Yes, Halladay, the unassuming right-hander, Cy Young Award winner and career-long Toronto Blue Jays icon, has just about had it with the non-waiver trading period.
He's had it with the whole world talking about it, asking about it, knowing about it. His team PR man stands guard, advises reporters Halladay won't address the fact that general manager J.P. Ricciardi has been taking calls on him for weeks, and then cuts short a postgame session that runs a little too close to that theme anyway.
Yes, apparently this has all been quite painful.
"It's not fun to go through," Halladay admitted. "I've tried to do the best I can."
He's not scheduled to pitch again until Tuesday in Toronto against the Yankees. So if he's traded, it'll be with 143 career wins, six All-Star seasons, the Cy Young in 2003, the runner-up in 2008 (the winner, Cliff Lee(notes), was traded from Cleveland to Philadelphia hours before Halladay's start here Wednesday), and not a single postseason pitch thrown.
And that's really why he's being dangled. The Blue Jays look like they're angling for another rebuild, this time with a bunch of young arms, some of them healing as we speak, and in the least forgiving division in the game. Halladay apparently has told the Blue Jays he'll be off to free agency after the 2010 season anyway, so if Ricciardi can pull something out of another non-contending season or four, he probably ought to.
The cost for Halladay is big. So big the Phillies changed course and added Lee instead. So big the Dodgers, Angels, Yankees, Brewers, Rangers, Red Sox and who knows who else have either been unwilling to pay it or have peeled off entirely. The Rangers seem the latest to go. According to a source, they are "probably not" a realistic possibility for Halladay any longer, assuming they ever were.
Asked Wednesday afternoon if the Halladay situation was status quo – Ricciardi had said Tuesday he did not believe a trade would get done because he'd not been blown away by an offer and didn't expect to be – Ricciardi texted, "Yes."
So the Blue Jays packed up for the Bay Area. They'll spend Thursday in their San Francisco hotel, the one they'll share with the Phillies, who will be in town to play the Giants. And they'll show up for Friday night's game in Oakland either with Halladay or a handful of players in his place.
"I don't have a crystal ball," Halladay said. "I can't predict. But I plan on making my next start [for the Jays]."
He'd allowed 11 hits to the plucky Seattle Mariners, the most he'd allowed in a start since early last season, and lost for only the third time since late April. Still, he was vintage Doc. His fastball was hard and his breaking ball lively. If he'd broken one more of Ken Griffey Jr.'s(notes) bats, Greenpeace was going to chain itself to the Mariners' bat rack and leave the local owls to their own devices. Griffey got him late, however, and when Halladay walked off the mound, perhaps his final public appearance as a Blue Jay, he'd thrown 115 pitches over seven innings. If Ricciardi or manager Cito Gaston were going to baby him into the deadline because of a potential trade, the pitching line certainly wouldn't suggest it. On a hot afternoon, Halladay was left in to win the game.
"I'm done going through it now," Halladay said. "There's not a lot I can control right now. The focus is on pitching."
About 40 minutes before his start, Halladay climbed the dugout stairs and trudged to the bullpen, a diagonal from the third-base line to the left-field fence. Blue Jays fans – there must have been a couple thousand of them here, and they were louder than a half-full house in Toronto – applauded him when he appeared, and when he got to the bullpen, and when he stood on the mound to warm up.
They'd heard, of course. Everybody had heard.
A couple days earlier, a handmade sign over the Jays' dugout had read:
Gas from BC: $28
Game tickets: $120
Jays jerseys: $240
Doc still a Jay: Priceless
Not a Phillie. Not a Red Sox. Not a Dodger or an Angel or a Ranger or a Yankee or a Brewer. Just Roy, good ol' Doc, theirs since '95 and still just 32 years old. The problem for the Blue Jays, ol' Doc is being paid $14.25 million this season and $15.75 next, which would be fine if they weren't so grossly overpaying two of their outfielders. Maybe they'll hold onto him, try to win next season, and Ricciardi certainly wants everyone to believe that's an option.
Gaston said they might even have a chance, too, "If we get everybody back healthy next year and we have Doc back next year."
On the other hand, he added, "You lose somebody like Doc, it's going to take some time to regroup. For me he's the best pitcher in baseball. If that happens, and that might have to happen, I guess it depends on who you get back for him."
That is where it all rides, of course. So far, no one has been willing to tear down what they have, and Ricciardi has been right not to bend. The right team will have him for not just 45 or 50 starts, but for two Octobers.
In the hours before he'd learn his fate, Halladay did make one last grab at perspective. Perhaps this has been slightly uncomfortable. Perhaps it's easy to see it all as part of the game if it's not happening to you. Perhaps he wants to go so bad, to win so bad, he's afraid to hope for it. But, either way, in five days someone will give him the ball again.
"Obviously," he said, "you can't ever forget you're doing something you love to do."