All Good Things Must Come To An End: Looking Back On Roy Halladay's Career

Andy Lyons

Toronto Blue Jays franchise icon Roy Halladay retired yesterday closing the book on one of the finest careers this city will ever witness.

Yesterday Roy Halladay signed a one-day contract with the Toronto Blue Jays in order to retire with the team that brought him into the league as the 17th overall pick of the 1995 draft. When thinking back on Roy Halladay's storied tenure with the Blue Jays the same words often come to mind: steady, consistent, workmanlike and professional. These terms are all accurate but they all fail to do him justice. Roy Halladay wasn't just a Mark Buehrle type who showed up every fifth day and gave his team a chance to win, he was a guy who showed up every fifth day and ensured his team brought home the victory. The problem is that there is something inherently mundane about consistency and although Halladay was not under-appreciated by Blue Jays fans the extent of his excellence might not have been understood.

The narrative arc of Halladay's career is a very familiar one to Blue Jays fans. Halladay had a brief cameo in 1998 followed by a longer look in 1999 where he put up a respectable 3.92 ERA despite a Drabekian 1.04 K/BB ratio. In the year 2000 everything would fall apart for Halladay. In 67.2 innings Halladay allowed 87 runs and was sent to the minor leagues. Later in his career Roy Halladay would manage to allow fewer than 87 runs in four different seasons where he pitched at least 220 innings. Halladay emerged like a phoenix from the ashes midway through 2001 and from that point until the end of his Blue Jays career he was an absolute magician.

When Blue Jays fans discuss Roy Halladay they are really talking about a 10 season span between 2001 and 2009. During that time Halladay was the best pitcher in baseball. He put up 50.9 WAR in those seasons, the highest total in the league by seven whole WAR. This feat was not accomplished on quantity alone, although Halladay could eat innings like no other, as he only pitched the seventh most innings during that time. He made six All-Star teams during this period and put together a 135-62 record with a 3.13 ERA and a 3.20 FIP. Halladay's signature season with the Blue Jays was his Cy Young winning year in 2003. That season he went 22-7 with a 3.25 ERA and perhaps most importantly 266 innings pitched. That number is the highest single season total for any pitcher this century.

Roy Halladay was so good at so many things, he got ground balls, had great control and could get the strikeout when he needed it, but perhaps what made him a unique talent was his ability to pitch games from start to finish in an era where no one else was doing it consistently. In his career Halladay led the league in complete games seven times and he did so every season between 2007 and 2011. During his 10 year window of dominance with the Jays the follow chart shows the league leaders in complete games and shutouts, sorted by complete games:

Pitcher

Complete Games

Shutouts

Roy Halladay

47

14

Livan Hernandez

31

5

C.C. Sabathia

28

11

Mark Mulder

25

10

Randy Johnson

24

9

Mark Buehrle

24

8

Javier Vasquez

21

5

Bartolo Colon

21

4

Chris Carpenter

20

10

A.J. Burnett

20

9

Halladay was in a league of his own when it came to throwing all nine innings. It was a possibility for the right hander every single time he took the mound. I can't claim to have seen inside Halladay's head but I would warrant a guess that it was always something of an expectation on his part. In a lot of ways he was a relic of a bygone era.

Nobody worked harder than Roy Halladay, but over the course of his tenure in Toronto became a Sisyphus-like figure. No matter how good Roy Halladay was, and no matter how many innings he pitched at an elite level, the team around him could never rise into playoff contention. Sometimes the rotation was solid but the team couldn't hit a lick. Some years the offense was excellent but the pitching wasn't there. Roy Halladay was always there. Eventually age was creeping up on Halladay and the likelihood of making the playoffs did not seem to be increasing. He was a part of the Blue Jays franchise for 14 years but it was time to move on.

Frankly, Halladay's career in Philadelphia isn't my story to tell here. I'm sure there are Phillies fans who are far more qualified to spin that tale. He was undoubtedly brilliant for Philadelphia and I know that personally I was cheering him on every step of the way. In 2010 he threw a perfect game and a playoff no-hitter. The next season he won the Cy Young for the second time in what was probably his best season ever. The spotlight that he had always deserved found him, although he never seemed the type to reach for it.

Roy Halladay is arguably the best pitcher of his era. His story is one of perseverance and hard work and if you are looking for a role model he's probably a half decent pick. Roy Halladay was a reason to trek from any corner of the city down to the ballpark to spend your hard earned money on taking in a game of baseball. He was a reason to believe that the Blue Jays were the type of franchise that could compete with the big boys in the AL East, even if they never quite managed do so. Every day that Roy Halladay didn't pitch was a letdown. Every time he pitched was an event. Generations of Torontonians who have not been born yet are going to hear about Roy Halladay. Moreover, they are going to get sick of hearing about Roy Halladay. They will look up to whoever Toronto's ace is in 2034 and will think he's as good as Roy Halladay. They will be wrong.

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