Bill Conlin: Halladay has made his Phillies teammates better
Once in a great while, a ballplayer comes along who enhances the performance of a major league team by more than his numbers.
He also changes the perceived culture of the team, alters the chemistry and the image itself, if you will, in a way that extends from the clubhouse inner sanctum to the fan base.
Pete Rose was a difference-maker when he became a free agent after the 1978 season. He told the world that the Phillies were the team he wanted to join, the whining, woe-is-us playoff team that had been rolled over by Rose's Reds in 1976 and by the Dodgers in 1977 and '78. He helped them find the mental toughness it took to survive the crucible of the 1980 season and win the first World Series in the long and previously wretched history of the franchise.
A generation later, Roy Halladay has changed the culture of the most successful Phillies team since the Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton years that Rose helped over the hump.
He used the leverage of his impending 2010 walk year to force a trade from the Blue Jays to the team of his choice, the Phillies. It was an intriguing first: The best pitcher in baseball wanting to pitch in a ballpark where routine flies such as Juan Uribe's recent first-row dagger into the hearts of millions left the yard.
The 6-6 righthander signed a no-hassle, 3-year contract extension that will pay him $20 million a season through 2013, with the Phillies holding a 2014 vesting option for the same salary.
Charlie Manuel beats the sun to work during spring training. The first time the manager arrived at Bright House Field last February, Halladay already was there, in the middle of one of his grueling workouts. Cole Hamels, a physical disappointment in 2009, had worked hard in the offseason with a personal trainer. When he saw Halladay's routine, he began working even harder. The result was a dramatic turnaround.
Kyle Kendrick appeared a lock for Triple A when pitchers and catchers reported. But he stepped up his own workout regimen, listened intently to advice Doc gave him on improving his sinker and changeup, and had a great spring. He went north as the No. 5 starter and stitched together 11 wins, one fewer than the hard-luck Hamels.
There were whispers that the uberintense righthander had been an intimidating presence in the clubhouse of the going-nowhere Blue Jays. That has not been a problem here. He is regarded as the consummate teammate.
Roy came at a time in the evolution of what is now a veteran Phillies offense when the bats went south during the exhibition season and stayed there for most of the season. The numbers were down in almost every category. The 2010 Phillies scored 48 fewer runs and hit 58 fewer home runs than the 2009 Phillies. It is hard to hit from the disabled list.
The Phillies scored just 20 runs in Halladay's 10 losses and one run or less in five of them. He easily could have won 25 games with a tiny uptick of support. Doc led the league in victories, 21, and fewest complaints about lack of support, 0.
With the three-run homer on sabbatical, there was an almost shocking swing in the team's identity. A Halladay perfect game, with postseason history's second no-hitter as an encore, will turn the conversation to pitching every time.
And when Ruben Amaro Jr. engineered the cherry-on-the-sundae deal for longtime Astros ace Roy Oswalt, the hook of this injury-depleted team had officially swung from The Big Piece to H2O - Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt - a chemical nightmare for the NL.
Roy Halladay would join Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Gaylord Perry and Pedro Martinez as the only pitchers to win the Cy Young Award in both leagues. *
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