Phillies

Remembering what mattered most to Roy Halladay

Remembering what mattered most to Roy Halladay

I was there for the perfect game. I was there for the postseason no-hitter. I was there on that night when the Phillies clinched the division title in 2010 — his Cy Young season in Philadelphia — and he finally got to experience the euphoria of a champagne celebration. I was there when he pitched so valiantly and left a piece of his soul on the mound at Citizens Bank Park the night the 102-win season came to a crushing conclusion in a 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. I was there the night he walked off the mound in Miami for the last time in September 2013, his wounded right shoulder turned to spaghetti after pitching 15 seasons in the majors and reaching 220 innings eight times.

I saw all of Roy Halladay's highs and lows during his four seasons as a Phillie.

And, yet, my favorite memory of the man who left this world way too soon on Tuesday did not even happen in a game.

It happened in July 2011 during a memorable series at Wrigley Field. Halladay pitched the series opener on a Monday night and was forced to leave the game after the fourth inning because of dehydration. It was a scary scene. Wrigley Field was a pizza oven that night and Roy couldn't fight off the heat. At one point, it looked like he would pass out. He needed intravenous after the game. The next day, to the surprise of many, he pronounced himself fine and said he would be ready to make his next start. To prove it, he was the first one on the field Wednesday morning, ready to throw his between-starts bullpen sessions.

Halladay approached those between-starts bullpen sessions the way a surgeon approaches his work in the operating room. The expression "all business" does not even do it justice. No one got in his way. Nothing pierced his concentration. He would finish those sessions and walk straight to the training room for stretching and ice. It was all part of his almost robotic routine and anyone who got in his way would feel the sting of his icy glare.

But there were exceptions.

Roy Halladay had a huge competitor's heart. He also had a good heart and a soft spot for kids.

As Halladay went through his bullpen routine that Wednesday morning in Chicago, a tour group made its way through the stands. As the tour leader talked about the old ballpark, the group of fans couldn't help but rubberneck Halladay's work in the bullpen. Halladay finished the bullpen session, threw a towel over his shoulder and, still in the zone, started walking purposefully back to the dugout with pitching coach Rich Dubee. As Halladay got to the top step of the dugout and was about to disappear up the tunnel to the clubhouse, a young boy broke away from the tour group and shouted, "Roy!" Halladay stopped, looked around and saw the boy running his way. The pitcher waited for the boy to arrive at the dugout. He wiped sweat from his forearms and signed the kid's baseball. The boy looked for a moment at the prized autograph, then ran through the stands at empty Wrigley Field and rejoined the group. The kid got a lot more than a tour of the Friendly Confines that day.

That one moment with a kid in an empty ballpark in Chicago spoke volumes about Roy Halladay. He was always willing to make a kid's day. He was always willing to share a piece of himself with a young person who wanted to touch his greatness or learn from it. We saw it time and time again in Philadelphia. He took Kyle Kendrick under his wing. He bonded with Carlos Ruiz. He guided Cole Hamels.

"In order to be great at something, you have to have mentors, and he was one for me," the heartbroken Hamels said Tuesday night, just a few hours after learning of his friend's death in a plane crash at the way-too-young age of 40. "He made you push to a level that you didn't think you could reach. He raised my bar."

Guys like Kendrick, Ruiz and Hamels revered Halladay. He gave them so much and they wanted to give back to him. After the Phillies won the division in 2011, Ruiz said, "Gotta get Doc a ring." It didn't work out, of course. But not having a World Series ring did not diminish Halladay's career at all and he knew that. Yes, he pushed for a trade from Toronto to Philadelphia because he saw it as a way to put a World Series ring on his finger. But if you listened closely to Doc during his four seasons here, you know that he prioritized "enjoying the journey" more than anything — and he had quite a journey.

Most recently, his journey had taken him to the skies and to a tragic and unfathomable end, but his baseball journey had continued. He spent the spring and summer working part-time in the Phillies’ organization, mentoring young minor-league pitchers on the science of gaining a mental edge. He was also the proud pitching coach at Calvary Christian High School, just down the road from the Phillies’ ballpark in Clearwater, and he was coaching another youth team, as well. Back in March, he beamed as he talked about coaching those two teams. His sons, Braden and Ryan, were players on those teams and Roy was loving the time he got to spend with them around the game he loved so much.

Fathers ... sons ... baseball.

Gulp.

Man, there are so many reasons why this is difficult. So, so many. Roy Halladay's affinity and commitment to helping youngsters, from Little Leaguers to professionals, is a big one. The guy was always generous with his time and expertise and that will be missed.

So what is Roy Halladay's legacy? Cooperstown? Oh, yeah. That will happen. But his real legacy is still out there, and in some cases it's still developing. The guy touched a lot of young lives through baseball and surely some of those young lives will do great things with the lessons he imparted. I was there for the no-hitters and the other memorable moments of Roy Halladay's time in Philadelphia. But I'll remember most how much the kids always mattered to him.

Bryce Harper hysteria mounts for Phillies as Manny Machado mania ends

Bryce Harper hysteria mounts for Phillies as Manny Machado mania ends

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Phillies officials started daydreaming about the possibility of putting Manny Machado in red pinstripes a couple of years ago. They tried to trade for him in July. They hosted him as a free agent at Citizens Bank Park in December, wined and dined him in Center City and subsequently made him multiple contract offers.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Phils' long pursuit of the Gold Glove infielder ended.

General manager Matt Klentak got a phone call from Machado's agent, Dan Lozano. Machado was ready to move on a contract offer from the San Diego Padres, later reported to be worth $300 million over 10 years.

Did the Phillies want to stay in the game?

"There's a certain value that we believe a player brings and we were willing to be aggressive," Klentak said in a meeting with reporters later in the day. "If the reports are true, then this contract will exceed our valuation and sometimes you have to be willing to walk away.

"We've made no secret. We're really happy for Manny. We like the player. I think San Diego will be a very good fit for him. We made our bid, put our best foot forward and he ended up signing with the Padres.

"Over the course of four months, we had ongoing dialogue. We were certainly engaged with Danny throughout and Manny would have been a good fit, but again, you have to draw the line somewhere. The Padres are getting a great player."

Klentak would not say what the Phillies' best offer was. He shook his head "no" when asked if he would have done anything differently during the negotiations.

According to sources, Machado had been coveted by the Phillies' baseball operations and analytics staffs. Both believed that in this free-agent market, he offered the best possible roster upgrade because he is an elite defender at third base in addition to being a top offensive talent.

But news of Machado's decision was not met with disappointment in all circles of the Phillies organization and it certainly was not met with disappointment by the fans.

The folks in the box office have favored this winter's other big free agent, Bryce Harper, over Machado, whose controversial comments in October about not hustling created concerns about how he'd be received by hard-nosed Philadelphia sports fans.

Harper remains the overwhelming free-agent choice of the fans, and Machado's decision to play in San Diego, coupled with the Phillies' desire to make a big free-agent score in this winter of stupid money, puts enormous public pressure on the club to land the 26-year-old outfielder.

Klentak was asked if he'd spoken with Harper's agent, Scott Boras, in the wake of the Machado news.

"I'm not going to answer that," he said.

It is difficult to imagine the opportunistic Boras not having reached out to the Phillies after Machado's signing. Phillies officials met with Boras and Harper in Las Vegas in January and the two sides remain in contact. In fact, there has been an uptick in conversation between the two sides recently.

All along, observers of this free-agent drama have believed that Machado would sign before Harper. Now that Machado has set the bar, Harper will try to jump over it. There is some industry thought that he is seeking $326 million, which would put him above the $325 million that Giancarlo Stanton got in a contract extension with the Miami Marlins.

The White Sox, Giants and Nationals, along with the Phillies, have had interest in Harper. But can any other team play in the neighborhood of $300 million? The White Sox said they weren't willing to go that high for Machado. The Giants' interest seems tied to a short-term deal. The Nats reportedly offered $300 million to retain Harper in October, but there are questions about whether the offer still exists after a busy winter of transactions in Washington.

The Phillies are very leery about bidding against themselves. That caution might have hurt them in their bid to sign Machado. It could hurt them in their quest to land Harper. By the same token, they could be rewarded if they remain patient on Harper because it is very difficult to identify which teams are really in on him. This might be a field of just one.

Klentak would not say what the Phillies' valuation of Harper is. He would not discuss what the "walk-away" point would be on Harper, though there clearly would be one.

The Phillies have largely had a productive offseason. They got better with Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto. But from Day 1, this offseason was about landing one of the big ones and there's only one of them left. Gulp.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

The Phillies' competition for Bryce Harper after Manny Machado reportedly agrees to deal with Padres

The Phillies' competition for Bryce Harper after Manny Machado reportedly agrees to deal with Padres

Updated: 2:15 p.m. 

With Manny Machado off the board, so too are the Padres in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes.

Are the Phillies just bidding against themselves at this point?

Let's take a look at the rest of the market:

White Sox

The White Sox richest reported offer to either player this offseason was in the range of $200 million. Aside from not being able to offer the most money, the White Sox offer even less of a chance to win now than the Padres. Harper is uber-competitive, so you would think this matters.

White Sox executive VP Ken Williams said this:

Telling.

Here's what White Sox GM Rick Hahn had to say:

These do not sound like the comments of a team that thinks it has a chance to land Harper.

Nationals

You learn in this business to never say never, especially when it comes to high-priced negotiations that can change at a moment's notice. 

The Nationals, by word and deed, appear to have moved on from Harper. They have a good outfield even without him — Juan Soto, Adam Eaton, top prospect Victor Robles — and also must worry about paying underrated star Anthony Rendon when his contract expires after 2019. 

Rumblings about Harper's work ethic also leaked out of the Nationals' spring training clubhouse earlier this week. 

Washington's payroll is nearing $200 million and is precariously close to exceeding the luxury tax threshold of $206 million. The Nats do, however, have about $60 million coming off the books after 2019.

That said, the Phillies should be able to top Washington's offer, especially since all of the Nats' highest-priced players have deferrals in their contract. The Phils should be able to close a deal without deferring any of the money. Deferral vs. non-deferral should be an easy decision for any player.

If money means the most to Harper, the Phillies have the clear advantage. If it's a combination of money and comfort, you can't just outright eliminate the Nats.

Giants

The Giants have reportedly only been interested in giving Harper a shorter-term deal. At this point, especially after Machado got a 10-year contract from the Padres, it would be extremely surprising if Harper went that route. It might look like a loss, which Scott Boras is rarely willing to take.

The Giants were a team to worry about because of the affinity Harper and his wife Kayla have for the Bay Area and because of his friendship with guys like Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey. 

But again, the Giants just aren't a win-now team. They won 73 games last season and their top players are aging out of their primes. Posey is no longer the elite offensive option he once was. Madison Bumgarner, a free-agent at season's end, is no longer the unquestioned ace he once was. 

San Francisco is also a tough place to hit. Harper's numbers there would probably be worse than they were at Nationals Park (which plays mostly neutral but hitter-friendly when it's warm) and at Citizens Bank Park.

The pressure is on the Phillies' front office to get this done. The biggest roadblocks at this point would be an 11th-hour mystery team emerging, or a genuine hesitance from Harper to play in Philadelphia. There's no real indication he doesn't want to be in Philly other than this tweet, which could also be a mere ploy by Boras to get the Phillies to boost their offer one final time.



Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies