It can be difficult to watch the decline of once great athletes. I often recall what it was like to witness the transformation of Mario Lemieux from the most dominant hockey player in the world into a player who was, as Swedish television analyst Curre Lundmark described during the 2002 Olympics, “skating like an old tractor”. Those magnificent hands and flawless decision making remained, but he was just a giant body trudging around the ice.
Unlike Lemieux, Roy Halladay‘s career was never interrupted by premature retirement, or a foray into a role of player-owner. For those who watched Lemieux play and appreciated his greatness, we knew what life was like without him before it became permanent. A demotion to remake himself early in his career aside, Roy Halladay was among the most dominant pitchers in baseball for the bulk of his 16-year career. So it stings like so much salt in a wound that Halladay has hit the disabled list with what appears to be a severe shoulder issue at the age of 35. There will be no masquerading as a point-per-game player while harvesting some of the game’s future stars, so to speak.
Instead, we will point to a massacre at the hands of the lowly Miami Marlins as a potential end until we’re given reason to believe otherwise.
There’s currently an air of retrospection with a smattering of prognostication milling about in the baseball blogosphere when it comes to Roy Halladay. We’ve gathered some samples from various sites to help us manage expectations moving forward and appreciate the career of Roy Halladay.
With an eye on fantasy baseball relevancy, Eno Sarris takes a look at what history says with regards to pitchers 35 years of age and older who dealt with shoulder injuries (via Roto Graphs):
But the mere fact of his age (35+) and going on the disabled list for a shoulder injury, that mere fact is a harbinger of doom. Players over the age of 35 that went on the DL for any sort of shoulder injury only averaged 59 innings over the course of the rest of their career. So if Roy Halladay pitches 60 innings next year, he’ll be ahead of the game.
There are worse ways to slice the numbers. Of the 62 old pitchers that have gone on the DL for a shoulder injury since 2002, 32 never pitched another inning. 44 of them never managed 50 innings over the rest of their careers. A grand total of six starting pitchers managed more than 100 innings — John Smoltz (106), Pedro Martinez (153.2), Kenny Rogers (173.2), John Burkett (181.2), Tim Wakefield (424.1), and Orlando Hernandez (438.1).
In other words, you’re banking on Roy Halladay to be Orlando Hernandez from here on out if you think he’s even got a full season left in his arm after this year. And Orlando Hernandez himself wasn’t that fantasy relevant for most of that time.
Over at Baseball Nation, Rob Neyer subtly takes a blowtorch to the notion that maybe Halladay’s struggles are just some sort of ‘blip’:
Since last year’s injury, Halladay just hasn’t been the same pitcher. Not for more than a moment or two at a time, anyway. He’s been walking more batters and giving up more home runs than he used to, which suggests to me a physical problem that’s just not going away anytime soon.
Or maybe it’s just a blip. Except it hasn’t been walking or talking or waddling like a blip. It’s been walking and talking and waddling like something’s seriously wrong with the valuable bones and ligaments and muscles holding Roy Halladay’s right shoulder together.
Some cherry picked prose from a highly recommended read titled ‘Kobe Bryant, Roy Halladay and the Helsinki Bus Station Theory’ via The Umpires will bring a tear to ye eyes:
Watching Roy Halladay during his prime was watching one of the true artists in the history of the sport at work. He is the Ted Williams or Aparicio Rodriguez of his generation – if The Art of Pitching were being written, Halladay would, at the very least, warrant his own chapter alongside those of Koufax, Gibson, Seaver, Ryan, Maddux, Clemens, Johnson and Martinez.
Roy Halladay in his decline phase could still be better than the large majority of starting pitchers in Major League Baseball; it’s entirely plausible to believe that, given health, he could be worth somewhere around 3 WAR a season for the next few years in the same way that Maddux was from 2003-2007. But it’s that realization that certain things which came so easily for him not-too-long ago are becoming less and less easy, that realization that his leash is a just a little bit shorter, which places what you’ve seen him do for so well for so many years – what you’ve taken for granted for so long – in perspective.
Friend of the blog, Jonah Keri, gives a wedge of hope pie by telling us that maybe Halladay isn’t done. Keri then effectively tells us that he licked our hope pie before serving it by reminding us that it’s probably the Halladay who a handful of 2013 Miami Marlins lit up that we’re more likely to see (via Grantland):
Roy Halladay isn’t necessarily done in the literal sense. He’ll very likely pitch again. But watching the sad-sack Marlins batter Halladay for nine runs in 2⅓ innings Sunday, with their one dangerous hitter on the DL no less, reinforced what we’ve all been thinking for a while: The Doc we knew is gone. It took Juan Pierre, Marcell Ozuna, Greg Dobbs, and Adeiny Hechavarria to read him his last rites.
Roy Halladay the workhorse, Roy Halladay the legend (via Jays Journal):
Doc was a one-of-a-kind arm in a generation dominated by five-man rotations, specialized relievers, and pitch counts. Halladay has thrown seven different seasons with more than 220 innings pitched, including 266 and 250.2 in his Cy Young seasons of 2003 and 2010 respectively. He had a run of six consecutive seasons where he averaged more than 236 innings per season.
All that effort has lead to some fantastic results on the field. 2 Cy Young Awards, 7 Top 5 finished in the Cy Young voting, 8 All-Star selections, 201 career wins, a 3.37 career ERA, 2101 career strike-outs, and a cumulative bWAR of 65.5 over a 16-year career.
In an excellent piece in defense of Halladay posted at The Fightins, author Ryan Petzar leans towards the hopeful side of the situation:
Roy Halladay is getting older. It happens to us all. And, for the first time in a very long time, Roy Halladay needs to understand and comprehend that he has to make a change in his life if he wants to keep on pitching, especially at a high level. The good news is that since he is such an amazing athlete and probably the hardest worker in all of baseball, I have zero doubt that Roy will be able to find a way to get batters out. Maybe he won’t be an All Star anymore, but he has enough God-given talent that his insane work-ethic will allow him to get back to being an effective and capable major league ballplayer.
We may not have seen the last of Roy Halladay, but we’ve certainly witnessed the best of him.