When Roy Halladay is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind for me is not his perfect game or his postseason no-hitter.
It’s Jerry Owens taking him deep.
Back on July 28, 2007, Owens came to the plate in the seventh inning and hooked the first pitch he saw into the Bullpen Sports Bar at U.S. Cellular Field to drive in the only two runs of the game. Halladay pitched eight strong innings, but Mark Buehrle pitched eight shutout innings en route to a 2-0 White Sox winner.
That was the only homer of Owens’ MLB career, and that swing covered a lot of what’s great about baseball.
That Halladay-Buehrle duel was the second of the season, and it was every bit as tidy as one might expect, wrapping up in two hours and seven minutes.
And yet it dragged compared to the first meeting. On May 31, Buehrle gave up just two hits while going the distance at Rogers Centre ... but both of them were solo homers, the second by Frank Thomas. On the other side, Halladay scattered six hits over seven shutout innings, pacing Toronto to a 2-0 victory that took just one hour and 50 minutes.
You had two of the best pitchers in the league using their idiosyncratic styles to battle to a draw over the course of a couple months. In the middle of it, a rookie who didn’t have much of a shelf life picked up his lone home run. Baseball is the right amount of random.
I mention all this because Halladay died in a plane crash on Tuesday. He was just 40.
He was going to be a fascinating case for the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible in 2019. His traditional numbers (203-105, 3.38 ERA) don’t exactly cry for Cooperstown, but he packed all that value in a 10-year period from age 25 to 34, giving him an air of dominance. He led the league in wins twice, innings four times, complete games seven times, and picked up two Cy Youngs. Sabermetrically, he led all pitchers in WAR four times, and he finished with a 131 ERA+. Anecdotally, he had the perfect game, the no-hitter in his first postseason start, and by all accounts he was a gentleman to boot.
He may still be a fascinating case, but it probably won’t be instructive to future debates, because recent tragedy has a way of changing typical voter patterns. Either way, he earned a spot among the game’s best.
- Roy Halladay was a pitching ace, an intense competitor and a ruthlessly good man -- Toronto Star
- Roy Halladay shined briefly for Phillies but earned the city’s love -- Philly.com
In Toronto, Halladay had to overcome an early career crisis, and the drive to avoid a relapse made him one of the game’s best. He didn’t have that history in Philadelphia, but his immediate impact made up for the lack of connection his seriousness might not have allowed. He lightened up in retirement, which was too short.
It’s fun to square up the Gold Glove winners with how they performed in SDI, SABR’s mashup of the advanced defensive metrics. In this regard, the biggest what-the-hell is Eric Hosmer, whom the numbers haven’t liked in a long time.
With Buddy Bell in Cincinnati, Chris Getz won’t have training wheels. Rick Hahn is comfortable with that:
“Chris is a great fit,” Hahn said. “Not only is he an excellent baseball man, but he is a very fine communicator.
“Similarly, as a recently retired player, his level of empathy and understanding of what our players are going through as they develop is an asset. The fact that he’s very open to new ideas also helps ensure that we are looking down all possible avenues to help maximize player performance.”
It’s the same big question Major League Baseball has to answer for itself this winter: “What kind of baseball should they expect to play with in 2018 and beyond?”
Based on how Game 6 and Game 7 played out, the 13-12 mess in Game 5 looks like an aberration. But there are also characteristics that make possible more frequent occurrences of such inelegant baseball. If nothing else, I’m posting this here for the description:
In the middle of all that, though, there was Game 5, which was a delirious mess that was more like a tanker truck tipping over and spilling a baseball-like substance all over the highway. The cars behind it couldn’t slow down in time, and they spun off a cliff and into the abyss. We clapped when the cars spun into the abyss, and we impatiently waited for more cars, which kept coming. I get chills thinking about it days later.
It was unrepentantly awful baseball, of course. Filled with hitters succeeding, sure, but also filled with pitchers failing. And umpires failing. And fielders. It was the world’s largest bag of Cheetos, and after inhaling thousands of them, we were left with a pleasant taste in our mouth, stained fingers, and rickets.
This whole post is about one pitch in the ALDS that didn’t really matter, but still. Again, baseball is the right amount of random.