With Roy Halladay gone, complete games take another big hit

Chris Trotman

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Flo. -- Today at baseball's Winter Meetings, Roy Halladay retired. As a Toronto Blue Jay with a one-day contract. I was sitting next to the force of nature we call Jonah Keri, and he wondered about the mechanics of a one-day contract. What 's the salary for one day? Do they have to clear a space on the 40-man roster? Is the contract all blown up, like those checks that Ed McMahon used to deliver? Now you're wondering, too.

As Grant pointed out earlier, we sure didn't see this coming a couple springs ago, when Halladay finished April with a 1.95 ERA. Pitchers. Sheesh. Barring a comeback -- and hey, let's not completely discount the possibility -- we've seen the last of Halladay. A dying breed, though? Here's The Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan:

Baseball may never see a pitcher like Roy Halladay again.

The veteran Philadelphia right-hander, who retired at the age of 36 on Monday due to back issues, had been the active career leader with 67 complete games. The next closest active pitcher was CC Sabathia with 37.

Complete games have gone out of fashion with the emergence of pitch counts and "quality starts," making guys like Halladay dinosaurs.

Well, yes ... but it's hardly news. Halladay was the last of a dying breed. But so was Roger Clemens, who completed 116 games. And so was Jack Morris, who completed 175 games. And so was Bert Blyleven, who completed 242 games. And so was Gaylord Perry, who completed 303 games. And so was Warren Spahn, who completed 382 games (and a global conflict, though he had a lot of help with that one).

I can do this all day long.

CC Sabathia will be the last of a dying breed, too. You just have to come up with some really, really specific definitions of "breed." Reading the piece, you might get the impression that this particular "breed" is composed of pitchers who are tough, and want to finish what they start, and get mad when the manager takes them out.

Which is pretty much every starting pitcher. It's just that Halladay was so brilliant that sometimes he didn't throw so many pitches that his managers felt compelled to remove him. He was both tough and efficient, whereas most pitchers are merely tough. A truly specific and interesting breed won't die out until we've seen the last complete game. I mean the really last complete game. Which might actually happen someday, I guess.

Then there's this bit:

Halladay is likely to go to the Hall of Fame in five years, with a 203-105 career record, 2,117 strikeouts and 20 shutouts, not to mention a perfect game and a postseason no-hitter.

It's possible, but seems to me unlikely. Halladay's winning percentage is fantastic, his run of great seasons impressive. But with only 203 wins, does he jump ahead of Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina in the minds of the voters? Far enough ahead to get elected? John Smoltz will probably still be on the ballot, too. Not to mention another 15 or 20 good candidates. The more I think about this, the more I believe that the Hall of Fame will, at some point in the next 10 or 20 years, be forced to call some sort of special election to clear the logjam. Because right now they're heading rapidly toward an untenable position of irrelevancy.

It might take a revamped board of directors or a new chairman or something. But the Hall will adjust, or die.

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