The last time that I saw Halladay live was in Clearwater, Florida, getting shelled by the Detroit Tigers in a Spring Training game in March of this year. It was not the same Roy Halladay. His velocity was sapped and he lacked the ability to exactly where he needed to to get the hitter to just miss it enough.
That’s not the Roy Halladay that I want to remember. In fact, coming from his press conference today, we’ve learned that Halladay was dealing with severe back issues that caused him to change the way he pitched and, obviously, didn’t allow him to be nearly as effective as we had seen.
I choose to remember the Roy Halladay who spent his prime years toiling for a mediocre Blue Jays team, not complaining (publicly) that he was being wasted while the team failed to seriously compete in the AL East year after year.
I choose to remember the Roy Halladay who destroyed the Yankees in a complete game victory against A.J. Burnett on May 12, 2009. While it wasn’t the greatest game he pitched (a perfect game and a play-off no-hitter in 2010 probably top the list), it was certainly the defining moment of his career as a Blue Jay.
If I had to rank my top Blue Jays pitchers of all time, I would be hard pressed to decide who I’d rank higher, Dave Stieb or Roy Halladay. Stieb was the ace of my childhood. I always wanted to wear #37 when I was playing and pitch in his style. I learned to throw a slider when I was young because I wanted to pitch like Stieb despite the fact that, at the time, I couldn’t grow a Stieb-like moustache.
Halladay is best known as a phenom who came one out away from a no-hitter in his second major league start in 1998, giving up a home run to Bobby Higginson with two outs in the ninth inning. From there, he had a very good 1999 season but a disastrous one in 2000 that saw him sent all the way down to A-ball and had his windup and delivery revamped by Mel Queen.
Still only 24 in 2001, he returned to Toronto, this time as Doc, the pitcher whose nasty cut fastball and perfect location left hitters shaking their heads. In those years as a Blue Jay from 1998-2009, Halladay went 148-76 (.661 winning percentage) and threw an insane 2046 2/3 innings with a 3.43 ERA and 1.198 WHIP. He struck out 6.6 batters per nine innings (1495 Ks) and walked only 2.0 per nine (455 walks). According to Baseball Reference, Halladay was worth 48.5 WAR (51.7 WAR according to Fangraphs) over 12 seasons with the Blue Jays.
I prefer to remember this Roy Halladay as opposed to the one that I saw pitch in March 2013. Congratulations, Doc, on a fantastic career and on doing everything you ever did with class and the pursuit of perfection. May the rest of your life be as successful as your time on the mound.