Let’s be clear:
Roy Halladay was a great pitcher for the Phillies.
An ace. A top-of-the-rotation guy. Just a dominating, in-total-command presence on the mound.
Here is the caveat, though: He was all that for just two seasons.
For all the hype and hoopla surrounding his signing, and the immediate payoff the team received with 40 wins in his initial 56 regular-season decisions, another 3 in two postseasons and a Cy Young award, a perfect game and a playoff no-hitter mixed in, along with a combined ERA that would have put a smile on Bob Gibson’s face, Halladay’s stamp on Philly sports lore, really, truly, is based more on myth than substance.
Sort of like Carson Wentz’s NFL MVP season with the Eagles.
Note: Wentz never won the MVP. (Pssst, he also didn’t win the Super Bowl.)
To his credit, Halladay did win that one Cy. But he didn’t win a World Series with the Phillies, which is what he and the club considered the whole point of their union. He also fell off a performance cliff following those individually brilliant campaigns of 2010 and ’11.
In 2012, he went 11-8 with a 4.49 ERA … and showed signs that his throwing shoulder was about to give out.
In 2013, he went 4-5 with a 6.82 ERA … and that shoulder gave out, ultimately forcing his retirement.
Frankly, it’s always been amazing to hear the vast majority of Phillies fans, young or old, rational or irrational, those who should know better or those who definitely don’t, actually scoff when, say, the name of Cliff Lee – a pitching contemporary, a Phillies teammate – is brought up in any convo that involves Halladay.
Reality check: During their Phillies’ careers, Lee had a better ERA (2.94) than Halladay (3.25), was a more dominant performer (averaging 8.8 strikeouts per 9 innings to Halladay’s 8.0), was a more accurate performer (averaging 1.3 walks per 9 innings to Halladay’s 1.8), was better in the postseason (4-1 with a 2.33 ERA compared to Halladay’s 3-2, 2.37), and actually led the club to a World Series.
Of course, when you have fans masquerading as informed sports radio yakkers spouting off “facts” such as “Halladay had 9 shutouts his first year with the Phillies,” it’s no wonder the rest of those wanting a hero to worship get lost in the fantasy.
Truth is, Halladay had 5 shutouts – total – during his time with the Phillies. Lee, by the way, had 6 in one season – 2011. Three in a row, in fact, en route to a 34 scoreless innings streak.
When factoring in the entire picture, including the brevity of it all, not to mention the reality that Halladay wasn’t pitching at a level only seen when he was on the hill in red pinstripes or road grays, a jersey retirement of his Phillies No. 34 on Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park doesn’t seem, well, warranted.
Not if someone like Lee is labeled as nothing more than “meh” and guys such as long-time stars Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley don’t already see their respective 11, 6 and 26 jerseys retired by the Phillies.
It would not be surprising if Halladay’s untimely death in 2017 helped the organization green light the decision to do so on alumni weekend. Especially since the narrative surrounding the plane crash that killed him focuses solely on his passing and never, ever brings up that he caused the accident by being reckless, both with the drugs he had ingested into his system and the stunts he attempted while in the air.
A better idea: Just let him rest in peace. His memory is etched permanently in the minds of those who want to see him in the most positive of fashions.
Bringing him back, so to speak, for this ceremony (or others like it in the future) may only tarnish it – as well as any respect for the organization -- for those annoying curmudgeons who may question, well, why …