Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Doc's Last Start?

It appears the Jays have gone past the point of no return regarding the future of Roy Halladay and will likely trade the former (2003) and future (2009? 2010?) Cy Young winner sometime before the July 31st trading deadline.

Or not.

The message is entirely unclear. J.P. Riccardi (rightly) continues to hold out for the best deal possible but when reading between the quotes uttered by Halladay, the indication is that Roy may have already emotionally moved on. Even though the soft deadline Riccardi initially set of July 28 for trading Halladay has already passed, I still think ultimately they'll move him. His value now is infinitely higher than it will be in the winter or at next year's deadline.

That made today's start in Seattle quite possibly the final time Blue Jays fans will see Halladay pitch in a Toronto uniform, and here is the CSJ live blog that followed it...

3:31 - Ouch. Our first look at the broadcast team and today's analyst is Rance Mulliniks. Why can't Rogers throw us a damn bone and give us Pat Tabler for all 162 games?

3:32 - Play-by-play man Jamie Campbell and Mulliniks discuss whether Halladay is the best pitcher in Jays history. As much as I love Doc (and it is indeed a sizable man-crush), Dave Stieb has to sit atop the list. Stieb has the franchise record for wins (176 to Halladay's 142), has the only no-hitter a Blue Jays pitcher has ever thrown, and he won the World Series in 1992. It's not even close.

3:37 - Today's Jays line-up features Kevin Millar. Kevin Freaking Millar. Even with the lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith on the mound for the Mariners, this has to be an F-U move by Cito to me personally. Millar was washed up two years ago and his only current motivation for playing is going back to Boston three times a year to reminisce. Why aren't the Jays trying Lind at first?

3:42 - Aaron Hill hits his 295th line-drive of the season. Ok fine, I made that up, but he continues to hit everything hard. This liner gets caught for the second out, but the point is Hill has quickly risen to the elite-level. He may not be the best second-baseman in baseball, but he's in the discussion.

3:46 - Rowland-Smith retires the Jays in order so I flip over to to see a breaking report that says the team that has been most prominently mentioned as a Halladay destination, the Phillies, are about to land Cliff Lee from Cleveland. Ahhhh, maybe this isn't going to be Doc's last start as a Jay?

3:50 - Doc sits down Franklin Gutierrez for his first strikeout of the afternoon but Jose Lopez pulls a double down the line to ensure Halladay doesn't throw a no-no in his Jays finale.

3:51 - Luckily for every team facing Seattle, Ken Griffey Jr. hits clean-up for the Mariners (and it's 2009 not 1999), and is up next. Inning over.

3:56 - The Jays, most notably Rios and Wells, combine to make Rowland-Smith throw a total of five pitches to get through the top of the second. Sportsnet shows a graphic that shows Mariners right-fielder Michael Saunders is the 10th Canadian to play for Seattle. Then Campbell asks Mulliniks if he could name two more? Then silence. Then Campbell offers a huge hint that results in Mulliniks mentioning former teammate Rob Ducey. I'll help you out here Rance: Eric Bedard.

4:01 - Halladay hits Kenji Johjima with an inside pitch that sounded on TV like it hit the bottom of the bat. But since Roy doesn't argue or complain I assume the ump made the right call. Then Jack Hannahan hits a grounder to Millar at first who bobbles it but still tags him out only the ump calls Hannahan safe. This time Halladay (and Millar) vehemently argue the call which makes me believe the ump got it wrong. The replay shows he did.

4:06 - Former Jay Chris Woodward lines a single to left but Jose Bautista nails Johjima at home with another great throw to keep the game scoreless.

4:09 - Doc k's the Canadian kid Saunders. Still bagels on the board.

4:12 - The Jays catch a break when Lopez drops a Rod Barajas pop-up but an out-of-shape Millar blows it by getting thrown out at second. Mulliniks tells viewers "that was not a base-running error by Millar". Well, I'm here to say that was definitely a base-running error. Lopez was running towards the right-field foul line and dropped the ball towards the stands, then let it roll while shaking his hand before realizing Millar and his cement feet were nowhere near second.

4:19 - Marco Scutaro pops up to end the Jays half of the third. Lost amid the constant Halladay trade speculation is what to do with Marco Scutaro? The 33 year-old short-stop and soon to be free-agent is having a career year and will surely get a significant raise over the $1.1 million he's making this year...but what is he worth moving forward? His defence has been better than expected and his professionalism and grit are desperately needed but his 2009 OBP (.388) is 50 points above his career average (.335) and he's going to set personal bests in almost every offensive category (AB's, R, H, 2B, HR, RBI, SB, BB), giving himself tremendous bargaining power. I am extremely worried about the career-year heading into free-agency syndrome.

4:22 - Ichiro lays down a bunt and pretty much flies to first base, not even drawing a throw from the fielding Halladay. So cheap.

4:26 - Ichiro reaches third base with two out but it's Griffey's turn to bat again. Advantage Doc, who induces a weak pop-up from the former All-Star.

4:33 - With Rowland-Smith continuing his Roy Halladay (or maybe even Mark Buehrle) impersonation the Jays go down in order quickly in the fourth. When the real Halladay heads back out, Shelton leads off the Mariners fourth with a bloop single that leaves Halladay smoldering (four hits but only two balls hit hard combined with multiple errors to create unwarranted baserunners). Of course Roy being Roy, he doesn't let it get to him. He re-focuses and gets out of the jam like he's done a million other times over the course of his career.

4:42 - Vernon Wells swings at the first pitch he sees and pops it up. Shocking. Then Millar swings at strike three and I punch myself in the face.

4:49 - Doc throws five pitches to get the first two outs in the bottom of the fifth but then gets in a battle with Lopez who hits a solo homer on a 3-2 count to give the Mariners a 1-0 lead. Griffey and his .209 average somehow manage to drive a double to left-center but Roy gets Shelton on another strike-out to end the inning.

4:59 - In his 15th start Rowland-Smith has a no-hitter going through six innings as the Jays threaten to make Roy Halladay's potential final start all too similar to so many of his previous starts: A great pitching performance wasted by a lack of offence.

5:07 - Halladay goes 1-2-3 in the sixth but is up to 94 pitches on the day. It'll be interesting to see how many they let him throw, with a deal potentially looming.

5:10 - Hill laces a single to left to break up the no-no and Adam Lind promptly crushes a homerun that quickly put the Jays on top 2-1. Win #143 is on the way!

5:19 - Following an error by Hill (on another cheap bunt by the M's, who obviously know they are overmatched at the hands of Halladay), Ichiro slaps a single to right to put runners on first and second with nobody out. Doc gets Gutierrez to pop up but then the red-hot Lopez (3 for 4) singles to load the bases. That actually sets up pretty well for Toronto because Griffey is at-bat and should be due for a double play.

5:26 - On cue Griffey officially ruins the party, hitting his second consecutive double (unimaginable) and driving in two runs to give the Mariners the lead back, 3-2. Griffey now has a whopping 16 doubles on the year.

5:30 - Doc strikes out Shelton for the third time today and Johjima flies out to end the rally, but the damage is done. And so might Halladay's career as a Toronto Blue Jay.

5:34 - Mark Lowe relieves Rowland-Smith, and the Jays make him throw a total of eight pitches to complete his inning of work. Way to make an effort boys!

5:40 - Roy's day is over, his line: 7IP, 11 hits, 3 runs, 0 BB, 6 K and 115 pitches. Not the normally dominant performance you usually see out of Halladay, but another quality start that was definitely good enough to win with. Brandon League replaces him and since the Jays are not protecting a lead, I would expect League to get the job done in the eighth.

5:44 - And League does. We head to the top of the ninth with the Jays trailing 3-2 and Halladay in line to take the loss.

5:51 - Seattle closer David Aardsma walks Hill to start the ninth, but Lind and Rolen follow with strike outs, leaving Rios as the only thing standing between Roy Halladay and another painful loss.

5:53 - Rios is no longer standing.

5:54 - Game over. Is this the end of the 'Doc' Halladay era in Toronto?

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