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Toronto Blue Jays hang a banner biding farewell to starting pitcher Roy Halladay prior to AL action against Tampa Bay Rays in Toronto on Friday July 24 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Toronto Blue Jays hang a banner biding farewell to starting pitcher Roy Halladay prior to AL action against Tampa Bay Rays in Toronto on Friday July 24 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Jeff Blair

Are the Blue Jays taking their fans for a ride? Add to ...

Maybe Roy Halladay's playing along. He said last night that "right now, I think I will be here," after the trade deadline. Here. As in Toronto. As in with the Blue Jays.

Uh, sweetheart? Get me to re-write.

Maybe he's helping the Blue Jays play up his trade value in advance of the July 31st deadline, or the July 28th deadline the Blue Jays may or may not have to deal him.

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Because know this: after his post-game interview, it will now cost somebody else one more player to get him if they really want him. Halladay did not take a curtain call last night.

He did not treat it like his last game. Perhaps the Blue Jays -general manager J.P. Ricciardi, interim president and chief executive officer Paul Beeston, all of them - are working in cahoots to exact a higher price from the Philadelphia Phillies, who have emerged as the clear front-runner for Halladay. "I feel like there's a plan in place," Halladay said.

Here.

As in Toronto.

Er, make that two more players. Oh, and about re-write ….

In some quarters, it's been suggested that this week's whole semantics lesson - Halladay either gave the Blue Jays a list of teams he wanted to be traded to or he didn't give them a list; Ricciardi can't remember when Halladay told him he was not going to sign an extension, etc. - is an organizational plan to sully Halladay's reputation and make his exit more palatable.

That's an odd assertion from the grassy knoll group, since no sports figure in this city has less currency among his teams fan's base. I mean, really: if you want to spread nasty rumours about the most popular kid in the class, you don't send out the least-popular kid to do it, right?

You want somebody people will believe, and based on the 'Fire J.P.' signs all over the Rogers Centre and the chants for his ouster, he is not the guy to damage Halladay's reputation.

Those who believe that will say that Halladay's surprising responses last night were Halladay's attempt to repair some of the damage. Reverse whatever damage was done to his reputation. They'll say that his clear expression of public support for Ricciardi is essentially Halladay saying: 'Uh uh. No friggin' way I'm the scapegoat, here."

If anything, what Halladay did was smooth the waters. It would be vintage. Class personified.

This much is certain: something changed since Beeston and Ricciardi told a meeting of season ticket holders in February that whatever the 2009 season might bring, 2010 was going to be the year that the Toronto Blue Jays took a run at the American League East.

Beeston acknowledged yesterday that something had indeed changed. What, exactly, he didn't want to say. "I'll talk about it after the trade deadline (July 31)," Beeston said.

OK. How about this, then: is Rogers Communications getting cold feet about owning this team? "Absolutely not," Beeston replied. "This has nothing to do with ownership. This ownership is no different than the ownership Pat (Gillick) and I worked with in the 90s. They've been spectacular."

This situation was ripe for confusion. Take an interim president and CEO to oversee a G.M. who is under the gun and has to fend off rumours about his job security while he deals with a once-in-a-lifetime pitcher in a city that hasn't known a winner in any sport.

All this, just shortly after the man who bought the team and the Rogers Centre, Ted Rogers, passes away and the team becomes part of an even more corporate landscape.

And we haven't even thrown in the dynamic of the 24-hour news cycle and Twitter and all that instant news stuff that Beeston never had to worry about before. People say stuff now and it's bloggable or Twitterable.

No chance for a phone call to say: "Hey, you know when I said this about so-and-so? Well, I meant to say this …" Too late. You say something, it's out there.

At any rate, we're down to the semantic stems and seeds when it comes to this melodrama. Who told who what and when they said it … blah, blah, blah, blah.

While outside the Rogers Centre lightning flashed and thunder rumbled, the blogosphere and its cousin Twitterdom (and Twitter-dumber) were rife with rumours that a deal between the Phillies and Blue Jays was all but done.

But when Halladay took the field at around 6:20 p.m. and started to begin warmup exercises in front of the left-field bullpen, it was clear that no deal had been finalized, at least in the Blue Jays minds. Why risk injury if a deal's in hand?

Know this: Halladay has told people that the Phillies are his preferred choice if he were to be traded. The Blue Jays want pitchers J.A. Happ and Kyle Drabek and one of two outfield prospects: Michael Taylor or Dominic Brown.

Shortstop Jason Donald would be nice, too and the Blue Jays might expand the deal if they need to do so. Meanwhile, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim owner Arte Moreno said his team is keeping its "options open," and Los Angeles Dodgers G.M. Ned Colletti has told reporters that the Blue Jays have identified "two or three players," they like.

But the only teams that scouted last night's game were the Phillies and New York Yankees.

Even commissioner Bud Selig's following the situation. During an interview on Sirius XM yesterday, Selig was asked if it "disturbs you that the Blue Jays kind of feel they've got to get rid of a pitcher this good?' His response? "Well, we'll see what happens. I'm hearing conflicting versions.

They may get rid of him and today I was told by somebody with pretty good inside knowledge that they won't get rid of him." Bud doesn't think he's going. Roy doesn't think he's going - and Ricciardi said himself Thursday night that his "gut" told him Roy would be staying.

Of course, as Blue Jays fans know, these things are always subject to, uh, change. The only thing that won't change is the depth of their feelings for Halladay. After last night's performance on the field and in the interview room, it has never been deeper.

 

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