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The first Blue Jays game I distinctly remember attending took place on September 27th, 1998. It was John Fowler’s birthday and the Tigers were in town. I was 11. I had been to the Skydome before, of course – my grandfather was a baseball nut, and I can remember he and I traversing down Peter Street to get to the Dome, vendors hawking peanuts and, after ‘92, pennants. Or was it after ‘93? Though I must have attended dozens of games with my grandpa Jack, those early memories have a tendency to blend together after a while. So the first Blue Jays game that I can definitely say that I attended was that Sunday afternoon in late September.

I imagine that the game is etched indelibly in the memories of most of the people at the Dome that day. It was the last game of the season, and of no import whatsoever, as was and has remained the case for most September Blue Jay affairs. To be fair the Jays had in fact done pretty well in 1998, finishing with 88 wins, which still stands as the franchise high water mark during the post-World Series years. Of course the Yankees did better, famously, winning an astonishing 114 games, while the Red Sox scraped by with 92; needless to say, heading in the potential for drama was fairly limited. But one of the Jays' top prospects, the gentle giant Harry Leroy “Doc” Halladay, was making his second career start, and nearly 40,000 people showed up to celebrate. Anyway, I’m sure by this point you know where this is going. Felipe Crespo, in his otherwise undistinguished Blue Jays career, made a lousy error in the fifth, and Bobby Higginson hit a two-out home run in the ninth. And that was it. Maybe the mantle wasn’t quite literally passed from Dave Stieb (who was actually in the Jays bullpen at the time, part of an inexplicable, failed comeback at age 40) to Halladay, but it sure seemed like a good start.

Of course the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry. Halladay made it through the 1999 season intact, splitting time between the bullpen and the rotation, and with a nifty 3.92 ERA to boot. It was, however, illusory – Doc walked about as many as he struck out, which is to say way too many and way too few. His 2000 season was much the same, except this time his luck didn’t hold. His ERA hit two digits in almost 70 innings, one of the worst pitcher seasons of all time, and he spent the latter half of 2000 and the beginning of 2001 in the minors, working with roving pitching instructor Mel Queen. At 23 he could have been done, over before he even began.

If that had happened though we probably wouldn’t be here today talking about Halladay’s career. Queen broke down and rebuilt Halladay’s, well, pretty much everything. Fortunately it worked: by September of 2001, when he struck out 38 and walked 5 in 38.2 innings, Halladay was Doc. He led the majors in innings in both 2002 and 2003, winning a combined 41 games and his first Cy Young award. Halladay was more than just good though - he was ruthless, and unrelenting, and always trying to get better. Tom Henke may have been the Terminator, but Doc was the unstoppable killing machine. 

In his two starts in 1998, including the one-hitter, Halladay recorded 12 groundballs vs. 26 fly balls. By the time he returned in 2002 he’d flipped those numbers, getting nearly 60% of his outs in play on the ground, a massive number. In 2003 he struck out more than six times as many as he walked (one of four times he’d do that in his career), and went less than 6 innings just three times in 36 starts. He pitched four straight complete games down the stretch, allowing 18 hits, 4 walks and 1 earned run over the course of 37 innings. Of course it wasn’t enough to get the Jays in the playoffs, and never would be over the duration of his Blue Jays career, though it was never his fault. The team just wasn’t good enough.

For a city that has a remarkable tendency to turn on its superstars once they decide to leave, fed up with the mediocrity that has afflicted Hogtown’s teams for the better part of my lifetime (see Carter, Vince), Doc got the warmest response possible from Toronto fans during his first and only visit to the Skydome wearing visitor’s colours. It wasn't his fault that he left, and we all knew it. Baseball is a team game, but less so than in any other sport can one man, no matter how much of a giant, have a singular impact upon each and every game. So to was it with Doc, who would struggle, like Sisyphus, never able to get that boulder to the top of the hill. So it didn't matter he was somewhere else, we just wanted the best for him. It didn’t hurt, as it might have, that he was brilliant after he was gone, throwing a perfect game and winning his second Cy Young, and narrowly missing a third. We we’re just happy for him.  And he got closer in Philadelphia than he ever did in Toronto, reaching the postseason twice and the NLCS once. He was inconsistent in the playoffs, throwing a no-hitter but getting knocked around in the NLCS. In his last playoff start he allowed one run in eight innings, and lost, to the Cardinals. Short, once again, through no fault of his own.

Last year was a rough one for Doc. Despite having adjusted his style of pitching constantly during his career, in pursuit of maximum efficiency coupled with minimal effort, Doc, health failing, just couldn’t pull it together this time.  And so he decided to retire, to go out, if not on top, then at least on his own terms. That he’ll do so as a member of the Blue Jays, signing a one day contract, speaks to the bond, and love, between Doc and this city and this team. I had always imagined, perhaps like other fans, that Doc would retire as a Blue Jay. I just thought it would be in 2022, when he would finally realize six o'clock in the morning is for fishing, not running stairs. But while Doc possessed the mound with a fervor and intensity near unmatched in modern baseball history, one never got the sense he was consumed with it, so perhaps this is for the best, for him and for the game.

Upon retirement questions immediately turned to Doc’s Hall of Fame chances, because that is the world we live in. I don’t know if Halladay is a Hall of Famer or not. I don’t even really know what a Hall of Famer is anymore, to be honest. Despite his Herculean efforts on the mound his accumulated stats fall short of most of the pitchers in Cooperstown. Only 200 games won. Less than 3000 innings. Perhaps if he hadn’t lost part of a year to shoulder problems, or had won a third Cy Young, rather than have his leg shattered by a Kevin Mench line drive, it would be an easier decision

But if not him, then who? After the Atlanta Trio, Roger Clemens*, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Mike Mussina (presumably) make it, who are the Hall of Famers of our generation?  Andy Pettite? CC Sabathia? Johan Santana? Tim Hudson, Mark Buehrle, or Cliff Lee? They’re the only ones close to Halladay, in terms of career WAR. Sabathia, coming off the worst season of his career, and at his best rarely Halladay’s equal, is the only pitcher amongst the active top ten with a chance to catch him (bWAR). Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Matt Cain and Clayton Kershaw could surpass him, sure, but are four, five, six years away from doing so, at least, and as we’ve seen, when the end comes it can come fast.

In the end I’m not sure that I care. I doubt Doc would, frankly, as he rarely seemed concerned with individual accolades during his extraordinary career. To me the takeaway, whether it’s in Philadelphia or Toronto, are those few indelible moments. After your 300th live baseball game, or 1300th on tv, or what have you, the games can start to run together a little bit. You understand how guys can talk about how that Boog Powell single won the 1966 World Series for the Orioles when actually it was Luis Aparicio, or whatever. Memory can be a funny thing. But for Doc, some games are just burned into your brain. The Tigers one hitter. The Reds no-hitter. The Perfect Game. The 10 inning shut out against Detroit, or that other 10 inning complete game against the Tigers*. I could go on, but you get the picture.

*Poor Detroit, they put up a 72 tOPS against him, career. Halladay walked 10 out of the 459 Tigers he faced. The Pirates were 33/182, and had 5 extra base hits. Unreal.

My grandfather never got to see Roy Halladay pitch, passing away a year before Halladay would make his big league debut. At the risk of sounding clichéd, I’m pretty sure he would have liked watching Doc on the mound. Big, durable, taciturn, Doc was a throwback in just about every way. Indelible. We’re just fortunate that, due to some accident of fate, he was born forty years too late, and that we got to watch him take the mound every five days. Even if, after sixteen years, it still all seems too short.   

Doc Hangs 'Em Up | 27 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Gerry - Monday, December 09 2013 @ 05:37 PM EST (#281434) #
Thanks Anders. Doc was one of those pitchers, like Pedro, that you just feel good about having seen pitch. Some pitchers just come after you with power, like Clemens. Some get you out with guile. But guys like Pedro and Doc had such movement on their pitches that when they were on they just played with the opposition.

I don't get worked up about the hall of fame, but Doc is in my personal hall of fame.
#2JBrumfield - Monday, December 09 2013 @ 06:04 PM EST (#281438) #
Anders, I thought you were dead. Welcome back, I guess?

My favourite memories of Doc...

Winning his 22nd game of 2003 with his batterymate Kevin Cash hitting a homer against Cleveland.

Coming so close to a no-hitter against the Tigers before Kevin Witt broke it up.

Winning his final home start in 2009 against Doug Fister & Seattle in the powder blue.

Throwing a perfect game against the Marlins. Of course, we had one idiot come on here that night and complain his photo was still on our banner but I digress...

His triumphant return to Toronto in a Phillies uniform despite a Jose Bautista homer.

I hope he goes to Cooperstown and the fact he retired as a Jay today only ups my high opinion of him already. Thanks for the memories, Doc!
John Northey - Monday, December 09 2013 @ 06:58 PM EST (#281439) #
I remember watching that game on TV. The Jays were switching out regulars at the end of each inning so the fans could say 'so long'.  A shame in some ways as I doubt a real second baseman would've booted that ball, leading to a perfect game, although it sure was appropriate for Dave Stieb to catch the only hit allowed, with 2 out in the 9th, while out in the bullpen.  I suspect the plan was to have Stieb finish the game if Halladay had trouble but outside of that home run he didn't. 

As to Stieb, I'd say it wasn't so much a failed comeback as one that just wasn't given a full chance.  He was doing well in AAA (2.78 ERA between A+/AAA) and wasn't bad in the majors (96 ERA+) but wasn't given a regular slot (rotation had Clemens, Williams, Hentgen, Carpenter, Guzman, Escobar in it at various times) so never found his grove in the majors.  The Jays didn't really want to have him up it seemed as he decided to do the comeback after throwing batting practice in the spring.  Wonder if we'll see the same thing for Doc in a few years?  It would be cool.  I know I was happy to get to see Stieb's last start in Toronto in person.
Mylegacy - Monday, December 09 2013 @ 07:44 PM EST (#281442) #
Sieb first, Doc second.

Stieb was so screwed by playing on a truly pathetic Jays team through so many of his formative years.
cybercavalier - Monday, December 09 2013 @ 09:34 PM EST (#281445) #
Two things, can the Jays pick when to sign Doc to 1-day contract ? Say, the Jays made the postseason in 2014, Doc then appears for an inning or be a ROOGY ? Secondly, do you think the Jays wasted Doc's time with the Jays in terms of getting into the postseason ? (If asking the second question is rude when Doc announced retirement, please let me know.) In the lights of JoeyBats, EE and Lind, I think the Jays shall sort as many ways as possible to maximize the chances to get into the postseason and sustain the organization development in farm system for providing economical talents.
cybercavalier - Monday, December 09 2013 @ 09:38 PM EST (#281446) #
For Doc's career, you guys have said pretty much information.... so I am okay.
Oceanbound - Tuesday, December 10 2013 @ 03:39 AM EST (#281456) #
cybercavalier, he signed the 1 day contract on Monday. Besides, that situation you describe could never happen because teams have to submit their postseason rosters in advance.
rpriske - Tuesday, December 10 2013 @ 08:27 AM EST (#281457) #

With all due respect to Stieb, Robbie, whomever...


Roy Halladay was the greatest Blue Jay ever.


I may be biased as is also my favourite player ever, but c'est la vie.

whiterasta80 - Tuesday, December 10 2013 @ 08:52 AM EST (#281460) #
Delgado deserves to be on the list of greatest Jays too. Great captain for the Jays in his time here and every bit as wasted by the Jays as Halladay. Franchise's all time leader in HRs, doubles, RBI, slugging, second in OBP to Olerud, and the rightful 2000 AL MVP. He was treated a little like Vernon Wells when he was moved- despite earning the money on his contract.
christaylor - Tuesday, December 10 2013 @ 11:26 AM EST (#281466) #
I completely agree but it's a minor point but he was allowed just to walk, not moved. It was a decision that was at what I consider the low point of the JP regime -- he convinced his corporate masters that he could put together a team on a budget. He couldn't. A play who should have been a Jay for life was treated badly on his way out of town.

His OPS+ for the remainder of his career was 130 -- sad that he couldn't throw those number up for Jays.
Parker - Tuesday, December 10 2013 @ 12:40 PM EST (#281470) #
To my eternal shame, I never saw him pitch in person. I grew up watching Steib, Alomar, and Delgado, and not one of them was the ability, professionalism, and focus personified that was Harry Leroy Halladay III.

Doc was the greatest Blue Jay ever.
Parker - Tuesday, December 10 2013 @ 12:42 PM EST (#281471) #
Stieb. No disrespect meant to the second-greatest Blue Jay pitcher.
Anders - Tuesday, December 10 2013 @ 12:46 PM EST (#281472) #
I realize I didn't really get in to this, but I think you have to go with Stieb as the Jays' greatest pitcher still. At their best they were pretty comparable, and while I think Halladay's overall performance is probably a touch better than Steib's, Stieb's tenure with the team was much longer. I think it's reasonably close though.

I would take Doc over Steib overall however, as Doc put up two additional Cy Young calibre years while no longer a Jay, while Stieb had one forgettably brief year with the White Sox.

Chuck - Tuesday, December 10 2013 @ 01:28 PM EST (#281474) #
In support of Anders' position, BBRef's WAR has Halladay at 66 overall (49 Toronto, 17 Philadelphia) while Stieb is at 57 overall (all with Toronto).

So WAR argues that Stieb achieved more than Halladay as a Blue Jay, but that Halladay achieved more overall.

Of course, Halladay pitched more recently than Stieb and many in these parts are young enough to not have caught Stieb in his prime, so there's plenty of room for those biases to enter the calculus. And personalities, too, I guess. Halladay, while intense and private, seems to be a very nice fellow. Stieb, on the other hand, was very prickly and hard to warm up to.

Mike Green - Tuesday, December 10 2013 @ 02:21 PM EST (#281476) #
For those who missed Stieb, go to BBRef and check out the 1982 Cy Young award voting.  Stieb finished 4th, but a quick perusal of the statistics will persuade just about anybody that he was the best pitcher in the league that year.  It is probably hard to fathom that he completed exactly one-half of his starts that year. Going 17-14 with a bad team isn't that impressive, I guess...

For what it's worth, he led all pitchers in WAR in 1982, 1983 and 1984. 

whiterasta80 - Tuesday, December 10 2013 @ 02:49 PM EST (#281477) #
Stieb was ridden into the ground by some pretty lousy (sometimes mediocre) blue jays teams in the early 80s. The man threw 19... 19 complete games for a 78-84 ball club in 1982! Nineteen! In today's "protect my young arm" environment it is entirely possible (I might even say probable) that Stieb would have remained useful beyond age 32.
Eephus - Tuesday, December 10 2013 @ 02:51 PM EST (#281478) #
When Doc was ON, there was nothing like it. No two pitches moved the same, were ever in the same spot, and no corner of the plate was safe. Batters were better off just watching three strikes go by because it would've driven his pitch count higher. And he made ruthless efficiency look so easy. On the mound he was less a man than a killer pitching machine, programmed to neutralize any bats daring to swing at his pitches.

It's unfortunate his career ended the way it did, but that he chose to end it on his terms (and as a Blue Jay) just shows the great dignity and class with which he carried himself with throughout his spectacular career.

Hats off to you, Doc.
Mylegacy - Tuesday, December 10 2013 @ 02:52 PM EST (#281479) #
I don't know if there is any Youtube type videos of Stieb pitching - but I watched both these guys for their careers and - IM(H)O - Sieb's "stuff" was clearly better than Doc's.

DISCLAIMER - I LOVE 'EM BOTH! No disrespect intended to Doc.

John Northey - Tuesday, December 10 2013 @ 03:04 PM EST (#281480) #
To see a few Stieb videos, including the end of his near perfect game, go to
Sister - Tuesday, December 10 2013 @ 03:34 PM EST (#281484) #
I'm with MyLegacy. Having watched both pitchers throughout their careers, Steib was the slightly better pitcher.

The movement on Stieb's stuff was simply amazing to behold. Being a RH batter against him was terror. He didn't have the control that Doc had, but he sure was fun to watch. Firey and determined, constantly adjusting the jock, compared with a more placid and controlled Doc.

Love them both.

christaylor - Tuesday, December 10 2013 @ 03:42 PM EST (#281485) #
Nostalgia is great and I loved Steib as kid and I was an older and more slightly more discriminating baseball fan when watching Doc but from old video: Doc's velocity, control, and command were routinely better than what Steib shows at his best. Steib was unfairly labelled a thrower in his career, but Doc makes him look like a thrower and not a pitcher. No shame in that...

Doc also faced much tougher competition, even if only based on the build and athleticism of the competition (is it just me or do those 80s players look like stick-men?).

Richard S.S. - Tuesday, December 10 2013 @ 07:31 PM EST (#281497) #
Five year from now Roy Halladay appears on the Hall of Fame Ballot. In the next 15 years after, 20 years from now, a whole new generation of Baseball Writers will have gotten the vote.

I think he could go in First round. But I know he will be in over the next 14 years.
Dave Till - Tuesday, December 10 2013 @ 09:18 PM EST (#281498) #
I remember Stieb very well. I'd rank Doc just slightly ahead of Stieb - a grade of 99% over 98%, say - because Doc was able to focus better on the mound. Both men were intense, but Stieb could come unglued if things went bad for him. (He led the league in rosin bags slammed angrily to the ground.) If they were to pitch against one another when both were in their prime, I'd take Doc. And I'd feel sorry for the hitters on either team.

Both men had insanely great stuff when they were on their game. Doc threw everything down, and he could seemingly bend the ball in either direction. His best outings were 97-pitch complete game wonders featuring about 11 ground balls to second that were hit so softly that even I could probably have fielded them. Stieb had that wondrous slider and an effortless delivery. I'd love to be able to go back in time and watch either one of them as Blue Jays again.

greenfrog - Tuesday, December 10 2013 @ 10:27 PM EST (#281501) #
Different eras, different pitchers. However, I would rate Halladay slightly above Stieb as well. More consistent, longer period of dominance. For what it's worth, Doc's career ERA+ of 131 is quite a bit higher than Stieb's (122).
Anders - Wednesday, December 11 2013 @ 10:19 AM EST (#281511) #
I think Doc will be an interesting test case for the Hall (if anyone really cares anymore). Glavine, Maddux, Clemens*, Johnson, Martinez  are all, strictly on on field performance, Hall of Famers, and Schilling, Mussina and maybe Smoltz are probably pretty close. No one who debuted between 1995-2004 (Pettitte, Hudson, Oswalt, Santana, Sabathia, Lee, etc.) I would say has a better case than Doc, and even of the guys since then I would say that only Verlander, Felix, and Kershaw look like they have a greater than than say 1/3 odds of making it (counting guys with at least 4-5 years).

I don't know that any of that does or should matter, but the standards for pitcher longevity are changing pretty rapidly, and Doc is basically going to be the first guy to test that. I think he may get in on peak value, but it's going to be tough, especially if there is a huge glut of guys on the ballot that don't get cleared.

Mike Green - Wednesday, December 11 2013 @ 01:56 PM EST (#281521) #
Anders, this is just a tangential point but...every starting pitcher who added as much or more value to his club over his career than Mussina or Schilling is in the Hall of Fame or is on the ballot or is not yet eligible (Pedro).  And in the case of Schilling, that doesn't count post-season work (Schilling might be among the top 2 or 3 starting pitchers in the post-season).  There are many, many starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame who are not remotely close to them. 

It is difficult for voters because the best starting pitchers of the time were so great, but Mussina and Schilling ought to be  judged according to standards applicable to all players. A comparable position player to Schilling would be Charlie Gehringer.  A good player in his 20s, and a great one in his 30s.  And an easy Hall of Famer.
bpoz - Friday, December 20 2013 @ 12:35 PM EST (#281720) #
I believe very strongly that Halladay will make a comeback. How and when and for whom, I do not know. But I wonder.

My opinion is:-

1) He is a FA now.
2) He made his 2nd last start. Sept 24th. It was bad. Low velocity, not much control.
3) The reports on his injury recovery are that he needs rest. The LAD doctor who performed his surgery said he needs rest. This seems to be the story, maybe it is.
4) We all believe that he is a hard worker and it seems he rushed his return from the surgery to fulfill his contract.

If he really wants more chances to play in the playoffs and get a WS ring then he will work hard to come back.

He can judge for himself how good he is at various points of the 2014 season. He can then shop himself to the teams that are still contending.
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