We Are All Mortal
In the hysteria of Roy Halladay‘s regular season perfect game against the then-Florida Marlins and post-season no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds, it was easy to view the right-hander as atypical, superhuman even. The consistency of nine consecutive years at the pinnacle of Major League pitching, the clean mechanics, the businesslike attitude and yeoman work ethic, what flaws did he actually have?
Greg Maddux pitched well into his forties, and considering the run environment of his time, “well” also describes his performance. Randy Johnson was able to keep his ERA below 4.00 a couple times as he pitched into his mid-40′s. John Smoltz did it, David Wells did it. Heck, even Jamie Moyer did it. Why couldn’t Halladay?
The sudden decline of Halladay is a stark reminder of our fleeting mortality, and I don’t mean that in some pseudo-intellectual way. “My god, we are all going to die some day!” No, a reminder that no matter how good a player may seem, his decline is inevitable. Mike Schmidt, the greatest third baseman in baseball history, announced his retirement on May 30, 1989, a sobbing mess in front of a throng of reporters in the Phillies clubhouse. He had posted a .117/.247/.167 slash line in the month of May. Steve Carlton, one of the best left-handed pitchers in baseball history and owner of four Cy Young awards, petered out of baseball with a 5.72 ERA in his final three seasons.
Today, Halladay allowed nine runs in 2.1 innings to the Marlins, who entered the game with baseball’s worst offense, averaging 2.71 runs per game. For perspective, the next-worst offenses (the Nationals and Blue Jays) averaged 3.45 runs per game. Only a portion of the offensive explosion can be credited to the Marlins hitters themselves, as Halladay walked four and hit two batters, something he had never done even once in his career until today. The nine runs in 2.1 innings marks Halladay’s worst start since April 29, 1999 when he allowed 11 runs in 2.1 innings to the Anaheim Angels. His ERA now sits at 8.65.
This is one start after Halladay surrendered eight runs in 3.2 innings to the Cleveland Indians, and it is his fourth terrible start in seven expeditions to the rubber this season. And one of many terrible starts if you extend back to last season.
So soon after the game, nothing has been announced yet. Many speculate a trip to the DL for Halladay is inevitable. [UPDATE: DL it is.] Some have already filed an obituary to the editor. Still others — like Mitch Williams — suggest Halladay’s issues are fixable. Halladay himself has said all along his issues are mental, not physical. We still don’t know how this story ends, but we do know we’re running out of pages and we’re curling the back cover.