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Roy Halladay is scheduled to make his final start of the season on Saturday against Miami. But is that the right move for him to make?
Roy Halladay threw a bullpen session this afternoon, and it went very well. Or so says Rich Dubee...so how it actually went could remain to be seen. Much ado has been made about Halladay's physical condition after his latest start, where he gave up seven runs to the Atlanta Braves and failed to escape the second inning. Doc reported experiencing "spasms" in his shoulder, and an MRI showed "changes" in the state of his shoulder. But apparently those were not an issue on Wednesday, as the bullpen went well enough that the Phillies have given Roy Halladay the green light to make one more start in 2012. They feel he's earned it.
From Matt Gelb's recent article: "'This is the top of accountability,' Dubee said. 'He isn't happy with his season. He came here to win, and he feels like he didn't hold up his end of the bargain.'" Charlie Manuel also spoke on the decision to let Halladay start: "If this isn't going to hinder him from pitching next year," Manuel said, "I don't see no reason why he shouldn't."
The team firmly believes that "no structural damage" can be accrued from another start, and that the "spasms" Halladay was experiencing were something he'd already battled a few times this season.
Wait...really? So this has been going on long before his last start and they still let him pitch anyway? And they're going to let him go again!? Have the Phillies just about lost their damn minds? Has Roy lost his mind?
Consider the possible outcomes of his Saturday start, and what they would mean for Roy Halladay and the team.
He's fantastic: Obviously this is what we want to see, if for no other reason than to abate our fears about Roy Halladay's condition. But should it? Pitchers can make it through some pretty remarkable pain and still be very good, but the issue doesn't just disappear because Halladay threw a gem. I worry, perhaps unnecessarily, that a brilliant start from Halladay--combined with his positive reports from today's bullpen session--might turn everyone (including the coaching staff and medical personnel) off to the idea that something's not right, which it almost certainly is not.
He sucks: Well, great! Halladay's lost it! Back-to-back starts where he's had the piss beaten out of him? He's cooked! Even after recovering he's still not right! He'll never be right again! Abandon ship! Women and children last!
That's what we deal with in the offseason...
He gets hurt: Obviously, this is the worst-case scenario, and frankly, I'm not so sure it's the least likely of the three. I don't buy what Dubee says for a second. My purely unprofessional opinion is that with the "changes" in Halladay's shoulder, I fear that anymore stress on Doc's shoulder might be the straw that breaks the camel's back. And why would anybody want to risk that?
Look, I'm a huge fan of the good Doctor. When I heard the Phillies were trading for him back in December of 2009, I went ballistic. I couldn't even study for my macrobiology final, I was that excited. When I heard that he agreed to a team-friendly extension that would potentially keep him in Philadelphia through 2015, I was ecstatic. Everybody knew who Roy Halladay was. The 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner. A 148-game winner in Toronto. A sinkerballer extraordinaire with exceptional command. A guy who finished more games as a starting pitcher from 2003 to 2009 than anyone in the game. The numbers laid it out for us. Roy Halladay was probably the most consistently good (and I mean good) right-handed pitcher in all of baseball.
Yet there were things about Halladay that we only knew from word of mouth, from the talking heads on television or the occasional Blue Jays fan that we happen to know. We heard about how he would only focus on the game he was pitching, not talking to teammates or staff until his start was completed. We heard about his incredible work ethic during the offseason. We heard about the lofty goals he sets for himself. And we heard about his unending drive to reach those goals.
We get it now.
Roy Halladay has proven to us that everything everyone said about him was true. And most of the time, we adore him for it. This guy embodies everything that has come to be accepted as the qualities of a Philly guy. He works harder than anyone. He's a team player. The clubhouse loves him. He's not in it for the money. He just wants the ball every five days. And he's going to get the ball every five days if he has to bust some heads to get it.
And that's a bad thing; for him, for the team, for us as fans.
Roy Halladay is 35 years old. He'll be 36 midway through next May. Even for a pitcher, that's pretty old. He can still have a couple of great seasons left in him as long as he takes care of himself properly, but the possibility of him succumbing to injury at his age and with the mileage he has on that arm is growing all the time. We already saw the beginnings of that earlier this season, when he went down because of shoulder injuries. Roy is getting to the point in his career where he needs to know when to listen to his body when it tells him, "Hey, I can't pitch as many innings or throw as hard as often as I used to. You should probably take it easy." But by insisting that he make another start in an almost certainly lost 2012 season, he's doing the exact opposite.
As for "not holding up his end of the bargain?" Well, the numbers tell a different story. The Phillies are on the hook for about $70 million dollars to cover Halladay's contract, vesting options not included. Fangraphs has Roy Halladay accumulating 17.1 fWAR during his Philadelphia tenure. That's about $72 million dollars worth of value in those 2 2/3 seasons alone. Roy Halladay has already exceeded in contract with a year still remaining on it. That's absolutely insane, a true testament to just how incredible Roy Halladay has been in a Philadelphia Phillies uniform. The guy deserves a freakin' break, if anything.
When it comes down to it, the Phillies really try to manage Halladay as little as possible. Doc's had a reputation as a guy who comes to play, and prefers that as few people get involved with his routine as possible. That's how it was in Toronto, and that's how it is in Philadelphia, too. As Gelb said in his article, "The team has often deferred to the ultra-competitive pitcher." This is one time where they absolutely cannot do that.