Roy “Doc” Halladay was a prototypical ace. Always the victim of injuries and underperforming teams, people will always pose the question: What could have been of Doc Halladay? Of course, you can ask that question of most athletes. From Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway and Grant Hill in basketball, to Bo Jackson in football (and baseball), to pitchers Kerry Wood and Mark Prior and the legendary Ken Griffey Jr., people ponder how great certain stars could have been. Doc showed considerable stretches where he was considered a top five pitcher in the sport.
Yet, he could never shake injuries that eventually forced him to retire. He continuously struggled with shoulder issues that landed him on the DL multiple times in his stint with Toronto and at the end of his stint in Philadelphia. Back in May when he learned the news of his partially torn labrum and rotator cuff, he didn’t shy away from the inevitable question. In May, he said, “Nobody wants to go out on a bad note. If you had your choice, you want to go out strong. Ideally, you want to go out as a world champion. But some of those things aren’t in your control. I have no regrets at any point in my career, so if things don’t work out and they do end on a sour note, I’m not going to look at it that way.”
And now, suffering from shoulder and back problems, Doc decided to walk away. His tone reflected his feelings from last May. He said, “As a baseball player, you realize that’s something you can’t do the rest of your life. I really don’t have any regrets.”
And why should he? Doc finished his career with a record of 203-105, an ERA of 3.38, 2,117 strikeouts, 8 trips to the All-Star game, 2 Cy Young awards, one no-hitter (in his first postseason start), and one perfect game. Although he never won it all, he accomplished almost every solo accolade a pitcher could considering the amount of time he missed through injuries.
He will be remembered most, though, for his undeniable work ethic. He was known to have shown up for work on days he was scheduled to pitch at 11 am, for a 7:05 start. His rigorous preparations consisted of countless arm exercises, running, and weight lifting. And this was when he was healthy, he had to rehab many times from countless shoulder injuries and a broken leg he suffered in 2005 on a comebacker. Chase Utley said of his former teammate’s work ethic, “He is by far the hardest worker that I’ve ever seen and treated every game as if it were his last. It was no coincidence why he was the best pitcher of his era. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to watch him pitch for four years. I’ll miss his presence and passion but, most of all, I will miss his intensity.”
This work ethic paid off, having registered 67 complete games in his career and leading the majors in that category 5 years in a row and 7 of 9 years during the prime of his career. He had 20 shutouts and 2,749.1 career innings pitched. He was a 20 game winner 3 times as well. Doc was known to be very intense during his routine as well. He never spoke with anyone except his catcher, pitching coach, or manager during his starts.
In his retirement speech, he cited his injuries and wanting to spend time with his family as reasons for leaving. He said, “My goal was to leave baseball better than I found it”. It is clear to everyone around the sport that he did. His work ethic rubbed off on numerous others and provided a model for others around the league. In addition, he was a finalist for the Roberto Clemente award a few times as well.
The story of his unique delivery is intriguing as well. He was sent down to AA to revamp his delivery during an unsuccessful start to the 2000 season. He changed his arm slot to 3 quarters and became more reliant on his off-speed pitches instead of just his fastball. He played 12 years in Toronto, making 6 all-star teams. He never made the postseason. The Blue Jays traded him to Philadelphia prior to the 2010 season. He threw a perfect game on May 29 against the Florida Marlins. He finished that regular season with a 21-10 record and a 2.44 ERA. He totaled a career high 219 strikeouts and pitched 250.2 innings while only issuing 30 walks. In his long awaited first postseason start, he threw a no-hitter against the Joey Votto led Reds. He became the first pitcher since Nolan Ryan in 1973 to throw two no-hitters in the same season. After another successful 2011 campaign, injury plagued seasons in 2012 and 2013 ultimately ended his career.
What will Roy “Doc” Halladay’s legacy be? He was a student of the game, a hard worker, an 8 time all-star, and arguably the best pitcher of his generation. In 5 years, will he be in the Hall of Fame?