Cole Hamels is in a unique position. While he’s now the 37-year-old hoping to extend his career a few more years, he came up at such a young age and has had such longevity that he was teammates with players now considered Philadelphia Phillies icons, and even Major League Baseball legends in some cases.
At the forefront of those former teammates is the late Roy Halladay, who was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in July of 2019. Just over nine years before Halladay was enshrined as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, the two-time defending National League Champion Phillies acquired him from the Toronto Blue Jays. Hamels – who had won the World Series MVP in 2008, but suffered a high-profile regression in 2009 – was almost in disbelief that the Phillies were able to acquire Halladay.
While Hamels had already been an All-Star and had tremendous postseason success at that point, he was still just entering his age-26 season. He immediately joined a lengthy list of players trying to figured out what made Halladay tick, which he recently recalled on the “Major League Beginnings Podcast”:
“…Roy Halladay comes on this team, and we’ve already one once and went to the World Series the year before. We’re the team, and now we just get the best pitcher for the last decade in baseball. And I’m like, ‘How can you get any better?’. And to watch him from Day 1, he knew the plan, he knew the gameplan. He knew the gameplan in spring training, and we all tried to keep up. I mean, that’s really what you do with Roy Halladay, you try to keep up. He’s gonna pull you, and he makes you better.”
For as great as Halladay had been in Toronto, he had arguably his most dominant two-year stretch in his first two campaigns with the Phillies. In 2010, Halladay threw a perfect game, the second postseason no-hitter in MLB history and won the National League Cy Young Award. In 2011, Halladay was arguably even better, posting career-low marks in ERA (2.20) and FIP (2.71), along with a career-high fWAR (8.7). Halladay finished second in National League Cy Young Award voting in 2011, though there’s a legitimate case to be made for him over Clayton Kershaw, the winner that year. Halladay’s 2010 and 2011 seasons ranked in the top two of our most dominant individual Phillies seasons of the 2010s.
Players want to win for themselves. Every baseball player spends their entire life dreaming of winning a World Series. Beyond just being able to say you won one, it opens up so many doors for you when you’re done playing. Hamels, though, says there was a real sense among the Phillies in 2010 and 2011 that they wanted specifically to get Halladay to the top of the mountain.
“And then it became something – we wanted to get Roy Halladay to the World Series, because we knew that this guy deserved it and wanted it. And he wanted to share it with all of us. That was something that was even more special was he didn’t like to take credit for what he was doing, even though he deserved it. Even though he helped get us where we were, he didn’t want to take credit for it. He’s like ‘Oh no, you guys did the work.’ No, no Roy, you did this. You helped us.
“And so, to not be able to go to the World Series with him, that was so tough. I mean, that last game he pitched when we got eliminated in Game 5 of the Cardinals series…of course he’s going up against one of his best friends in [Chris] Carp[enter]…jeez, you couldn’t have a better game to watch. And Cliff [Lee] and I are in the bullpen going ‘What are we doing out here, we’re not gonna pitch. Can we just go back to the dugout and watch this game?’ Cliff and I are like ‘This is ridiculous.’
“So it was tough. He definitely has a big impact on a lot of guys, and it’s gonna carry over because what I’ve been able to take, I hope I was able to then reiterate to other pitchers. And it culminates a little bit more than you think, and that’s great.”
Halladay never did reach the World Series with the Phillies, as his body rapidly declined in 2013 and 2014, leading to his retirement following his fourth year with the club. Nonetheless, Halladay, who never reached the postseason in 12 seasons with the Blue Jays, would later call his time with the Phillies “the icing on the cake” to his tremendous career.
Hamels has played seven more seasons since he was last a teammate with Halladay, but you can tell as he tries to put the icing on the cake to his own career how much his time with Halladay meant to him.
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