Ready for next chapter, Halladay retires from game
Four years with Philadelphia 'icing on the cake' for Doc in brilliant 16-year career
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Roy Halladay's eyes watered and his voice cracked as he thanked the most important people in his baseball career. He mentioned his parents, and he spoke at length about his wife, Brandy, and their two boys, Ryan and Braden.
"They've been my biggest supporters, they really have, so thank you, guys," Halladay said.
Halladay announced his retirement Monday afternoon during the Winter Meetings at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort, ending a storied 16-year career with the Blue Jays and Phillies. He signed a one-day contract with Toronto to officially retire as a member of the Blue Jays. The Jays drafted Halladay in the first round of the 1995 First-Year Player Draft, and he spent his first 12 big league seasons with Toronto. But his greatest moments came in his final four seasons with the Phils, including trips to the postseason in 2010 and '11.
"Philadelphia was kind of the icing on the cake for me," Halladay said.
In five years, Halladay will be in the conversation for a trip to Cooperstown, N.Y., for enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He went 203-105 with a 3.38 ERA in his career, but in an 11-year stretch from 2001-11, he could be considered the best pitcher in baseball.
Halladay went 175-78 with a 2.98 ERA in that span. Only Johan Santana (2.94) had a better ERA among pitchers with 1,500 or more innings pitched. Only CC Sabathia (176) had more wins. Halladay also had 64 complete games in those 11 seasons, 30 more than the next closest pitcher, Livan Hernandez. Halladay had 19 shutouts, seven more than Chris Carpenter.
Halladay ranked first in WAR (65.4), ERA+ (148), strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.52) and winning percentage (.692); second in walks per nine innings (1.55) and opponents OPS (.642); third in WHIP (1.11); fourth in innings (2,300); and fifth in strikeouts (1,795).
Halladay won the American League Cy Young Award in 2003 and the National League Cy Young Award in '10. He threw a perfect game for the Phillies in 2010 and a no-hitter in Game 1 of the 2010 NL Division Series, just the second no-hitter in postseason history.
"I think he'll have a shot at the Hall of Fame," said Phils manager Ryne Sandberg, whose plaque hangs in Cooperstown. "If he was one of the dominant right-handed pitchers for a 10-year period, that's a criteria."
Halladay, 36, retired because his body no longer could perform like he demanded. He had right shoulder surgery in May, although he said it felt fine.
"I've been throwing to my boys, and my shoulder feels as good as it ever has," he said. "Unfortunately, I can't get them out, but it feels good."
Halladay said his back is what failed him. He said he has two pars fractures, an eroded disk and pinched nerves.
"It made it hard to pitch with the mechanics I want to pitch with," Halladay said.
Halladay struggled terribly the past two seasons. He had a 5.15 ERA, which ranked 161st out of 169 pitchers with 163 1/3 or more innings. He wasn't himself.
"Speaking with doctors, they feel like, at this point, if I can step away and take some of that high-level pressure off of it, it will hopefully allow me to do some regular things and help out with the kids' teams," he said. "I'm trying to find a 35-and-over basketball league."
"My wife's already shaking her head," he joked. "But I want to be active. I want to continue to do things I enjoy doing, spend time with my family. The biggest thing is I'm trying to avoid surgery. They feel like we can address a lot of things by injections, by physical therapy. But we're trying to avoid having to fuse. That will just lead to more issues down the road. So that is one of the big things we're trying to avoid."
Halladay waived his no-trade clause to join the Phillies in December 2009, signing a three-year, $60 million extension for a shot at a World Series championship. He left tens of millions of dollars on the table in the process, forgoing a shot at free agency the following year, but he had no qualms because he thought Philadelphia could win a championship.
The Phils had a shot, but they fell short.
The Phillies had the best record in baseball in 2010 and '11, but they lost in six games to the Giants in the NL Championship Series in '10 and in five games to the Cardinals in the NLDS in '11. The '11 team set a franchise record with 102 wins.
Halladay went 3-2 with a 2.37 ERA in five postseason starts. It included his unforgettable no-hitter against the Reds in the NLDS and a gutsy performance in Game 5 of the 2010 NLCS, when he pulled his groin early in the game but pitched six innings to send the series back to Philly.
"I always knew how tough it was to win a World Series, especially being in the AL East," Halladay said. "It's not an easy thing to do. Going to Philadelphia, I felt like we really gave ourselves the best chance. Being involved in those playoffs was probably some of the most memorable experiences I'll have in baseball, from the camaraderie standpoint, to being in that atmosphere, playing in the playoffs.
"I think the one thing I took away from that is you can have the best team on paper. You can have the guys who want it the most. But when the squirrel runs across home plate while your team is trying to pitch, there is nothing you can do about that. So you really start to realize there are a lot of things out of your control. It takes more than nine guys. It takes nine guys, and it takes the 25 on the roster. It takes the coaches, the staff, and it takes a lot of luck."
Halladay was referring to a squirrel that darted across home plate with Roy Oswalt on the mound in Game 4 of the 2011 NLDS. The Cardinals won the game, sending the series back to Philadelphia. Cards fans made the squirrel their talisman, believing it helped them beat the best team in baseball.
"I'm very fortunate I had the chance to get to the playoffs, to experience that atmosphere," Halladay said. "I've always wanted to win a World Series. You know, hopefully down the road I can be a part of it in a different aspect. But it's something I definitely wanted, but I think having the chance to be in the playoffs to experience the atmosphere, I am more comfortable knowing I came up a little bit short than having never gotten that shot."
If anybody deserved a World Series ring, it is Halladay. He built an incredible resume after nearly being bounced from the game early in his career. He got sent back to the Minor Leagues, completely reinvented himself, worked on the mental aspect of pitching and outworked everybody in the process.
Halladay was worth the price of admission.
Asked for his favorite Halladay moment, Phillies general partner, president and chief executive officer David Montgomery said, "It's Roy the person and Roy the warrior." Montgomery admired Halladay's qualities, his positive influence in the clubhouse, how he respected the game and how he came to win.
Others saw the same.
"Halladay is the ultimate competitor," Phils second baseman Chase Utley said. "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'll miss his presence and passion but, most of all, I will miss his intensity."
Halladay hinted he would like to remain in the game in some fashion. Sandberg said if Halladay had any interest, he certainly would welcome him to join the Phillies in Spring Training as an instructor. The Blue Jays and other teams would love him in that role, too.
That is a decision that will come later. Right now, Halladay is helping coach his two sons.
"They're starting to strive for their dreams, and that's something I want to be a part of," he said.
Halladay pursued his for years. He fell short of the World Series title, but he finished as one of the best pitchers of his generation.
"There is a lot for me to look forward to," Halladay said. "Baseball has been so great to me. My goal is to try and leave baseball better than what I found it, and I've tried to do that in my career. I've tried to be respectful to the game and do things the right way. I've tried to do that to the best of my ability, and moving forward, I'd like to do the same."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.