to strike out 13 to dominate you. No, he was good with 7 punch outs and shutting you out for 7.1 innings with 4 hits. He’d get ahead of you quick and you’d either swing over the top of something low in the zone and ground out or strike out and look like a fool, with the effort (or lack thereof) of a swing making no difference. See ya. Next.
Imagine how frustrating that must be, dealing with that all day long? A guy who lead the league in innings pitched four times in his career and threw over 220 IP in eight of his seasons? No matter how good you were at certain aspects of hitting, Doc was gonna be a step ahead of you, attacking your weaknesses.
And consider this tweet:
That’s the sign of a legend. He was Maddux-esque.
The crazy part about his early success is the fact that he was playing in the American League East when that division was a pitcher’s worst nightmare. He had to deal with one team having Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz as their 3-4 hitters headlining a stacked Boston lineup, another with Alex Rodriguez and Co. mashing in Yankee pinstripes, and–not to be outdone–Melvin Mora, Miguel Tejada, and the O’s hitting well too.
Didn’t matter. Doc was still Doc.
Take the timeframe of 2003-2009. He won his first Cy Young in ’03 and ’09 was his last year as a Blue Jay, and that provides a nice context of the competition he was consistently facing, considering the bookended AL pennants by New York as well as three World Series titles shared between the Sox and Yanks. In that time, Halladay went 111-52 with a 3.16 ERA, 1092 K’s, and an astonishing WHIP of 1.12.
He consistently gave the Sox, O’s, and other teams fits, but perhaps no other team felt the wrath of Halladay than the Bronx Bombers. Up until June of 2010 (I couldn’t find any other resources online to help me find more matchups with the Yankees but that doesn’t change the argument whatsoever) Doc went 18-6 against the Yanks, with a 2.84 ERA, the best out of any other starter in the majors against the Yankees since the creation of the wild card in 1994. The team with an abundance of stars was consistently shut down when they faced one horse.
Halladay was traded to Philadelphia after the 2009 campaign, and his dominance didn’t stop there. In his first three years as a Phillie, Doc went 51-24 with a sub-3 ERA, while striking out 571 and having a WHIP of 1.09. He won his second Cy Young there in 2010 and almost won another the following season.
But to me, his tenure in Philly is what made him an MLB icon and a future Hall Of Famer. There wasn’t too much success north of the border when he was there, but his tenure in Philly gave him his long overdue exposure. Finally given the chance to shine in big moments, he didn’t disappoint.
On May 29th, 2010, he became the 20th man in Major League history to throw a perfect game. Let the highlights take you through this game; I can’t serve this performance much justice with words.
He then decided that performance wasn’t enough, so he threw a no-hitter in his first postseason start, in game 1 of the NLDS.
The next year, the Phils called upon him again in another elimination game. Despite being slapped with the loss (he gave up the lone run in the game; c’mon now) he was fantastic, as expected.
The dude showed up when it counted, and did it constantly. Quality and quantity, that’s Roy Halladay. He was, for my money, the best pitcher in baseball after the era of Pedro Martinez’s dominance and before the era of Clayton Kershaw’s. Considering that Halladay headlined a rotation featuring Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Joe Blanton–an absolutely stacked 1-5–it’s a shame he never got to win a WS ring.
Beyond baseball, it seems as if he was an incredible person, maybe even more incredible than he was on the mound. Twitter’s currently flowing with stories and memories of Doc and I’m sure you all will see a few of them, but here’s some of the best ones I was able to find.
32 might be gone, but his legacy and impact on baseball will last forever.
Rest in peace, Roy Halladay.