Halladay Wins Career No. 200, The New 300
Standing atop a mushy mound in Nationals Park on a soggy June afternoon, Giants closer Brian Wilson fired a knee-high fastball to Nationals first baseman Adam Dunn in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Dunn watched. Home plate umpire Tim Timmons pumped his fist.
And just like that, Randy Johnson became just the 24th man ever to log 300 career big-league wins – and maybe the last one that ever will.
Yesterday, in the Phillies 2-1 win over the Marlins, Roy Halladay, the modern model of consistency, dominance and (we thought) longevity, punched the milestone that may replace 300 as the new normal for modern-day pitchers.
Just 200 wins.
The ceiling hasn't lowered only for Halladay, who got No. 200 on his second try, amid his recent struggles. He and Yankees’ statesman Andy Petittte (245) are alone on the active list of 200 game winners. Atlanta’s Tim Hudson (199) and fellow Yankee C.C. Sabathia (191) are likely to join sometime soon.
For the next tier, though, there are no guarantees. Texas’ Derek Lowe (175), Toronto’s Mark Buerhle (174) and Oakland’s Bartolo Colon (171) are in the vicinity. They’re also 40, 34 and 40 years old, respectively.
Next closest on the list? Barry Zito, 34, with 162.
For reference, Cliff Lee, 34, who took the ball for at least 30 games in 7 of his last 9 years, won for himself a Cy Young and earned for himself a 5-year, $120 million deal in 2010, has just 127 Ws in his career.
In other words, if the Phillies picked up his $27.5 million option in 2016, and Lee won 18 games every season between now and then, his age-38 season, he’d still fall one win short of 200.
Peering down the list, you’ll find that 200 is no small feat anymore.
Such is life, it seems, for top arms in this MLB.
It might even prove to be a reach for some of this generation's top aces. Detroit’s Justin Verlander, 30, and Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, 27, are already nine years into their big-league careers. Yet they've racked just 125 and 99 wins, respectively. Of note, they’ve each started over 30 games for eight straight seasons.
When you consider what it took Halladay to get here, again, to "just" 200 – 15 seasons, 2 Cy Youngs, 8 All-Star appearances, three 20-win seasons, 10 double-digit win seasons, career 3.31 ERA, 2,687 1/3 innings and 36,763 pitches, eighth-most all-time – it’s hard to imagine most coming close.
In the game’s storied history, some 112 pitchers have reached 200. Tim Wakefield (200) squeaked in last year before retiring. John Smoltz (213) got there in 2007, before going another 3 seasons – until his 42nd birthday. Curt Schilling (216) got there the year prior, Kevin Brown (211) in 2005.
But save for only a handful of other guys – Mike Mussina (270), Jamie Moyer (269), Kenny Rogers (219), and those in the 300 club, Maddux (355), Clemens (354), Glavine (305), Johnson (303), all of whom went in right around the steroid era – nobody in the past two or three decades has made it. The rest are old-timers, who heavily populate the 300 club, too.
We can hypothesize why. Training, nutrition and scouting are all better. Pitchers have started throwing elbow and shoulder-scorching breaking stuff far earlier, far more often and for far longer in their careers than ever. They’re also a bit more coddled now than they were once (right, Stephen?). And with the business side of baseball now at its highest stakes and most scrutinized, pitchers simply don’t have the rein for end-of-their-career failure that many once enjoyed.
Whatever the case, if we didn’t already know, Halladay’s win yesterday at Marlins Park ought to serve as a stark reminder: 300 wins may be gone for good.