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Roy Halladay: The End

Roy Halladay threw 16 pitches tonight against the Marlins, 11 of them for balls and never once exceeding 83 MPH. He walked two Marlins and recorded just one out, prompting pitching coach Rich Dubee to make an early trip to the mound to check on the veteran right-hander. Following a brief conversation, Halladay was removed from the game and Luis Garcia entered.

The game, which is still being played as of this writing, became an afterthought. Halladay was scheduled to make one more start after tonight to wrap up the season, but that won’t be happening. He is eligible for free agency after the season. Considering how he has pitched since returning from shoulder surgery, the Phillies’ interest in bringing him back on an incentive-laden contract has dissipated.

Roy Halladay’s career as a Phillie — and perhaps his career overall — is over.

GM Ruben Amaro long had his eye on Halladay after taking over for Pat Gillick. He tried to negotiate a trade with the Blue Jays in the summer of 2009, but refused to give up Domonic Brown to make a deal happen. Instead, Amaro sent four of the organization’s then-top prospects to the Indians for Cliff Lee. In the off-season, Amaro traded Lee to the Seattle Mariners for prospects, then used the payroll space to sign Halladay. Halladay could have refused to negotiate a contract, knowing full well he would be able to get a big contract as a free agent once his three-year, $40 million extension signed with the Blue Jays ended. But he left money on that proverbial table to sign an extension to stay in Philadelphia through at least 2013.

At the time, the Phillies were coming off of back-to-back World Series appearances. The organization had an influx of money. Lady Luck seemed to be on their side. Halladay thought the Phillies gave him his best shot to win a championship before his career ended. And who could blame him?

The start of his Phillies career couldn’t have started any better. He authored a perfect game against the Marlins on May 29 and finished the regular season with a 2.44 ERA. He led the league with 21 wins, nine complete games, four shutouts, 250.2 innings pitched, a 1.1 BB/9 rate, and a 7.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He unanimously won the NL Cy Young award. In the post-season, he no-hit the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS as the Phillies easily won three in a row to advance to the NLCS. Unfortunately, the Giants stopped the Phillies dead in their tracks, winning the NLCS in six games and would ultimately win the World Series.

During the off-season, the Phillies brought back Lee, this time as a free agent. Lee signed a five-year, $120 million deal. The Phillies also kept Roy Oswalt around, having acquired him at the deadline during the 2010 season. With Cole Hamels, Lee, Oswalt, and Halladay, the Phillies had by far the most fearsome starting rotation in baseball and were well-suited to march back into the World Series. If the regular season was any indication, they should have. The Phillies went 102-60, winning the NL East by a comfortable 13 games. Halladay continued to pitch well, finishing with a 2.35 ERA, but finished second to a deserving Clayton Kershaw for the NL Cy Young award. In the post-season, the Phillies lost a very close Game Five of the NLDS to the St. Louis Cardinals, who would go on to win the World Series.

That Game Five loss was, in many ways, the end of the latest golden era of Phillies baseball. It was the last time we saw a healthy and productive Ryan Howard. Chase Utley seemed to be on the decline. The core of the team was well into their 30’s, and poor decisions made by the front office began to mount.

It was also the last time we saw a healthy and productive Roy Halladay. Excluding tonight’s start, Halladay had made 37 starts for the Phillies since the start of the 2012 season, posting a 5.12 ERA with a walk rate about 50 percent higher than his career average. His fastball averaged below 91 MPH for the first time in his career. After finishing at least fifth in Cy Young voting six years running from 2006-11, he was an afterthought.

Due to his yeoman’s work ethic and his highly-competitive nature, we all assumed that Halladay would eventually bounce back for one more run around the circuit. One more All-Star Game appearance, one more complete game shutout, one more post-season win. It hasn’t happened. And if it happens to occur in the future, it won’t be with the Phillies. The last two years have been as unlikely and unfortunate an ending to Halladay’s tenure in Philadelphia as could have been dreamed up when he first put on the red pinstripes four years ago. He never got his Brett Myers throwing-his-glove-into-the-air-in-jubilation moment, nor his Brad Lidge falling-to-the-ground-in-disbelief moment. In all likelihood, he will retire having never gone to a World Series, let alone won one.

He deserved better. He shouldn’t have to go out like this.