The first week in January is one of baseball's most exciting time periods.
Sure, the regular season has been in hibernation for a few months, and a World Series champion has been crowned. The Hot Stove is cooling down quickly, with most big name free agents having already been signed to lucrative deals.
However, during that first week in January, grown men who have given their lives to the game of baseball wait by their telephones like children wait by the tree on Christmas morning, waiting for a call that welcomes them into baseball immortality—the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
On January 5, 2010, the Hall of Fame welcomed two newcomers into it's elite ranks—second baseman, Roberto Alomar, and right handed pitcher, Bert Blyleven. They come from different walks of life.
Alomar, who hails from Ponce, Puerto Rico, spent just two years on the ballot before having his plaque engraved. On the other hand, Blyleven, born in Zeist, Netherlands, spent 15 years on the ballot before achieving greatness.
More than anything, this got me to thinking—how many of today's great players will one day be enshrined in Cooperstown?
Narrowing that down even further, I wondered, "Just how good is Roy Halladay?"
Halladay, 33, completed a smooth transition into the National League in 2010, posting a record of 21-10 with the Philadelphia Phillies.
He took the National League by storm, finishing first in the NL in wins (21), innings pitched (250.2), CG (9), BB/9 (1.08), LOB % (82.7%), and WAR (6.6).
He finished second in a number of other categories, including strikeouts (219), and third in other categories, including ERA (2.44), pitching his way to the National League Cy Young Award, the second Cy Young Award of his career.
According to the Baseball Writer's Association of America, Halladay was, without a doubt, the best pitcher in the National League in 2010. Though voting was completed before the post-season, the baseball world would know of Halladay's lore before the award was announced.
He became just the second pitcher in the history of baseball to throw a post-season no-hitter—the first since Don Larsen of the New York Yankees threw arguably the greatest game of all time, a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game Five of the 1956 World Series.
Halladay's 2010 accomplishments have been well documented, but the most recent season was far from an oddity for the man who also won the American League Cy Young Award in 2003, as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.
During that season, he posted a record of 22-7, with stats that nearly mirrored those he posted in 2010, creating the argument that moving to the National League added years to the ace's career.
Premature as it may be, we must ask ourselves—"Are we witnessing one of the greatest pitcher's of all time? Will this man eventually have a spot in Cooperstown?"
There is plenty of evidence to support his case.
Through the first 13 years of his career (which includes just two games in 1998), Halladay has posted a career record of 169 - 86, to go along with a career ERA of 3.32.
Over the course of his career, he has won 20 games three times, and in 2003, came close by winning 19.
He posted an ERA under four 11 times in his career and—more impressively—posted ERA's below three, six times, including a rookie season that boasted an ERA below two.
His resume already includes some very impressive feats, including winning the Cy Young Award twice, being selected as an All-Star seven times, being named the Starting Pitcher of the Year in 2010, leading the league in wins twice, and throwing two no-hitters.
Though his accomplishments are impressive to date, his career is far from over.
He has yet to rank in the top 50 in any of the major pitching categories, though that can change the longer he extends his career.
The common benchmark for pitching is wins, and 300 is the "guarantee marker." Well, in order for Roy Halladay to win 300 games by the age of 40, he would have to average 19 wins per season over the next seven seasons.
Though it is possible, it is also unlikely.
On the other hand, the Baseball Hall of Fame finally opened it's doors to Bert Blyleven in 2011, and his resume featured just 287 wins, though he was on the ballet for an incredible 15 years, the last of his eligibility.
According to Baseball-Reference.com's Similarity Scores (through age 33), Halladay ranks favorably among two Hall of Fame pitchers —Carl Hubbell and Jim Bunning.
Through age 33, Hubbell posted a record of 170 - 94, with an ERA of 2.79.
He played for a total of 16 seasons with the New York Giants, and finished with a career record of 253 - 154, with an ERA of 2.98.
He threw an incredible 3,590.1 innings over the entirety of his career with the Giants, and finished with an impressive accolades resume of his own, including nine All-Star selections, two National League MVP awards, and the ability to call himself a World Champion, something Halladay has yet to do in his career.
Bunning's line through age 33 featured much of the same.
Through his first 11 seasons, Bunning posted a record of 156 - 104, and an ERA of 3.53. Over the course of his career with the Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Los Angeles Dodgers, he posted a record of 224 - 184, with an ERA of 3.27.
Like many Hall of Fame pitchers, he boasts several career accolades, including nine All-Star selections and pitching a perfect game.
Though Carl Hubbell and Jim Bunning pitched in a different era, where many starting pitchers threw complete games and logged ridiculous amounts of innings with incredible frequency, the fact of the matter remains the same—through the first 13 years of his career, Roy Halladay has pitched like a potential Hall of Famer.
He already boasts several of the game's greatest feats, including winning the Cy Young Award in both leagues, being selected as an All-Star in both leagues, leading both leagues in wins, and throwing multiple no-hitters, including a perfect game.
If, over the course of the next seven seasons, Halladay can compile 55 more wins, which seems like a great possibility, he will have surpassed those of Jim Bunning, and if he can win 84 more games, he will have pulled even with Carl Hubbell.
You can also make the argument that he has already achieved more in the game, minus winning the World Series, than Hubbell or Bunning ever have, and finishing out his career would simply make Halladay a Hall of Fame pitcher.
Several intangibles also give Halladay a boost, in the minds of eligible voters.
In an era plagued by the clouds of steroids and performance enhancing drugs, Halladay has dominated both leagues while never testing positive for a substance. He has never been involved in controversy, and has represented Major League Baseball with the greatest of pride.
So the question remains—Will Roy Halladay be a Hall of Fame pitcher when his career is over?
Based on his track record, it's hard to believe that he won't be.
If Jim Bunning and Carl Hubbell are the litmus test, then Halladay arrives in Cooperstown as a First Ballot player. As mentioned, he has already achieved, in just 13 seasons, many of the feats that voters look for—no-hitters, 20-win seasons, and notable awards, including the Cy Young, twice.
Two things, in my mind, would hold him up, assuming he finishes his career on the track he's heading—new statistics and wins.
We live in an ever-evolving world, and with the introduction of SABRmetrics a few years back, baseball statistics have changed greatly.
With more and more baseball writers familiarizing themselves with said stats, a deeper evaluation of those eligible for the Hall of Fame has gone underway. Though SABRmetrics favor Halladay highly, you never know what the future holds.
In the same regard, Halladay will have to pass at least Bunning in wins at this point, and though he may not be a sure-fire 300-game winner, if anyone has the chance to pitch effectively into his forties', it is Roy Halladay.
However, with his accomplishments, and a resume that is likely to be added to, it is hard to believe that Halladay won't win over 250 games, and perhaps, finish his career with just two Cy Young Awards.
Though nothing in baseball is guaranteed, pitchers like Roy Halladay don't come along often.
The Hall of Fame features just 60 pitchers as of 2011, but several years in the future, the consensus says that Cooperstown will be opening it's doors for one more, the only question that remains is—what hat will he wear?