This article, as part of our Hall of Fame series, features arguments from both Adam Lawler and Ryan Fickes.
THE CASE FOR HALLADAY
Roy, oh Roy. What a Career.
When we started talking about Hall of Fame voting at Pitcher List, my argument for Halladay was simple: “If you didn’t vote for him, you are wrong and bad, and you should feel bad about that.”
It’s hard to put into words an affinity you have for certain players. Growing up, I loved Texas Rangers OF Juan Gonzalez. Between 1992 and 1998, I collected every baseball card, poster, and starting lineup figurine made. Then, in ’98, at the tender age of 11, I went to a game at Comiskey Park (II). I forced my father to get “the good seats”. I wanted to see him up close. Really, what I wanted was an autograph. So again, I forced my father to get there extra early in order to watch batting practice and hopefully procure a signature from JuanGone.
Gonzalez was a big deal at that point. He was right in the middle of an MVP season where he hit 50 HR and knocked in 147 RBI. Still, I figured my odds were good. I drew my best puppy dog eyes, stared longingly as the security guard with my ball in hand, and my face burning with excitement a beat as he walked over to me.
“Who do you want to sign the ball?” the guard asks.
“Juan Gonzalez.” I say meekly.
“No way. He ain’t signing nothing. Good luck with that kid.”
I was heartbroken and mad. Despite my favorite player absolutely murdering a ball to deep left field in the 4th inning off of some pitcher I can’t recall, I was still shaken to my core. It was at that point, I thought I might be done with baseball. I stopped my big league aspirations as a homerun hitter and really played rec league halfheartedly from there on. Juan Gonzalez, meanwhile, went on to have two more above average seasons and faded out.
Things changed when I graduated from high school. Playing the sport became less important and enjoying the sport became more interesting to me. Fantasy baseball reigned supreme thanks to an avid St. Louis Cardinals roommate who had an encyclopedic knowledge of the game. I still remember to this day feeling like Scottie Smalls to his Ham Porter; he standing in disbelief that I didn’t know some guy named Albert Pujols.
As fantasy baseball took precedent in 2003, I drafted a pitcher named Roy who, in 2002 pitched over 220 innings and was a 19 game winner. Did I think it was Roy Oswalt? What does that matter to you? Leave me alone. The point is, that was the genesis of which Halladay will always be remembered. Over a league-leading 36 games started, Halladay led the league in innings pitched (266), complete games (9), complete game shutouts (2), and a 6.38 K/BB. He would go on to win the Cy Young that year. All for a team that finished in 3rd place. I was smitten.
2004 was marred with injury and dead arm, which is fine. It happens to all pitchers. Then, in 2005, Kevin Mench happened. Going into July, Halladay was having another fantastic year, when this middle of the road outfielder on a middle of the road Texas Rangers team, broke Halladay’s leg on a line drive and unceremoniously ended what was likely another run at a Cy Young finish. Even then, he finished with a league leading 5 complete games and 2 complete game shutouts. One more time for those in the back, he pitched half a season and led the league with complete games.
After that, his career took off in earnest and most know the story, but let’s put it into a chart for fun.
Roy Halladay 2006 – 2011
|Average Innings Pitched/Season||236|
|Complete Game Shutouts||12|
Let’s put this into some context for everyone, Halladay pitched 46 complete games in that span and 67 over the course of his career. The next closest, active players near Halladay? Bartolo Colon and CC Sabathia at 38. Halladay pitched 20 complete game shutouts over the course of his career. The next closest, active pitcher? Clayton Kershaw (15), Colon (13), and Sabathia (12). The precision of Halladay – who by all accounts was not a strikeout pitcher, in a time when strikeouts weren’t as prevalent – still has a top 25 all-time K/BB ratio. The only active pitchers to allow fewer home runs per 9 than Halladay are Kershaw, Adam Wainwright, and Charlie Morton.
Why did I spend all that time talking about Juan Gonzalez in an article dedicated to Roy Halladay? I think my point is that, when you’re a child, flashy numbers and sparks catch your attention. Still, it’s an empty sugar rush that winds up leaving you disappointed. When you’re an adult, you start to realize that consistency, perseverance, and a dedication to perfecting your craft matter at the end of the day. It separates the all-star from the hall of famer.
– Adam Lawler
THE CASE AGAINST HALLADAY
Roy Halladay should not be elected to the Hall of Fame and that belief has far more to do with the Hall of Fame than with Halladay himself. Halladay has many of the qualifications that would indicate that he’s a shoo-in for the Hall. To briefly recap:
- 2 Cy Young Awards (in 2003 and 2010) with 5 more Top 5 finishes.
- 64.3 bWAR and 65.2 fWAR across 16 seasons, with a 57.5 JAWS.
- 131 ERA+, 3.38 ERA, 3.39 FIP, 1.178 WHIP
- 203 – 105 record for a .659 winning percentage (let’s just ignore the trouble with pitcher wins for now).
- A perfect game and a postseason no-hitter in 2010.
I think that the Hall of Fame has a significant problem in how it is constructed. It has been more than two decades since I visited, but I still remember coming away thinking that the Hall was for some baseball fans more than it was for others. Ironically, in shifting the focus away from teams and onto players, which should make it more inclusive for fans of less successful teams, the Hall highlights one of the most significant issues with professional baseball as it is and has been constructed: the massive inequality between teams in their ability to acquire and retain great talent.
240 players in the Hall are associated with a team that can trace its lineage to a current MLB franchise (note that the Orioles, Nationals, Rangers, and Twins do not associate with their previous cities as strongly as teams like the Braves, Dodgers, Giants, and Athletics do, so their numbers are only calculated for their current cities). The Yankees and Giants are the most represented, each having over 10% of this player pool. The White Sox, Indians, Tigers, Athletics, Braves, Cubs, Pirates, Cardinals, and Dodgers all have between 5% and 10%. This is also a list of some of the oldest franchises in the league, so that is to be expected. However, when looking at the number of years a franchise has existed divided by the number of players in the Hall, the inequities become more pronounced. The Yankees and Giants blow every other franchise away with 4.7 and 5.4 Years / Player, respectively, compared to the average of 10.3 across the league. Meanwhile, teams with relatively long histories like the Orioles (12.8), Blue Jays (20.5), Royals (49.0), Astros (28.0), Mariners (20.5), Rangers (46.0), Mets (28.0), Brewers (24.5) and Padres (24.5) lag far behind. The Yankees and Giants have a combined 50 players wearing their hats in the Hall, more than 18 other teams combined.
What this can lead to is fans of the least represented teams feeling as though the Hall of Fame was built for the fans of the Yankees, Giants, and other long-existing and typically successful teams. These are also the teams that were in the largest markets (even in the pre-expansion era) and were able to acquire and keep the best talent for most of those players’ careers.
That’s all well and interesting, but what exactly does this have to do with Roy Halladay?
Halladay’s career boils down to being very good with flashes of brilliance and tremendous stamina for a modern pitcher. He led the league in innings four times once he became an MLB regular in 2002 (his 5th season) and threw more than 220 innings eight times over his ten-year peak. His control was excellent, more than making up for his relatively limited strikeout rates and he kept the ball in the yard during an inflated home run era. Absolutely nothing should diminish what Halladay did accomplish. Yet, none of the numbers that Halladay compiled during his career leap off the page to me as era-defining for his regular years of 2002 – 2012 and for a pitcher who was more of a compiler than an eye-popper, ten years as a regular is somewhat on the short side. He is firmly in the grey area of the question, “Is this player a Hall of Famer or not?”
When I personally think of a Hall of Famer, I think of an all-time great. I think of a player whose name leaps into my imagination when a decade is mentioned. Hall of Fame players compete both against their contemporaries and against history. When someone reminds me of Halladay, I think, “Yeah, he was really good,” but I also sometimes forget about him, too.
However, this is not to say that Halladay shouldn’t be mentioned in the Hall of Fame at all. In moving to a more selective model for player enshrinement, I also think the Hall should create a room for each current franchise – similar to each team’s individual Hall of Fame – that highlights the franchise’s history and the players that live on in the hearts of that team’s fans, regardless of their impact on the league in general. A Rockies fan may never see Larry Walker, Vinny Castilla, or Andrés Galarraga wearing the team’s hat on a bronze plaque, but in a more team-focused Hall of Fame, could still feel as those players who were so important to early Rockie history are appreciated by MLB. This is where the grey area players fit into my vision of the Hall of Fame and it would also help alleviate issues relating to a player entering the Hall with one team’s hat, despite having significant contributions to another team during his career.
Halladay was a very good pitcher and by all accounts a fantastic person, but I don’t believe he should be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
– Ryan Fickes
Graphics by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)