Sep 292010
 
Phillies ace Roy Halladay

Phillies ace Roy Halladay

by Mike Prince:

Philadelphia – Sometimes, a trade opportunity comes along that, while it may force you to part with players you’d rather not see go, is just too good to pass up.

With his biggest acquisition as the Philadelphia Phillies’ general manager, Ruben Amaro Jr. – who stepped in for Pat Gillick after the 2008 World Series-winning season – went out and got arguably the best pitcher in Major League Baseball.

And just like that, Roy Halladay – the same guy who pitched in six All-Star games prior to 2010 and won a Cy Young Award in the American League – was donning a Phillies uniform and ready to pitch in Philadelphia for at least the next three seasons.

As the final strike was recorded in an 8-0 win over the Nationals on Monday night, the Phillies were crowned National League East Division champions for the fourth year in-a-row. Halladay, who just got finished pitching a complete game, two-hit gem, celebrated with teammates, coaches and team personnel, as he assured himself his first postseason appearance in his 13-year career.

“This is the coolest thing I’ve been a part of,” Halladay told media after the game. “I saw too much of it on TV. I tried not to think about it. This is everything it’s cracked up to be, especially with a group of guys you like. That’s the reason you want to come to a team like this. They know how to do it.”

What everyone else saw on TV on Monday was Halladay do what he’s done all year: Dominate nearly every batter he faced.

After Monday’s shutout, Halladay now holds a record of 21-10, which would be even better if not for a lack of run support during a rather forgettable slump that the Phillies’ offense went through. His win total tops the NL, as does his innings pitched (250 2/3) and complete games (nine), which are both far ahead of the next highest totals. His four shutouts are tops in the league, his 219 strikeouts are second only to Tim Lincecum by just one strikeout, while his 2.44 ERA is third in the league. His 1.04 WHIP is also second in the league, trailing no other than Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt by just 0.02 points. To top it off, his strikeout-to-walk ratio is also easily tops in the league, as the right-hander has only walked 30 batters all season.

He became the first Phillies pitcher to win 20 games in a season since the great Steve Carlton did so in 1982.

Oh, yea. He also tossed a perfect game, if that counts for anything.

The numbers don’t lie and neither do the performances. Even when fans worried about giving up three and four runs here and there over the past month, Halladay came out and tossed an absolute gem in a division-clinching game. He has solidified himself as the front-runner for the NL Cy Young Award. There is very little doubt otherwise.

Obviously, to Halladay, winning the award comes second to everything else.

“It’s special,” Halladay told the media after winning his 20th game last week, “but the best part is that it’s the secondary item to the team winning.”

With an 8-0 lead, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel knew that he could have taken Halladay out of the game and put in any one of his relievers. It wasn’t about giving Halladay his ninth complete game of the year and it wasn’t about stats and it certainly wasn’t about trying to hold on to a slim lead. It was about giving the ball to the guy who should have been out there for the final pitch and for the celebration.

“I wanted him out there,” Manuel said after the game. “I felt like he earned it. And he deserved it.”

Halladay and the Phillies now will have to sit back and wait for the rest of the jumbled postseason picture to clear up before they find out who they are set up to face next.

One thing is for sure. Roy Halladay, coming off an almost-definite Cy Young-winning season, will be pitching past the first week in October for the first time in his career. That is something that even Yankees and Red Sox fans have been thankful they haven’t had to see for the past decade.

“When we first heard the rumors of {Halladay} being traded, the only thing we thought was, ‘please get him out of the American League,’” said an unnamed Yankees fan. “When he went to the Phillies, we knew it was a possibility that we will have to see him in the World Series, but we finally didn’t have to see him all year. I’m kind of scared to see what he can do with the ball in his hand in the playoffs.”

If the Phillies and the Yankees do both advance to the World Series, then New York fans should have some fear when facing Halladay, not to mention Philadelphia’s second and third starting pitchers.

Halladay, on the other hand, will surely be cool, collective and ready to go when he takes the mound this October.

After all, things are only getting “funner” for him at this point. If it were up to him, he’d probably pitch on two day’s rest if Manuel asked him.

World Series or not, the Cy Young award will undoubtedly go to Halladay. But hopefully, he can rest it on his trophy case right next to a 2010 World Series MVP Award as well.

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Mike Prince writes for PSC, the Montgomery News and on his Blog.  You can also Follow him on Twitter.

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