Roy Halladay has been away playing golf in Mexico before he reports to Clearwater to begin his Spring Training on Dec. 1, so there’s a pretty good chance he hasn’t seen the commercials depicting him striking out hitters in a video game. In fact, the makers of Major League Baseball 2K11 thought enough of Halladay’s body of work in 2K10, that they put him on the box of the game.
Certainly if there is one guy in the big leagues who has no time for playing video games it’s Halladay. After all, he was the guy who kept the press waiting for nearly an hour because he had to complete his post-game workout after he tossed a perfect game. So needless to say, Halladay has things to do. He’s not the kind of guy to sit in the clubhouse working a crossword puzzle before batting practice, plotting elaborate pranks where a dimwit gets traded to Japan or jerking around on some sort of mobile device.
In other words, Halladay is not like most of us. He doesn’t waste time. Hell, he even starts Spring Training three months early.
Though Halladay probably won’t wile away the time playing video games in which he is the main star, he did something quite remarkable in winning the 2010 Cy Young Award…
He made the Baseball Writers Association of America come to a harmonious, unadulterated consensus that seemed downright cute in this day of instant reaction and indignant anger over the most trivial of issues and obscure statistics. Better yet, Halladay’s 2010 season was so good that there wasn’t even the one voter doing his damndest to get attention by being different for the sake of it. You know, like that guy who voted for Javier Vazquez for Cy Young in 2009 because… well… who the hell knows. Maybe it was a gag like a hidden whoopee cushion or hand buzzer, or maybe it was one of those things where someone was trying to be different just like everyone else.
It’s a mystery.
So as a guy who has enjoyed poking fun at the BBWAA for the sport of it, this is actually quite refreshing. Give the voters credit for being correct. Besides, the name calling and laughing at the group of baseball voters is a lot like recycling old jokes about politicians in that only the names change. It’s almost like peace in the Middle East or something in that it’s a concept that seems rational, but is always just out of reach.
Of course the civility Halladay spawned might not last as the rest of the awards are handed out. In fact, some have grumbled about Bud Black taking home the manager of the year award when his team folded and missed the playoffs when the Giants slipped past, or the fact that Charlie Manuel came in fifth despite 97 wins. There likely will be some bemoaning the American League Cy Young Award winner when it is announced on Thursday. Felix Hernandez, the young star ace for the Mariners is expected to win the award even though he finished the season with a 13-12 record. Oh sure, he lead the league in ERA, starts, innings and was second in strikeouts, but even King Felix to keep Seattle from losing 101 games.
Actually, Hernandez could be this generations’ version of Steve Carlton in 1972 without all the wins. It was during that season where the youthful Phillies, with Larry Bowa and Greg Luzinski as well as rookies Bob Boone and Mike Schmidt, went 59-97 yet Carlton still figured out a way to win 27 games while pitching 30 complete games in 41 starts to win the Cy Young Award. Sure, Hernandez was approximately 100 innings and 14 wins off from Carlton’s effort in ’72, but a guy ought to get some credit for going out there every five days knowing he was going to have to do it all himself.
Still, it could be tough for Hernandez simply because of that 13-12 record. Though a win-loss record is often out of the hands of a pitcher, the stat isn’t as completely valueless. For one thing, good pitchers often win a lot of games. There is a direct correlation to winning and talent. As my friend Dan Roche says, winning is a fancy metric that determines whether or not your team goes to the playoffs. Better yet, a win-loss record—the decisions—are important because it shows which pitcher is in the game when it’s all on the line. In that regard, Hernandez had nine no-decisions and Halladay had just two.
Then again, pitching for the Mariners had to be like dead man walking for guys like Hernandez and Cliff Lee. Imagine if Hernandez could have joined Lee in Texas or Halladay in Philadelphia…
Instead, Halladay was the great baseball writer unifier. A veritable Anwar Sadat, if you will. Oh sure, it’s one thing to win the award in both leagues, a feat pulled off only by Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Gaylord Perry, but to do so unanimously at the same time is something no one even keeps track of.
Oh sure, they count the guys who get all of the first-place votes. Actually, Jake Peavy did it in 2007 and there have been 13 guys to do it in the National League and eight in the American League. However, only one other pitcher has won the award in one league and then won it by taking all the top votes in another league.
Yes, it’s Pedro and Roy who are the only players to pull off a feat that no one knew existed.
What can’t he do? What can’t he do?
Always magnanimous in victory, Halladay, checking in on a conference call from Mexico where he was hitting the links with one-time Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter, Padres’ righty Chris Young, and teammate Mike Sweeney, humbly expressed surprise that he got all the first-place votes.
“This is special for me because of how close the competition was,” Halladay said. “So many guys had quality seasons. Coming into the final month, it was very close. It’s surprising (to win unanimously) and I’ll definitely take it. I’m honored it went that way. But a case could be made for four or five other guys.”
Come on… who is he kidding? A perfect game, 21 wins, a no-hitter in the playoffs... didn’t he see himself out there? It was like watching a guy play a video game.