Monday, December 9, 2013
Roy Halladay: The Ultimate Class Act
By Ian Hunter
Very few players in the history of baseball elicit the kind of response that Roy Halladay does. Halladay was a consummate professional, the fiercest competitor, and the ultimate class act.
And now Roy Halladay's career has officially come full circle as he has officially retired as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays; the very same organization he started his career with some 16 years ago.
Halladay caps off his career with a laundry list of accolades over his 16 year career; a pair of Cy Young Awards, a perfect game, a no-hitter (in the playoffs nonetheless), eight All-Star appearances, five Top 5 Cy Young finishes and 203 career wins under his belt.
Strictly from a fan standpoint, this was just a very cool thing for Roy Halladay to do. In previous instances, I haven't quite understood why players sign these pseudo one-day contracts to retire with the team of their choice ... but now I finally get it.
I'll try to best describe my feelings on Harry Leroy III, but like many people today, I'm at a loss for words on how to describe this entire situation because it really was quite unexpected.
I never imagined Roy Halladay would return to the Toronto Blue Jays, but he managed to do so in the best way possible. Personally, I'm grateful that Halladay decided to officially retire as a Blue Jay because it reaffirms that he really did enjoy his time as a Blue Jay.
It's nice to know Roy Halladay looked back on his time in Toronto with fond enough memories that he wanted to retire as a Blue Jay. It truly is the ultimate honour and a privilege.
Even though he went to the Philadelphia Phillies to give himself a chance to win, Doc respected the Blue Jays organization enough to walk off into the sunset with them. That's not something you'd see too many baseball players perform these days.
Much like Carlos Delgado, Roy Halladay really was the best thing about what can be described as a forgettable era in Blue Jays history. Doc never really played for a contender during his tenure as a Blue Jay, but he competed as though every start was Game 7 of the World Series.
Halladay will likely be remembered most for his relentless work ethic; showing up the ballpark before sunrise, running the stairs at the Rogers Centre, and often being the first one to arrive and the last to go home.
He may not have been the most personable player, but that was part of the appeal of Roy Halladay. Doc approached the game like a cold, calculated robot; and his on-field efficiency reflected that work ethic.
Halladay very rarely displayed emotion and thus very seldom let those emotions get the better of him. And yet it's funny how a man who displayed very little emotion on the field has elicited a wave of emotions from fans, teammates and coaches.
Looking back, there are so many great Halladay memories; his ten-inning shutout, his one-hour fifty-minute complete game, the famous Halladay vs. Burnett, his first start back in Toronto after going to Philly, and of course his near no-hitter in just his second big league start.
The rebirth of Roy Halladay is one of the most fascinating stories you'll ever read, which SI's Tom Verducci delves into quite thoroughly. It's a great tale of how Halladay fell from grace and returned to become even more dominant than before.
It really is a shame Doc never captured that elusive World Series ring he was looking for, but it only seems fitting that he ended his career where he started as a first round draft pick in 1995. If he wasn't going to end his career winning a World Series Championship, at least he ended where he began.
Roy Halladay is in a very unique category of Blue Jays players; while he may not have spent his entire career in Toronto, fans rooted for him even in a Philadelphia Phillies uniform.
I recall his no-hitter in the playoffs against the Reds in 2010; I sat glued to my couch for the entire nine innings, watching like a proud parent as Halladay put forth one of the greatest post-season pitching performances of all time.
And it happened once again when Roy Halladay made his fateful return to Toronto in July of 2011. Doc came back to a deafening applause from the fans at the Rogers Centre, cheering as if he were still donning a Blue Jays uniform.
Because Roy Halladay never participated in any playoff runs during his time with the Blue Jays, he'll likely go down as one of the most underrated pitchers of his time. Part of that may have to do with him not playing for a contender for so many years.
At the same time, Roy Halladay was still one of the best pitchers of his generation. That's not even a hyperbolic statement, he truly was one of the best. And hopefully, those merits will seal his fate as an eventual inductee into Cooperstown.
As a fan, I really do feel like I'm indebted to Roy Halladay for all that he did with the Toronto Blue Jays. He certainly didn't need to come back and end his career with the Blue Jays, but he did ... and for that, I am extremely grateful.
Thank you for everything, Roy Halladay. It was great to have you back ... even if it was only for a day.
Images courtesy of The Grumpy Owl and The Star