Sporting News Conversation: Roy Halladay

Roy Halladay has never been much for pomp and circumstance, though he’ll have to learn to live with far more of it as the ace of the Phillies than he ever experienced in 11-plus seasons in Toronto. He got a taste of it in December when—after two days and nights sequestered in a downtown Philly hotel with his wife, Brandy—he was spotted by members of the local media and a blazing-hot story was instantly born.

Roy Halladay led all pitchers in the 2000s with 47 complete games.
Roy Halladay led all pitchers in the 2000s with 47 complete games.

The truth is, he didn’t so much mind it, just as he wouldn’t have minded a little more company as he pulled on his Phillies uniform for the first time before a Sporting News interview and photo shoot in Clearwater, Fla., in late January. But none of his new teammates, nor a single member of the Phillies’ big-league staff, was there to see it.

"At least nobody can take it away now," he said, tucking in his No. 34 jersey just so as he looked around at an empty Bright House Networks Field. The six-time All-Star—who went to the Phillies in the blockbuster deal that also sent Cliff Lee to Seattle—spoke with Steve Greenberg for a Sporting News magazine interview. The following are excerpts and outtakes from that interview, which is on newsstands now.

Sporting News: When you think about your new teammates, is there a face that always pops into your head? Who are you really excited to get to know?

Roy Halladay: I think I’ve heard the most about Chase Utley. Everybody knows what kind of player he is, but the things I’ve heard about him as far as being a leader and the way he approaches the game, the way he prepares himself, that’s exciting to me. Seeing that, for me, is going to be a highlight.

SN: Did you believe you were going to the Phillies last July?

RH: I did. It’s tough because you feel like you owe the team you’re playing for your time and effort and dedication—that’s where your focus should be—but I definitely was looking forward to that opportunity, and that was hard. Once it (didn’t happen), there was a little bit of disappointment. I love Toronto and loved my time there, but I saw the direction that the Phillies were going in and how they were playing at the time, knowing they were going to be in the playoffs. That’s the opportunity I wanted most. It wasn’t changing cities or teammates or anything like that.

SN: After all those years of It’s the Yankees’ and Red Sox’ world, we’re just living in it, would you have gladly pitched for one of the division bullies?

RH: Well, it would’ve been different. Any time you’re basically raised in an AL East organization that’s not Boston or New York, you grow up hating them. But that’s also a sign of respect because they’ve been good for so long; you don’t hate the players, you hate getting beat by them. Obviously, they’re great markets, and that was appealing for us. Again: Where do we have the best chance of winning? Once we were able to get down to a couple teams, it would’ve been easy to go play for any of them.

SN: Did you ever hold out hope the Rockies would somehow bring you back to your hometown of Denver?

RH: No. Being able to go there now a couple times a year is going to be enough for us. For me, it’s always been hard to play where you live or where you have lived. I’m not very good at dealing with distractions outside the field. It’s kind of nice to be able to go into a city where you were and see everybody, then go back to business. There’s a little bit of separation there during the season. I’ll probably spend a lot of time out there when I’m done playing.

SN: Can you imagine what it would be like to see the Blue Jays turn it around and win a championship without you?

RH: Wow. It would be mixed emotions, but I think I would be a backer; I’d be a fan. At some point, maybe that will happen; it’s just the timelines didn’t match up as far as my career. I got to a point where I feel like I have a window of opportunity that’s getting smaller; there’s more of an urgency, and I think the long-term plans of the Blue Jays to get better are going to take a little longer. And I think at some point they will get there. I wish the best for them and hope they do well—I just hope I’m done playing when they do. (Laughs.)

SN: How confident are you that you’ll move smoothly from the AL to the NL?

Roy Halladay went 148-76 with a 3.43 ERA in 12 years in Toronto.
Roy Halladay went 148-76 with a 3.43 ERA in 12 years in Toronto.

RH: Nobody ever knows. For me, the important thing is I just have never predicted the future. I think that’s probably going to be my biggest asset—going in and trying to focus on my job at hand and not worrying about how things are going to end up working out. There’s uncertainty with not knowing different players, not knowing different teams, and how all that is going to play out is going to be different. But I’m a big believer in the one-step-at-a-time process, and I plan on approaching it that way.

SN: Do you believe, as many do, that the NL has weaker lineups than the AL?

RH: The DH has a lot to do with it. There are good players in both leagues; it’s just the way lineups are set up. Your 7-8-9 are a lot stronger in the American League because it’s more of an offensive league. In the National League, there’s more of an emphasis on defense. But there are great players in both leagues. If you even look at the All-Star Games, all of them are real close; there’s no real blowouts. But in the American League, there’s no break; there are no freebies.

SN: How many times have you heard yourself referred to as the best pitcher never to pitch in the playoffs?

RH: You know what? I heard it more in Toronto than anywhere. It’s one of those things you want to get over. It’s kind of a hidden compliment, I guess. But I think the longer you play, the more important that part of the game is. When you’re younger, it doesn’t bother you as much because you’re in the big leagues and trying to have your own success. But that changes.

SN: With all due respect, have you ever pitched in a big game in your life? Or felt that big-game pressure?

RH: I think any time you go into New York, you feel that way. (Laughs.) There have been years where we’ve had big series—where we’re a game out or a game up in the middle of the season and facing the Yankees or Red Sox—but obviously it’s a different level once you get to the playoffs. But I’ve always felt the pressure part of it is what you perceive it to be. There’s nothing that can actually physically put pressure on you other than how you perceive things. … The playoffs are going to be a different level than anything I’ve done before, but I feel like I’m ready for it.

SN: After playing in Toronto for so long, are you concerned at all about the media demands and scrutiny that you’ll face in Philadelphia?

RH: I know when I need to put my foot down a little bit. I think I’ve always tried to be as gracious and helpful as I could, knowing my limitations. Everybody has to know what it takes for you to prepare and feel confident when you go out there, and those are lines I just won’t cross, period.

SN: Won’t it be fun to be compared with Cliff Lee all season?

RH: You know, I’ve always admired Cliff. He was a great pitcher in our league. I finished second to him in Cy Young voting (in 2008) and he beat me to the punch coming over here. There’s definitely parts of me that feel he got the better of me. But I’m sure I’m like every other player in that I would’ve enjoyed to have him here. It wasn’t in my hands; I had no say over it. But I’m obviously going to take the brunt of it.

SN: Who’s the best starting pitcher in your new division? Is it you?

RH: I’d never vote for myself. (The Mets’) Johan Santana has always been fun to watch. The way Cole pitched in the playoffs a couple years ago and at times last year, I think he’s up there. Some of the Marlins’ younger guys are scary—Josh Johnson. There’s a lot of talent.

SN: What about in the N.L. altogether?

RH: I’m biased, but (St. Louis’) Chris Carpenter is my favorite. I played with him in Toronto and know what kind of a person he is. He’s obviously had his ups and downs with injuries. I enjoy watching him and root for him a lot. I feel like he’s a lot like me.

SN: Are you prepared right here, right now, to guarantee the NL’s first All-Star win since 1996?

RH: I hope so. I can’t guarantee it. I tell you what, I’ve had my problems in All-Star Games. It’s hard because you’re so used to preparing knowing the lineups, who you’re facing, what you’re going to do.

SN: That explanation is out the window for you now.

RH: Yeah, I guess it is. You know what? The NL teams were always good. I think at some point, you lose enough times and it becomes harder and harder to overcome. It becomes a topic, and that makes it tough. I’d like to be a part of changing it.

Steve Greenberg is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at sgreenberg@sportingnews.com.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 15, 2010 edition of Sporting News magazine. If you are not receiving the magazine, subscribe today, or pick up a copy, available at most Barnes & Noble, Borders and Hudson Retail outlets.

Roy Halladay has never been much for pomp and circumstance, though he’ll have to learn to live with far more of it as the ace of the Phillies than he ever experienced in 11-plus seasons in Toronto. He got a taste of it in December when—after two days and nights sequestered in a downtown Philly hotel with his wife, Brandy—he was spotted by members of the local media and a blazing-hot story was instantly born.

Roy Halladay led all pitchers in the 2000s with 47 complete games.
Roy Halladay led all pitchers in the 2000s with 47 complete games.

The truth is, he didn’t so much mind it, just as he wouldn’t have minded a little more company as he pulled on his Phillies uniform for the first time before a Sporting News interview and photo shoot in Clearwater, Fla., in late January. But none of his new teammates, nor a single member of the Phillies’ big-league staff, was there to see it.

"At least nobody can take it away now," he said, tucking in his No. 34 jersey just so as he looked around at an empty Bright House Networks Field. The six-time All-Star—who went to the Phillies in the blockbuster deal that also sent Cliff Lee to Seattle—spoke with Steve Greenberg for a Sporting News magazine interview. The following are excerpts and outtakes from that interview, which is on newsstands now.

Sporting News: When you think about your new teammates, is there a face that always pops into your head? Who are you really excited to get to know?

Roy Halladay: I think I’ve heard the most about Chase Utley. Everybody knows what kind of player he is, but the things I’ve heard about him as far as being a leader and the way he approaches the game, the way he prepares himself, that’s exciting to me. Seeing that, for me, is going to be a highlight.

SN: Did you believe you were going to the Phillies last July?

RH: I did. It’s tough because you feel like you owe the team you’re playing for your time and effort and dedication—that’s where your focus should be—but I definitely was looking forward to that opportunity, and that was hard. Once it (didn’t happen), there was a little bit of disappointment. I love Toronto and loved my time there, but I saw the direction that the Phillies were going in and how they were playing at the time, knowing they were going to be in the playoffs. That’s the opportunity I wanted most. It wasn’t changing cities or teammates or anything like that.

SN: After all those years of It’s the Yankees’ and Red Sox’ world, we’re just living in it, would you have gladly pitched for one of the division bullies?

RH: Well, it would’ve been different. Any time you’re basically raised in an AL East organization that’s not Boston or New York, you grow up hating them. But that’s also a sign of respect because they’ve been good for so long; you don’t hate the players, you hate getting beat by them. Obviously, they’re great markets, and that was appealing for us. Again: Where do we have the best chance of winning? Once we were able to get down to a couple teams, it would’ve been easy to go play for any of them.

SN: Did you ever hold out hope the Rockies would somehow bring you back to your hometown of Denver?

RH: No. Being able to go there now a couple times a year is going to be enough for us. For me, it’s always been hard to play where you live or where you have lived. I’m not very good at dealing with distractions outside the field. It’s kind of nice to be able to go into a city where you were and see everybody, then go back to business. There’s a little bit of separation there during the season. I’ll probably spend a lot of time out there when I’m done playing.

SN: Can you imagine what it would be like to see the Blue Jays turn it around and win a championship without you?

RH: Wow. It would be mixed emotions, but I think I would be a backer; I’d be a fan. At some point, maybe that will happen; it’s just the timelines didn’t match up as far as my career. I got to a point where I feel like I have a window of opportunity that’s getting smaller; there’s more of an urgency, and I think the long-term plans of the Blue Jays to get better are going to take a little longer. And I think at some point they will get there. I wish the best for them and hope they do well—I just hope I’m done playing when they do. (Laughs.)

SN: How confident are you that you’ll move smoothly from the AL to the NL?

Roy Halladay went 148-76 with a 3.43 ERA in 12 years in Toronto.
Roy Halladay went 148-76 with a 3.43 ERA in 12 years in Toronto.

RH: Nobody ever knows. For me, the important thing is I just have never predicted the future. I think that’s probably going to be my biggest asset—going in and trying to focus on my job at hand and not worrying about how things are going to end up working out. There’s uncertainty with not knowing different players, not knowing different teams, and how all that is going to play out is going to be different. But I’m a big believer in the one-step-at-a-time process, and I plan on approaching it that way.

SN: Do you believe, as many do, that the NL has weaker lineups than the AL?

RH: The DH has a lot to do with it. There are good players in both leagues; it’s just the way lineups are set up. Your 7-8-9 are a lot stronger in the American League because it’s more of an offensive league. In the National League, there’s more of an emphasis on defense. But there are great players in both leagues. If you even look at the All-Star Games, all of them are real close; there’s no real blowouts. But in the American League, there’s no break; there are no freebies.

SN: How many times have you heard yourself referred to as the best pitcher never to pitch in the playoffs?

RH: You know what? I heard it more in Toronto than anywhere. It’s one of those things you want to get over. It’s kind of a hidden compliment, I guess. But I think the longer you play, the more important that part of the game is. When you’re younger, it doesn’t bother you as much because you’re in the big leagues and trying to have your own success. But that changes.

SN: With all due respect, have you ever pitched in a big game in your life? Or felt that big-game pressure?

RH: I think any time you go into New York, you feel that way. (Laughs.) There have been years where we’ve had big series—where we’re a game out or a game up in the middle of the season and facing the Yankees or Red Sox—but obviously it’s a different level once you get to the playoffs. But I’ve always felt the pressure part of it is what you perceive it to be. There’s nothing that can actually physically put pressure on you other than how you perceive things. … The playoffs are going to be a different level than anything I’ve done before, but I feel like I’m ready for it.

SN: After playing in Toronto for so long, are you concerned at all about the media demands and scrutiny that you’ll face in Philadelphia?

RH: I know when I need to put my foot down a little bit. I think I’ve always tried to be as gracious and helpful as I could, knowing my limitations. Everybody has to know what it takes for you to prepare and feel confident when you go out there, and those are lines I just won’t cross, period.

SN: Won’t it be fun to be compared with Cliff Lee all season?

RH: You know, I’ve always admired Cliff. He was a great pitcher in our league. I finished second to him in Cy Young voting (in 2008) and he beat me to the punch coming over here. There’s definitely parts of me that feel he got the better of me. But I’m sure I’m like every other player in that I would’ve enjoyed to have him here. It wasn’t in my hands; I had no say over it. But I’m obviously going to take the brunt of it.

SN: Who’s the best starting pitcher in your new division? Is it you?

RH: I’d never vote for myself. (The Mets’) Johan Santana has always been fun to watch. The way Cole pitched in the playoffs a couple years ago and at times last year, I think he’s up there. Some of the Marlins’ younger guys are scary—Josh Johnson. There’s a lot of talent.

SN: What about in the N.L. altogether?

RH: I’m biased, but (St. Louis’) Chris Carpenter is my favorite. I played with him in Toronto and know what kind of a person he is. He’s obviously had his ups and downs with injuries. I enjoy watching him and root for him a lot. I feel like he’s a lot like me.

SN: Are you prepared right here, right now, to guarantee the NL’s first All-Star win since 1996?

RH: I hope so. I can’t guarantee it. I tell you what, I’ve had my problems in All-Star Games. It’s hard because you’re so used to preparing knowing the lineups, who you’re facing, what you’re going to do.

SN: That explanation is out the window for you now.

RH: Yeah, I guess it is. You know what? The NL teams were always good. I think at some point, you lose enough times and it becomes harder and harder to overcome. It becomes a topic, and that makes it tough. I’d like to be a part of changing it.

Steve Greenberg is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at sgreenberg@sportingnews.com.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 15, 2010 edition of Sporting News magazine. If you are not receiving the magazine, subscribe today, or pick up a copy, available at most Barnes & Noble, Borders and Hudson Retail outlets.

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