When will King Felix get his MD?


Via ShysterBall, we've got Don Wakamatsu's unflattering comments about Felix Hernandez's performance Tuesday night, along with Geoff Baker's comparison of Hernandez to Roy Halladay (who Baker covered for many years in Toronto). Baker:

    Many of you don't like it when I compare Hernandez to Roy Halladay, who I covered for nine seasons. Well, Hernandez himself has said he aspires to be like Halladay, so if it's good enough for him, it will have to be OK for the rest of you. In any event, I don't care. Because Halladay makes for a very good comparison when folks want to chart how Hernandez is progressing.
    If the goal is for Hernandez to be merely a very good pitcher, then he's already there. He has good enough stuff to get by a lot of teams even when he's only throwing his four-seam fastball. Not every time out, but on a lot of occasions.

    But if the goal is for him to be a true ace like Halladay -- a perennial Cy Young Award contender and arguably the best pitcher in baseball since 2002 -- then he still has a ways to go.

    Halladay makes for a good comparison because he came up to the majors at age 21 for two games in 1998, getting within one out of a no-hitter the final day of that season. Obviously, that near no-hit bid -- with players swinging away quickly and indiscriminately, like nine innings of Betancourt at the plate -- raised fan expectations to great heights.

    And Halladay spent the next three years trying to live up to those expectations.

Exactly. Baker's concise account of Halladay's career is illuminating, but I'm not exactly sure if it's completely germane to the subject at hand. Sure, you want every pitcher, young or old, to emulate Doc's work habits? The problem with the comparison is that Hernandez at 23 is far, far better than Halladay at 23.
Hernandez turned 23 just last month, and he's got 43 wins and a 3.82 career ERA. When Halladay turned 23, he had 11 wins and a 5.10 ERA, and a few days later he was sent back to the minors because he couldn't get anybody out. Halladay returned to the Blue Jays later that summer ... and kept getting hammered. The next spring he was shipped to the minors once again, figured everything out, and showed up in the majors that July as the Roy Halladay we've all grown to love.

Baker's point, I think, is that 1) Halladay figured things out when he was 24, 2) Hernandez will be 24 in the not-so-distant future, ergo 3) it's high time that Felix figures things out, too.

Well, OK. I would argue that Hernandez has already figured most things out, or at least his career statistics would suggest that he has. But the real problem is that not everyone can become Roy Halladay, and even those few who do become Roy Halladay will do it on their own schedule, not ours. Oh, and one other problem is your manager blaming one of your best players when your club's in a tailspin.