Steve Carlton is perhaps the best left-handed pitcher in baseball history, a 10-time All-Star and first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. And, fortunately, Phillies fans usually remember Carlton’s great years and not the last couple of them, when he scuffed around and refused to acknowledge his mortality as a baseball player.
In 1985, Carlton was 13-7 with an ERA of 3.58, which is a pretty good season for most pitchers, but an off year for him. But then Carlton seemed to fall off a cliff. In 1985, his last full season with the Phillies, he battled some arm problems and went just 1-8. And the next season he started off 4-8 with an ERA of 6.18 before the Phillies sadly said goodbye to him and released the best pitcher in franchise history.
Carlton was signed by San Francisco for the rest of that season and it was hard watching him struggle to the finish line of his career with the Giants, White Sox, Indians and Twins, where he was a combined 11-21 before finally retiring for good in 1988. It was a sad ending to a great career.
And that brings us to the best pitcher the Phillies have had since Carlton – Roy Halladay. He’s on the disabled list right now with a sore shoulder and nobody is sure how this will affect his career. But Halladay, like Carlton before him, was already fading fast and, like Carlton before him, Halladay is powerless to do anything about it. And, like Carlton before him, he can’t seem to deal with the fact that he’s powerless to do anything about it.
Both pitchers were workhorses who took pride in their physical and mental disciplines. They took the ball every fourth or fifth day and went deep into games and were always among the league leaders in innings pitched.
And both eventually paid the price for all of those innings and all of those pitches. As Indiana Jones famously said, “It’s not the years – it’s the mileage.’’
Last year, Halladay felt all of those miles for the first time. He finished 11-8 with an ERA of 4.49, and even though a lot of pitchers would be happy to have a season like that — just like pitchers back in 1985 would have been happy with Carlton’s 13-7 record — it wasn’t a good year for the Phillies ace. And Halladay also spent almost two months on the disabled list with shoulder and back problems that he said aren’t related to his current injury.
By the way, this incident highlighted the difference between the way the Phillies run their business and the way the Eagles have run theirs for years. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel didn’t even know Halladay had the shoulder problems when he addressed the media right after Sunday’s game and there’s no way Andy Reid – and we’re assuming Chip Kelly – would have stood in front of reporters without a complete trainer’s report of a star player.
Also, Halladay himself told reporters about the injury and then general manager Ruben Amaro answered some questions, whereas Eagles players aren’t even allowed to discuss their injuries, much less make the first public announcement about them.
Anyhow, Halladay had a disappointing season in 2012 and nobody was sure what to expect in 2013, especially since he struggled at times in spring training. And he continued to struggle when this season began – in Halladay’s first two starts he gave up 12 earned runs in just 7 1/3 innings.
Then he seemed to finally turn it around and in his next three games he gave up just four earned runs in 21 innings. But one of those games was against Pittsburgh on April 24 and the next day Halladay woke up with a sore shoulder. He tried to pitch through it, but in his next two games he gave up 17 earned runs in just six innings – an ERA of 25.5 – and could no longer deny what everybody saw.
Now, nobody knows what to expect from Halladay, which is somewhat ironic because he, more than any pitcher in baseball, always delivered what he promised. And even though it’s too soon to say that Roy Halladay’s career is over, it’s pretty clear that it will never be the same.
Just ask Lefty.
Contact Kevin Noonan at email@example.com