After 16-year career, Halladay hanging up his spikes
Right-hander signs one-day contract so he can retire as member of Blue Jays
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Roy Halladay knew for the past several weeks that his career had come to an end, but before the move could become official, there was some unfinished business to take care of first.
The 16-year veteran announced his retirement on Monday morning at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort, but not before he signed a one-day contract with the Blue Jays. The decision ensured Halladay finished his illustrious career with the organization that drafted him out of high school in 1995.
Halladay said the ceremonial contract was his way of saying thanks to an organization that he called home for 14 years and to the people who helped him become one of the greatest pitchers in recent history.
"I very easily could have been out of baseball in 2000, 2001 and never had a shot," Halladay said during his afternoon news conference. "So to me, that was the most important thing was I felt like everything that the organization had done for me, the player that they allowed me to become, I felt like it was really important to acknowledge that."
Halladay approached the Blue Jays with the idea to retire as a Blue Jay in late November. There surely would have been some offers in free agency, but after two injury plagued seasons in Philadelphia, Halladay decided it was time to step away.
Toronto jumped at the opportunity to bring Halladay back into the fold -- even if it was just for one day. It's a fitting end considering Halladay ranks second all-time in Blue Jays history with 148 wins, 1,495 strikeouts and 15 shutouts. He's also third with 2,246 2/3 innings, a 3.43 ERA and 287 starts.
For a stretch of eight years in Toronto, Halladay was easily regarded as one of the most dominant and consistent pitchers in the game. He defined baseball in the city during the early 2000s, and it's only a matter of time before he gets added to the club's Level of Excellence.
"It speaks volumes to the organization and everyone that has been involved in the organization for him to feel that strongly," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "The fact that he still feels those ties was great. He approached us, let us know he was going to retire. He wanted to retire a Toronto Blue Jay, it was very important to him.
"We were thrilled that he would even consider us that way. I think that speaks to the people that we don't see behind the scenes. All of his years he spent, that they had that type of impact on him."
Halladay's body of work also serves as inspiration for players who might have lost their way in search of the Major League dream. The right-hander was selected by Toronto in the first round of the 1995 First-Year Player Draft, and he debuted just three years later, but it wasn't too long after that his career hit rock bottom.
The Colorado native couldn't seem to get anyone out in the spring of 2001, and he was optioned all the way down to Class A Dunedin in order to revamp his mechanics, and perhaps just as importantly, the mental side of his game. It was a drastic move that seemed to be a last-ditch effort to salvage Halladay's career, and in the end, it paid off more than anyone could have imagined.
Halladay made it back to the big leagues by the middle of that 2001 season and won 19 games the following year. His best season in the American League arguably came in 2003, when he won the AL Cy Young Award with a 22-7 record, a 3.25 ERA and 204 strikeouts in 266 innings.
"I think there was a period of time where I didn't know what was going to happen, where I probably wasn't as positive as I could be about what my future was going to be," Halladay said. "But I think through the support of my wife and people in the organization, I was able to find people that really helped me see the mental side of it and see the positives.
"That's really where I felt like my career changed, was I started thinking, 'I'm going to go out and do everything I possibly can. If it works, it works. If it doesn't, I can walk away knowing that I poured everything I had into it.' I was very fortunate to have that experience, because that stuck with me my entire career."
Halladay spoke at length about his gratitude to both the Blue Jays and Phillies organizations. Halladay said there were too many people to thank, but he took some time to single out Blue Jays scout Bus Campbell, sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman, Pat Hentgen and the recently retired Chris Carpenter as his main influences.
The fact that Halladay's retirement came at the site of the annual Winter Meetings meant there was a lengthy list of guests in attendance. Former general managers Pat Gillick, Gord Ash and J.P. Ricciardi were in attendance, as were Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and Toronto manager John Gibbons.
The attention seemed more than appropriate for a pitcher who finished with a 203-105 record, a 3.38 ERA, a perfect game and even a no-hitter during his postseason debut. The numbers are impressive, but they stand up even better when considering the offense-heavy era during which he pitched.
At some point in the future, Halladay's name will at the very least be mentioned as a possibility for the Hall of Fame, but to Toronto, he represented even more than that. Despite a prolonged playoff drought, Halladay decided to sign two extensions at well-below market value in order to remain with the Blue Jays.
That can't be said for a lot of athletes in the city, and when combined with his overall dominance, it remains the main reason Halladay has a cult-like hero among the club's fanbase. The time eventually came for Halladay to go elsewhere to pursue his postseason dreams, but the way the two-time Cy Young Award winner handled everything ensured, he never severed ties with Blue Jays fans or the organization.
"I've always tried to do the best I could to really acknowledge that," Halladay said of the fan support. "I've been very fortunate that I played two places where the fans have been extremely supportive. They may boo when you're on the field, but you run into them on the street or in a restaurant and they're the first ones that come up and shake your hand and smile and greet you.
"It happened in Toronto, it happened in Philadelphia, but [leaving] Toronto was hard for me. As much as I loved it there, I felt like I needed to make a decision to give myself a chance to get to the playoffs, and thankfully the fans understood that and were very supportive. Hopefully they'll get a chance to experience that also, because it is a tremendous feeling."