The Fightins'
In Defense of Roy Halladay
Posted by at 1:41 pm ET 41 Comments

When it comes to Roy Halladay’s last couple of weeks, it’s tough to separate emotion from critical thoughts especially for fans of the team. We watched a guy who was, for a long time, one of the best – if not the best – pitchers in the game transform into something not at all very good.

I saw a colleague of mine, one whom I respect and think highly of, tweet about how she wanted a refund for her tickets yesterday and she wanted it from Roy Halladay. Now, obviously, she doesn’t expect Roy to give her $60, but I understand the emotional underpinnings of the joke: Roy Halladay knew he was hurt, knew that something was wrong with his shoulder, and he kept going out there for his last three starts and it took an embarrassingly public shelling for him to admit that something was wrong. I can see how you’d be pissed off if you witnessed that.

But I was at the game yesterday too, and all I could feel about Halladay was a profound sadness. I’d wager that most fans felt one of those two emotions: anger or sadness. I’d double down on that first bet and say that the split is pretty close to 50/50 in the fanbase.

It’s pretty easy to understand why someone would be pissed off about yesterday. It was tough to watch. I had friends that got stuck in traffic on the way to the ballpark and by the time they made it to their seats in the second inning, the Phillies were down nine runs. The game felt over before the first inning but you paid all that money for tickets and parking and food so you’re not gonna turn around and leave. We all just had to sit there and watch, kinda like Frodo did to that girl in Sin City.

But I think if you’re the type to be angry at Roy for trying to tough out an injury, it might be tougher to understand why you shouldn’t blame him for it, why others are disappointed. So let me try to explain it. Bear with me here, this is going to take a bit to get where I’m going with this, but it’ll make sense once I get there.

Just about every ballplayer in the major leagues was the best baseball player – probably the best athlete overall – from their high school or hometown. Think back to when you were sixteen and try to remember that guy from your high school. Remember the Alpha-Jock. Maybe he wasn’t a total dick. He might have been a four-sport varsity athlete and did mission work with a church group over the summers. Doesn’t matter. Put all the social aspects of the person aside (that’s a different column entirely) and try and remember the defining characteristics of that person. They were probably completely focused on being the best at whatever they did.

Keep that person in mind because I have to make a detour here.

Now, try and think back about yourself at sixteen. Sorry, I know this is never a fun thing to do but think back and try and remember the defining characteristics of you when you were 16 years old.  I’ll use myself as an example. I wasn’t very social. I had a couple of good friends and we were all way into Fight Club and Halo. I wanted to be a computer programmer. At sixteen, I lived in a small farm town where everybody knew everybody else and I knew that if I did anything bad it’d get around to my mom somehow, so I never did anything even remotely edgy because I knew the instant I took a sip of a beer, for instance, my mom would find out and kick the snot out of me when I got home.

But then I changed. You changed. It’s a thing that happens to us all in life as we get older. We go out and we experience life. New things happen to us. Good things happen to us. Bad things happen to us. We experience triumph and we experience failure, and all of those experiences shape who we are. 27 year old Ryan has almost nothing in common with 16 year old Ryan. It’s those negative experiences, those failures that allow us to cope with life and roll with the punches. They allow us to adapt and grow and change as we get older.

With that in mind, go back to your Alpha Jock. Those same things probably happened to him. If he was the type that hooked up with all the cheerleaders, maybe he found out that once he got to college he wasn’t the best looking dude out there anymore and suddenly getting girls wasn’t so easy. Maybe he went and blew out his knee on the first day of his full-ride athletic scholarship and had to hit the books for the first time in his life just to stay in school. Or maybe he was a super-devout Christian that goes away to college and discovers girls and drugs or *gasp* Christopher Hitchens. Point is, that guy probably changed, and most importantly chances are that he found out that he was no longer the best at what he did, whatever it was he was doing.

But for every hundred Alpha-Jocks that go away to college only to learn they’re no longer the best athlete around, there’s one that looked around and realized that he was still the best athlete around. The guy goes to college and continues to play sports and continues to dominate everybody around.

For me at Shippensburg University, that guy was football player John Kuhn. Kuhn set 27 school records and six state records. When he left Ship in 2005, almost every stat in his career stat line was a school record: 4,685 rushing yards, 910 carries, 53 TDs, 5,300 all-purpose yards, and the list goes on. He was the only player in the school’s history to rush for 1,000 yards in three straight seasons. He was, unquestionably, the best player in the school’s history and he was a damn good student too.


…and he still didn’t get drafted after graduating.

Even after all of his success in college, the best he could at first was to land a spot on the Steelers’ practice squad. Only because of some freak injuries on the team’s roster in the first half of 2005 did Kuhn make it onto the Steelers active roster. Once he was on the roster, he tore things up and quickly established a name for himself in the NFL. Now, he’s got two Super Bowl rings to his name and a nice, fat contract with the Green Bay Packers.

But I’m not using Kuhn as an example as a success story here. I’m not comparing him to Roy Halladay. Kuhn was the best at what he did for a long time but he wasn’t someone with sky high potential that was obvious to everybody. Nope. If he was, he wouldn’t have gone to a D2 school that most Packers fans have never heard of. He wouldn’t have gone undrafted, and he wouldn’t have had to bust his ass on the Steelers’ practice squad just to earn a shot in the NFL. Hell, he grew up in the same football-crazed county as me at about the same time and I had never even heard his name until I got to Shippensburg. Kuhn is an example of an Alpha-Jock that even while experiencing great success in his life, still had to battle through adversity and defy the odds to make it to the highest levels of professional sports.

Roy Halladay is something else. He’s a freak of nature that stood out for so long that success at the highest levels of his game seemed almost predestined.

Roy Halladay was on major league scouts’ radars by the time he was 13. THIRTEEN. By the time he was in high school, he had already been training with Bus Campell, a Colorado baseball genius that previously coached Brad Lidge and Goose Gossage. Halladay was drafted by the Blue Jays in the first round of the MLB amateur draft in 1995, the same year he graduated from high school. He was the 17th pick overall. Just three years later, Roy made his major league debut. Famously, in just his second start with the Blue Jays, he took a no-hitter into the ninth inning only to lose it by surrendering a two-out home run.

Halladay’s 2000 season is notable for how completely not-good it was: his 10.64 ERA in 19 games (13 starts) was the worst ever for a pitcher with more than 50 innings pitched. The next season, he was demoted to single A to fix his delivery.

While in single-A Dunedin, Roy worked with a pitching coach who helped him understand that he needed more than raw power to regularly get hitters out at the major league level. A 95 MPH fastball, which was more than anybody could handle at every level he had ever played, wasn’t enough in the big leagues if he couldn’t command the pitch. It took him less than half a season to work his way back up to the big leagues, and in 16 starts for the Blue Jays, he posted a 3.19 ERA.

The rest is history, really. Other than the 2000 season, Roy Halladay has always been the best at what he does. He was the best player on the sandlots of his hometown. He was the best player in his high school. He was among the best players in his draft class. (History will almost certainly show that he was the best player in that draft class period.)

It’s been painfully obvious to a lot of us for a while now that something is very, very wrong with Roy Halladay. People were expressing concerns with Roy as early as spring training last year. I specifically remember a conversation about this I had with another writer in the pressbox of Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida after he got lit up by the Tigers in a spring training game.

But it doesn’t matter what anybody else sees or says. For someone to make a profound change in their life, in any aspect of it, that person has to come to understand the problem on their own. This is a fundamental aspect of the human condition. It applies to individuals and couples. It applies to alcoholics in rehab (“the first step is admitting you have a problem…”) and it applies to people in therapy. It’s not always easy for people to come to an understanding like this, and I imagine it’s a thousand times harder for someone like Roy Halladay, who isn’t used to failure and personal disappointment, to come to this understanding.

That’s why I’m not mad at Roy Halladay for trying to pitch through an injury. He’s probably done it a dozen times before and always come out on the other side no worse for wear. Just take a look at his injury history on Baseball Prospectus. He’s only been on the disabled list six times in his professional career, and of those six occasions, once happened when he was hit in the leg by a line drive that broke a bone and another happened when he needed appendix surgery. This is a natural, albeit stubborn reaction athletes have to injuries. Hell, when my knee started bothering me while I trained for a triathlon, all I could hear was my old football coach telling me that I was being a pussy and to suck it up. So I kept on training until the pain worsened to a point where I could hardly walk. And that was me doing something for a hobby. Had my family’s livelihood depended entirely upon me running, I know for a fact that I would have kept on running through the pain.

The body has ways of telling you to stop what you’re doing because something is wrong. But for a professional athlete, especially an elite one like Roy Halladay, pitching is all he knows. And when something is wrong and he can’t pitch like he knows he’s capable, his natural reaction is going to be to try and pitch his way out of it, because that’s what he’s always done, and it’s always worked for him.

Other than a very, very, very brief period in his life between 2000 and 2001, Roy Halladay has never really experienced the kind of profound professional failures we all have.

Roy Halladay has never known anything other than being the best at what he does. It’s that fact that allowed him to pitch a perfect game and a playoff no-hitter in the same season. It’s that fact that makes him a shoo-in to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

But it’s also that fact that makes Roy Halladay completely unable to understand that he’s no longer the best at what he does. He’s not used to anything else. Just like in 2000, Roy Halladay hasn’t yet realized that what he’s been doing – what he’s always done – will no longer work for him.

Roy Halladay is getting older. It happens to us all. And, for the first time in a very long time, Roy Halladay needs to understand and comprehend that he has to make a change in his life if he wants to keep on pitching, especially at a high level. The good news is that since he is such an amazing athlete and probably the hardest worker in all of baseball, I have zero doubt that Roy will be able to find a way to get batters out. Maybe he won’t be an All Star anymore, but he has enough God-given talent that his insane work-ethic will allow him to get back to being an effective and capable major league ballplayer.

But that insane work-ethic is a product of someone that has developed differently than you and I. It’s a product of someone who has developed differently than most of the kids he grew up playing ball with. It’s a product of someone who has developed differently even than some of the players on the team he’s playing for now.

I don’t have the answer for Roy. I wish I did. Someone out there does, that’s for sure. But until Roy Halladay is able to come to the kind of understanding that all of us have grown into being able to make, he’s not going to be in a position to be able to do anything about his struggles. Roy needs to understand that he’s not who he used to be and, more importantly, he needs to understand that it’s okay that he’s different.

That’s why you shouldn’t be mad at Roy Halladay: the same things that made him the athlete you love make him the athlete that you hate right now.


  • JerryRebes


  • DirtDogsMom says”

    Beautifully written.

  • John Kuhn

    Hey Ryan, remember me?!

  • chilly

    with me, its anger in the short term and then it turns to sadness, then gg guys, now wake the fuck up.

    is there someone halladay would listen to? paging jamie moyer?

    i dont know what can be done to wake the offense up. to me its like no one on that staff has a clue. something needs to shake this clubhouse hard enough to kick start everyone. manager change? trade utley? i have no clue and i’m glad i don’t have to make that decision but status quo isnt doing shit. i know that much.

    course, it could be the weather just needs to get hot. who knows.

    btw, great read.

  • bury me

    lovely piece. I don’t understand booing Roy Halladay, that was the only thing I was furious at. the people had sat down to watch him pitch, and sit back and enjoy each one when he was the best wouldn’t have done it. I assume it was generic baseball fans who just thought Roy was your average pitcher who was great and is now playing for money or something. it was a shame

  • thisfreakinguy

    Excellent article. I couldn’t be happier that is back. Hopefully some day in the not too distant future I’ll also be saying that I’m so glad that the Doc we all know and love is back, too.

  • Philly fan stuck in DC

    I’ll drink a beer to this. Very nice piece.

  • Not Angry

    Tell the girl who wants a refund for yesterday she owes Roy a check for 10000 times the value of her 2010 NLDS Game One ticket

  • Madison Bettle

    Thank you so much for this. It was perfect. Just like Roy. I know this has been said so many times, but, “it’s hard not to be romantic about baseball”.

  • PHLinPDX

    The guy makes more in one start than any of us will ever make in a LIFETIME.
    I don’t feel bad for him. He’s done a lot of great things, he’s made history and a ton of cash. But right now he is hurt / terrible and needs to take a seat.
    Don’t shed tears for rich people that don’t give one fuck about you living or dying.

    • Not Angry

      His salary has nothing to do with this. And your argument kind of extends to one about not caring about sports at all, which, well, kind of defeats the purpose of being a sports fan.

      • PHLinPDX

        Do you have some kind of reading comprehension issue?
        His salary does indeed have everything to do with this. He gets paid to be a winner, which means disclosing injuries and not being fucking terrible.
        Where did i say anything about not caring about sports? I said don’t cry for a millionaire who doesn’t give a shit about you.

  • Kevin

    I’m not mad at Roy Halladay. I’m just depressed knowing that this great pitcher is on the decline. He is good and will show flashes of his former self but its tough watching him. It’s like watching your old dog try to play fetch. He loves it and his heart is in it but his body isn’t able.

  • Square-Peg Karen

    This is fucking brilliant – thank you! (now swiping a few tears…)

  • Vulture

    Perfectly said. I just feel bad for the guy. He’s obviously someone who has never courted failure at anything in his life, and watching him be forced to confront it so bluntly and so publicly is heart wrenching. Hearing the excuses was brutal because you know they were excuses and so did he. Mushy mound, not feeling the flow. You don’t want to admit something is bad enough to mess up your normal routine until you have to. Roy has to, and now he knows that.

  • Lynniemac

    Incredibly well written, Ryan. I’m not mad, either. Well, that’s not true, I am a little (though I far sadder than anything), but I’m willing to concede that Roy and I don’t think alike and I’ve never played professional baseball, so I don’t know what it’s like and (unlike Chris Wheeler) I don’t know what’s going through his mind. He felt like he had to play through it. He couldn’t. That’s that.

    As for the booing, I’d like to cut the fans a little slack here and say that perhaps not all of them were solely booing Doc. Maybe they were voicing their displeasure at, as Ryan said, getting to their seats with the Phillies already down nine runs. Maybe they were voicing their displeasure at this whole season thus far. Maybe at Ruben. No, that’s not fair, but until Ruben presents himself to the crowd someone else will have to bear the brunt of the booing. Roy may compromised physically, but I’m pretty sure he’s still ridiculously mentally tough. He can take it.

  • RicoBrogna

    Great article and well written. I feel for Doc and want him to succeed along with the Phillies. I think i’m more pissed off at our anemic offense for failing to pick Doc up in any one of his outings rather then be mad at the great Doc himself. When the offense is struggling then it’s up to Doc, Lee and Hamels to pitch damn near perfect but I haven’t seen the offense rise up for the pitchers this year and I think that’s what has me booing. I look back to what Doc has done for this team and for me he’s earned a pass so if he’s not the same Halladay as before then I got to witness greatness in a Phillies uniform for a couple of years at least. He wants to win and he wants a World Series ring so bad he’s putting his health on the line to do it. These injuries are new to him and Doc isn’t one to not answer the bell, he’s always out there fighting and battling and that’s why he’s one of the game’s best pitchers!

  • my beer

    Nice job Ryan, I am still a little mad but it’s more at being lied to yet again. More than that I am sad and something needs to be done to this whole damn team! It’s absolutely heart-wretching to watch/listen too!

  • Wing2J

    Hey, to be clear, I didn’t boo Doc. I’m firmly in the “feel bad for the guy” camp.

    The “horrid” was about having already paid for tickets, sat in traffic for almost 2 hours, paid to park, paid for a couple beers, and knew there was absolutely no way I was going to see a victory yesterday (not that I didn’t stay until the final painful out anyway…)

  • kritsy

    very well thought-out and well written piece. it is hard to watch someone so freakin talented not able to do what they have been doing all their lives. i hope something changes for the better for him, and for the phils. and soon.

  • Mike

    I’m mad that Roy didn’t do the right thing. I’m sad that Roy isn’t the same guy but that’s just human nature. It eventually catches up to everyone or we’d be getting ready to watch MJ face LeBron in the playoffs.

    I appreciate him trying to work through it but after the start in Cleveland something should have been done. When a bunch of people can tell something is wrong then I’m sure Dubee, Manuel, and Amaro could tell. They needed to step in and they deserve some blame too. I’d much rather shut him down now and get him back in June or July as this team tries to make one more run at this thing.

  • MPP

    This was some deep shit.

    “But it doesn’t matter what anybody else sees or says. For someone to make a profound change in their life, in any aspect of it, that person has to come to understand the problem on their own. This is a fundamental aspect of the human condition. It applies to individuals and couples.”


  • medicDad

    So glad TheFightins is back. Strong work by Ryan for this great article. I was furious that people were booing Roy yesterday. He’s on his way out and for all the enjoyment he has brought this city he surely does not deserve the boos. Just sit back and see what happens next in his career. Guys like him only come by once in a lifetime.

    • Murt

      “Guys like him only come by once in a lifetime.” +1

  • mk12679

    Is anyone actually mad AT Roy though? All the things we used to yell at the tv in frustration now end up on twitter for the world to see… I called for the firing of the whole team yesterday. Can’t we appreciate the good that happened recently AND be mad at the current situation? Halladay has not been himself since Spring Training last year and we all know it. Should he have time to work his issues out? Sure. But does he have to work them out when it counts? If he doesn’t know what the hell is wrong, just say so. Don’t keep telling us, “No, I’m fine. I like where I’m at” cause it’s bullshit. I think what it all boils down to is that everyone is HEARTBROKEN. Every single person who watched that game yesterday felt actual physical pain seeing that happen (except that Mets Fan in Philly, that bitch was delighted) to one of the best players we’ve ever had. And we have nothing to blame it on! It’s not like we can say, “Hey, remember that time last year on Opposite Day when Roy had his face broken? He never really came back from that injury” because there’s nothing we can see, not one specific incident to point to. He ended 2011 fine and started 2012 a mess. The whole situation just fucking sucks too bad to not blame SOMETHING and the only guy who can tell us what to blame it on doesn’t know either. Damn, I should have written my own article. Look, I’m not trying to say the people who are mad at Halladay are right, I just think it’s misdirected frustration.

  • Anonymous

    This was excellent; beautifully written. I hope not just as a Phillies fan but as a a baseball fan that we haven’t seen the last of Roy Halladay. Watching him throughout his career has been something really special and I don’t think anyone wants to see that end like this.

  • Jasmine


    • Ryan

      Don’t you cry tonight, there’s a heaven above you still baby.

  • Suz

    I’m with those who are just deeply sad. Heartbroken, even.

    I really wanted Doc to win a WS with the Phillies.

  • bury me

    It seems the arguments for booing Roy come down to either he’s getting paid so much/he lied/he’ll make more than I will in a lifetime!! First, I think he was lying to himself, as the article stated, and second, when you’re the best pitcher in baseball/future HOFer and millions of people watch and analyze what youre doing, 20 million seems very fair. Thirdly, at that time he probably could have made 25 or 30 million a year if he had been a FA. I can’t stand that people booed him over money. Roy looks fucking happy right now, money buys happiness right?

  • LannonSheepsWool

    Summed it up pretty much perfectly.

  • The Sisko

    Every word is absolutely perfect.

    I’m frustrated with Roy, sure, but I can understand what he might be thinking and feeling right now, which makes it even more frustrating. It really has to be hard to give into decline.

    I really think he’d benefit from a conversation or two with Jamie Moyer. Moyer may not touch Halladay in terms of talent, but the guy lasted as long as he did and did as well as he did that long (didn’t he shut out the Braves a couple of weeks before he went down with that Tommy John injury?) for a reason. Moyer’s biggest asset was being a SMART pitcher. It didn’t always work for him, but I honestly believe his pitching intelligence prolonged his career and made him a very respected pitcher. Moyer may not be a future Hall of Famer, but he is respected for his brain and his longevity.

    I hope, for Roy’s own sake, that he comes to terms with the fact that he needs to adapt to his changing body, because I honestly believe he’s as smart as they come, as smart as Jamie Moyer is as a pitcher.

    Honestly, he looked somewhere between shell-shocked and catatonic in the post-game interview yesterday. It’s really sad watching him go through this.

  • Meat

    Like you said in the article and like Roy said a week ago, it’s all mental. The shoulder excuse is just that.

    Get well soon Leroy.

  • Justin

    Well said, Ryan.

  • Jeff

    Amazing article.

    Great job Ryan.

    All we can do is hope that he can reconstruct his game in a way that will allow him continued success. As Sarge would want.

  • Alexander Hamilton

    /is shot and killed by Aaron Burr

  • TrafficSitterToo

    Great article, Ryan. Loved reading it. Although I’m sad it had to be written. IF I had made it to my seats in time, I still would not have booed him. Sitting on 95 and hearing Franske & LA say he hit 2 batters and threw behind one (I realized he wasn’t taking Chase’s advice) along with the gazillion walks, you knew that something was definitely wrong.

  • Murt

    12/22/09, Roy Halladay takes out an add to thank Blue Jays fans. In August of 2010, Roy Halladay gifted 60 engraved watches to commemorate his perfect game. In March of 2011, Roy gave Chooch a replica Cy Young award. Class.

    On October 6, I was helping my daughter with math homework with one eye, and watching Roy’s first post season appearance with the other. As the game went on and I realized that she was getting all of her math homework wrong, I told her to put it away for now. I didn’t want to concentrate on anything BUT the game. I just knew what was coming. After Chooch dropped to his knees to get Brandon Phillips out, I stood in my kitchen and slow clapped. Stellar.

    We have celebrated around this man and took for granted the excellence we were privileged to witness. We began to expect it. I am of the sad group. More like heartbroken, for this man who deserves better than to be booed. He owes us nothing. Respect.

  • Samantha

    Standing ovation

  • Brian

    Well written piece. I could never get mad at Roy for any reason, and anyone that boos him should have the taste slapped out of their mouth.

    Roy is a truly special player, and even if that was his last game in a Phillies uniform, he deserves our complete respect and appreciation.

  • debthephan

    I would have written the same exact thing. I cannot understand how anyone cannot see that in Roy. I hope he comes back. I hope he’s happy with whom he will most likely be. He may not be the Roy we have seen so far, but he will be good. ‘Cause that is who–and what– he is.

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