SEATTLE -- Yankee Stadium, All-Star Game, returning Hall of Famers, World Series home-field advantage again on the line ... Roy Halladay?
The man known by one and all in Toronto as "Doc", amazingly, never has started an All-Star Game. He's been named to four American League teams, played in two games, and based on the numbers, probably will be aced out again this month when AL manager Terry Francona picks his starter.
|Halladay only gets 3 1/2 runs of support per game. (Getty Images)|
But if Francona has been watching Halladay closely -- and Francona can be forgiven if he hasn't, being that handling the pesky Tampa Bay Rays is becoming a full-time commitment -- he might throw out the numbers and hand the ball to Toronto's ace, anyway.
Doc Distance again leads the majors with six complete games -- double the total of Tampa Bay's James Shields, Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia and Milwaukee's Ben Sheets, who are tied for second -- and 130 1/3 innings pitched.
His 9-6 record might be a little on the bland side, but then again, the guy is getting less than 3½ runs of support per game. Earlier this season, he threw three consecutive complete games -- and lost them all.
Last time that happened in the majors? Back in 1999, when Randy Johnson received criminally low run support from his Arizona teammates.
Last time that happened in Toronto? Back in 1982, when Jim Clancy was grinding out daily exercises in futility.
Halladay is every bit as much of a throwback as the Blue Jays' retro Friday uniforms: He's pitched 32 complete games since 2003, a sum that not only leads the majors, but far out-distances the pack. Livan Hernandez is next at 21, and Mark Mulder's 17 follows that. Halladay's 32 complete games since '03 is more than that of 19 individual teams.
"Doc could pitch any time, in any era. The '70s, '80s, '90s, 2000s," says new/old Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston, who played in the 1960s and 1970s, piloted the Jays to back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993 and took over for John Gibbons last month. "He's a Hall of Fame-type pitcher if he stays healthy."
Halladay might also lead the majors in being regularly overlooked -- at least, by everyone but the hitters who must face him in his next outing. Pitching on mediocre-to-poor teams in out-of-the-way Toronto has kept him in the shadows far more often than it should.
His determination reminds Gaston of that of three old pitchers who helped the Blue Jays soar back in the day: Jack Morris, Roger Clemens and Pat Hentgen. The way he's able to command four pitches reminds Toronto shortstop David Eckstein of St. Louis Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter.
His four-hit shutout of Seattle on Monday night -- yes, he sometimes wins his complete games -- was as dominant a game as you'll see the rest of the year. "Best I've ever seen him," one veteran AL scout says. "The way he moved those two pitches around, Seattle's guys didn't have a chance."