Roy Halladay: Hall of Fame talent gone too soon

12 Comments

If it wasn’t for a shoulder that betrayed him while his talents otherwise remained at their peak, it’s possible that Roy Halladay would’ve still be an active pitcher. Guys with his gifts and drive often last twenty seasons, after all, and 2017 would’ve been his 20th. If he had continued to pitch, he might have 270 or 280 wins and the only question about the remainder of his baseball career might’ve been whether he would wear a Phillies or a Blue Jays cap on his plaque in Cooperstown. His shoulder did betray him, however, ending his career at the age of 36. And, of course, he died today, tragically, at the age of 40.

While an abrupt end to a career after spending one’s whole life in baseball may cause some players to sulk or flail, Halladay took to his early retirement easily. Always an intense man on the field, in retirement, Halladay revealed to the public just how affable, easy going and downright goofy he could be.

He dressed up as Jamie Moyer to an 80s-themed Halloween partyHe took a fan who wanted nothing more than to have Halladay take him to the zoo, to the zooHe goofed on A-RodHe got into fights with Roger Clemens over social media, and had the public on his side. He got multiple speeding tickets in one day but had the humility to laugh about it. And, of course, he took to his new hobby — aviation — with a passion and joy.

Those who knew him personally and those who loved him will no doubt be sharing their stories about Halladay the man in the coming days. I want to talk about Halladay the ballplayer for a moment, because at a time like this all that can make a person feel better is concentrating on the joy he created, and most of us experienced the joy of Roy Halladay through his pitching.

Halladay’s career started slowly, as he was famously demoted all the way back to single-A ball after his first couple of years in the majors with the Blue Jays. There he rebuilt his delivery and his approach. Back to the bigs for good in 2002, Halladay embarked on a ten-year peak that few if any pitchers have duplicated in recent memory.

From 2002-2011, Halladay went 170-75 with a 2.97 ERA and 1,699 strikeouts in 2,194 2/3 innings. He went to eight All-Star Games, won two Cy Young Awards, in 2003 and 2010, and finished second twice more. During that span, he led his league in wins twice, innings four times and complete games seven times. He never won an ERA crown, but he finished second three times, third twice and fifth twice. bWAR ranked him as his league’s top pitcher in four of those seasons, and he was in the top four eight times.

Halladay’s 62.4 bWAR from ages 25-34 ranks as the 10th best ever among pitchers. Everyone else in the top 16 on the list is a Hall of Famer.

87.7 – Walter Johnson
77.3 – Pete Alexander
70.6 – Pedro Martinez
70.2 – Roger Clemens
68.0 – Greg Maddux
67.2 – Tom Seaver
64.9 – Lefty Grove
63.8 – Bob Gibson
63.0 – Ed Walsh
62.4 – Roy Halladay
58.8 – Christy Mathewson
58.5 – Warren Spahn
58.1 – Fergie Jenkins
58.1 – Eddie Plank
57.0 – Gaylord Perry
55.6 – Carl Hubbard

Halladay’s slow start and early retirement prevented him from putting up the sorts of overall career numbers most of those guys did, but the greatness of his peak should overcome the length of his career. He still got 200 wins, finishing with 203, in an era when wins for starting pitchers became harder and harder to come by. While he only reached the postseason twice — in 2010 and 2011 — he tossed a no-hitter against the Reds in the NLDS in 2010. He also tossed the 20th perfect game in major league history, blanking the Florida Marlins in order on May 29, 2010. He tossed ten inning games twice, pitching a shutout in one in 2003 and winning a second one in 2007.

In recent years, elite starting pitchers have had a hard time getting Hall of Fame support, mostly due to the fact that win totals aren’t what they once were. Guys like Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling are notable oversights in this regard. I suspected, before today, that Halladay would have similar trouble gaining induction due to his relatively short career. I don’t know what his untimely death will do for his Hall of Fame candidacy. It’s a crass question to ask, honestly, and one I don’t want to dwell on at the moment.

I do, however, think it’s worth thinking about Halladay’s career and acknowledging its undeniable greatness today. Partially because it helps to think of the good times when we’ve lost someone. Partially because there’s nothing else we can do.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
0 Comments

ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.