Saturday, July 25, 2009

Is There a Doctor in the House?

With trade rumours swirling around Blue Jays pitching ace Roy Halladay, the doctor was in Friday evening as Halladay pitched nine strong innings in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays that eventually finished 4-2 for the Rays in extra innings.

Reliever Scott Downs took the loss, giving up two runs in the tenth inning. Tampa’s Matt Garza saw his record improve to 7-7 as he put on quite a pitching performance himself, matching Halladay’s efforts, spreading five hits over nine innings and striking out nine Blue Jay batters. With the loss, Downs falls to 1-2 coming out of the bullpen.

In what could have been his last start at the Rogers Centre in front of the home crowd, the Toronto veteran displayed his talents for the Jays faithful. In his 300th career start, Halladay looked to be in fine form and if a trade is in the works, the price for the Blue Jays ace certainly went up after the game with his performance on the mound.

In nine innings, Halladay threw 115 pitches and struck out ten Tampa batters, while walking three and allowing only two runs - one unearned. Denied a victory due to a lack of offence from the Jays bats, the eleven game winner could not take sole possession of the American League lead for victories. Halladay remains tied with six other AL pitchers with 11 wins, a group that includes Boston’s Josh Beckett and Chicago’s perfect pitcher Mark Buehrle.

The trade rumours started slowly on July 5th when Jays General Manager J.P. Ricciardi told members of the media he would listen to offers for Halladay. The situation has now become a full-blown tempest and a war of words between the pitcher and General Manager. Halladay is set to become a free agent after the 2010 season and that is Ricciardi’s reasoning behind shopping the face of the franchise.

Halladay has openly stated he wants to play for a winner with the chance to compete in the post season before his career ends. He has repeatedly stated he loves the fans and the city of Toronto and he would prefer to be with the Jays on a long playoff run. Ricciardi appears to be selling the idea that Toronto will not be competitive for several more years; leaving baseball fans wondering why they should come to the ballpark to witness several more losing seasons.

Ranked 25th in average attendance among the thirty MLB teams, the Blue Jays are averaging 23,628 fans per game and that number will certainly decline if Halladay changes his address. The team has not reached the post season since their last World Series win in 1993 and fans are clamouring for changes at the top. Management is pleading for patience by the fans but seeing the face of the franchise traded away may be a blow to the fan base and it further fuels the speculation that in a year or two, the Jays may be in serious trouble as an organization.

Canadian baseball fans witnessed the slow demise of the Montreal Expos organization and while the Blue Jays are not that far into the danger zone, baseball fans in Toronto are ready to turn their backs on the team, especially if their beloved doctor leaves town.

A first round draft pick by the Jays in 1995, Halladay made his MLB debut September 20th 1998. In his 300 career starts, he has 142 wins, a 3.45 career ERA and he has struck out 1,410 batters. The 2003 Cy Young Award winner as the best pitcher in baseball, Halladay has established himself as a front-runner for the award again this year.

Perhaps that is the only good news in this situation; all of the trade talk has the American media taking notice of another strong season by Doc Halladay. Whether or not he finishes the season in Toronto, one thing is certain; the Blue Jays are gambling with their future more then they may realize. Halladay is more then just a baseball player in Toronto, he is the glimmer of hope the fans need if they are to dream of another trip to the World Series. Have a great sports day everyone.

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