Editor's Note: NESN.com Red Sox reporter Tony Lee will examine one hot-button baseball topic each day in December. On Friday, he looked at the Yankees' treatment of Derek Jeter this offseason.
To be a big-game pitcher you need so much more than great stuff. The best of the best have always carried to the mound that unquantifiable quality?a demeanor, an attitude and an air of confidence can make all the difference.
Pedro Martinez had it. Curt Schilling had it. Mariano Rivera still has it. It's that certain something that suggests that when these hurlers are on, you have no chance, and when they're off, they will still give their teams a chance to win.
The active list of such arms is a short one. In the interest of generating a good old-fashioned baseball debate, we ask: If you could have any active pitcher, who would you want to start Game 7 of a World Series?
Fortunately, the top candidates each gave us something to go by just over a month ago. This postseason featured several outstanding pitching performances by the guys who are expected to deliver outstanding pitching performances. There was nary a choke in the lot, aside from both Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum getting roughed up in the opener of the World Series.
Prior to that Lee built upon his status as one of the best postseason pitchers of our time by dominating Tampa Bay and New York. Lincecum, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, outdueled Lee in the final game of the World Series. The best outing of any of the big names this October was produced by the one guy we would want on the mound in the biggest game of the year.
As if he had waited for the big stage to showcase just how incredibly good and unfazed he is, Roy Halladay threw a no-hitter in his first ever postseason start in Game 1 of the NLDS. He came within a walk of a perfect game and proved that the trade that brought him over from Toronto (even if it jettisoned Lee) was one worth making time and time again.
The 32-year-old Halladay is one of just five pitchers to win the Cy Young Award in both leagues. He is extremely durable and often gets stronger as games progress. His career seems to be taking a similar path. Aside from time missed in 2004 due to a broken leg suffered on a comebacker, there is almost no blemish on his resume. And if the no-no vs. the Reds didn't prove to anyone that Halladay would thrive when the season is on the line, perhaps an even gutsier performance two starts later should suffice.
After losing a duel with Lincecum in Game 1 of the NLCS, Halladay surrendered a run in a laborious first inning of Game 5. Seemingly, he was not himself, even getting into it with the umpires at one point. What wasn't known until after he rebounded to throw five more spectacular frames and spur the Phillies to a season-saving victory was that Halladay had suffered a pulled groin right off the bat. He was forced to use a stationary bicycle between innings just to press through an injury that would have floored those less-prepared to put his team on his back.
That's not to say that Lee, Lincecum or other greats such as Felix Hernandez and Adam Wainwright wouldn't have done the same thing. But you only have one chance to give the ball to someone to start a Game 7. Although he's somewhat new to the postseason party, Halladay is the choice.