PHILADELPHIA, PA - Starting pitcher Roy Halladay #34 of the Philadelphia Phillies delivers a pitch during the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Roy Halladay might be the world's greatest living pitcher. Other pitchers have an argument, but any discussion that doesn't include Halladay is flawed. He left as a fan-favorite in Toronto, and he's a current fan favorite in Philadelphia. The game of baseball is better with Roy Halladay in it.
His greatest gift to the world, though, might always be just how bad he was for a while.
Brian Matusz isn't really in those greatest-pitcher discussions right now. He, uh, might be in different discussions. A year after finishing fifth in Rookie of the Year voting, Matusz has a 10.69 ERA in 49 innings, allowing 18 home runs. That's over three home runs for every nine innings he's pitched this season. He was the fourth-overall pick in 2008, and he shot through the minor leagues in 2009, posting a cumulative ERA of 1.91 with a 121/32 strikeout/walk ratio in 113 innings.
This is almost certainly the first time in his life that Matusz has struggled at any level. It's worth remembering that about a lot of young baseball players. Little league was probably a breeze for him, and I'd guess that high school was like playing with a cheat code. College and the minors weren't much harder. Then, after already having success at the major-league level, after already figuring he belonged, whatever had worked for him over the past couple of decades stopped working. This isn't a young pitcher struggling; this is a young pitcher having one of the largest meltdowns in the long history of Major League Baseball.
There can't be a lot to make Brian Matusz feel better right now. If his arm or shoulder doesn't ache, that's not a good thing. That means he's this bad without being hurt. If his arm or shoulder does ache, well, that's not a good thing. Just about the only good news for Matusz is that his season is over, and he can arrive in camp next spring with a clean slate.
But if there's one silver lining, it's that gift from Roy Halladay referenced up there. Here's a list of the pitchers with at least ten games started with an ERA over 10.00:
And there he is: Roy Halladay. For a young pitcher going through some otherwordly struggles, it has to be unbelievably encouraging to see Halladay's name up there. He's the motivation, the best-case scenario. An enterprising poster-maker could have a hot seller if he made one with a 24-year-old Halladay hanging from a tree with a caption of "Hang in there!"
It has to be Halladay to be as inspirational. A twist of "And that young pitcher ... grew up to be ... Jason Marquis!" just isn't going to work. It has to be Halladay, who is one of the best pitchers in the world, and likely a future Hall of Famer. He didn't just wake up one day with everything fixed, either. He had to work hard to get back what he had lost.
Matusz might never get right. He might go the way of Aaron Myette or Micah Bowie. It's also an apples-to-turnips comparison, as Matusz is a lefty with declining velocity, not a hard-throwing right-hander without command. But as long as Halladay's name is at the top of a very short list, there will be a glimmer of hope for Matusz and every highly touted young pitcher who struggles from now until the end of baseball. You know, Roy Halladay had this one season ....
Halladay will be remembered for being a better pitcher than almost all of his peers. But for struggling young pitchers, he'll always be remembered as the guy who climbed out of the quicksand. It's not a bad legacy at all.