It came as a big surprise yesterday morning when media outlets reported that pitcher Roy Halladay had signed a one-year deal with his former team, the Toronto Blue Jays, and was going to appear with the team at the Winter Meetings to announce his retirement from baseball. The farewell media tour took place around 12:30 p.m. Eastern, so I’m sure you didn’t get the chance to hear him reflect on his decision, so I wanted to share some of his thoughts and comments here.
Halladay really seemed at peace with his decision. Walking away from the game that has been your entire life cannot be easy. But according to Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who said he had been playing phone tag with Halladay during the offseason, Doc made up his mind a couple of weeks ago that it was time to ride off into the proverbial sunset.
As surprising as the news was when it broke yesterday, the timing actually feels right. Halladay admitted that physically, he simply is not able to compete at the level he wants to. Which is amazing, considering it seems like only yesterday the son of a gun threw a perfect game and was no-hitting my Reds in the 2010 playoffs en route to his second Cy Young award. He followed that up with a 19-6 record, a 2.35 ERA and 220 strikeouts in 2011. He finished second in Cy Young voting that year.
But his subsequent fall was as swift as Icarus’.
In 2012, he finished 11-8 but his ERA had skyrocketed to 4.49. Things only got worse in 2013, he was just 4-5 in a season cut short by shoulder surgery and subsequent nagging injuries. His 6.68 ERA last year was the highest since he was a snot-nosed 23-year-old still trying to transition to life as a big-league starting pitcher. And he actually brought it down after returning from around 8.00 after coming back from that shoulder surgery in September.
Unbeknownst to anyone really, it wasn’t the shoulder or the labrum or the bone spurs that was the real source of his struggles. It was a debilitating back condition that had affected his mechanics (which in turn caused the shoulder problems); one that won’t improve without serious rest, treatment and rehabilitation. At 36, his retirement is as much to avoid having to have fusion back surgery that could affect his long term physical well being as it is to spend more time with his family.
Halladay was drafted by the Blue Jays in 1995, the team’s first round selection and the 17th overall pick in the draft. He spent 12 seasons in Toronto, where he was a six-time All-Star and won the 2003 AL Cy Young Award. He was traded to the Phillies in 2009 and played his final four seasons in Philadelphia. He won the 2010 NL Cy Young – a season that saw him pitch a perfect game and a postseason no-hitter (against my Reds, arg!), becoming only the fifth player in Major League history to win the Cy Young in both leagues.
For his career, Halladay was 203-105 with a 3.38 ERA and 2,117 strikeouts. He never won a World Series ring, despite accepting a move to Philadelphia four seasons ago with that specific goal in his sights. But his resume includes 67 complete games, 20 shutouts, three 20-win seasons, eight All-Star games, and three other top-3 finishes for the Cy Young Award. He will be remembered as one of the best pitchers of his generation, no doubt about it. And “Doc” Halladay is one of the coolest sports nicknames there has ever been.
By the way, on a lighter note, is it just me or does Doc really look a lot like Dirk Nowitski of the Dallas Mavaricks?
Halladay’s Career Obituary will be added to the page soon.