My goodness, but that certainly seemed like goodbye, didn't it? When Roy Halladay completed his warm-up pitches and walked in from the left-field bullpen yesterday to a smallish ovation, the Rogers Centre grounds crew formed a phalanx and rose from their knees to applaud him as he walked by.
And when he took the mound for what would turn out to be a 3-1 Toronto Blue Jays win, his teammates delayed leaving the dugout, giving him a head-start.
This, after Halladay's wife, Brandi, teared up during an interview on the Fan 590 radio station with Jerry Howarth during Saturday's 6-2 Blue Jays win.
"This could very well be our last homestand," she said. "We're leaving on Monday. If something happens before the trade deadline, I won't be back. That's difficult. That's more than difficult."
This much is clear: The Blue Jays are listening to offers for Halladay, with the non-waiver trade deadline 11 days away. St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak appeared to pull his team out of the marketplace.
The Philadelphia Phillies have been the most ardent suitors all along, and special adviser Pat Gillick was at yesterday's game between the Jays and Boston Red Sox. The Phillies have scouted all of Halladay's recent starts and general manager Ruben Amaro was one of the few GMs at last week's All-Star Game, which Halladay started for the American League.
Blue Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava was in Lakewood, N.J., last week to scout the Phillies' Single-A affiliate.
Not much is unknown about anybody in this age of video scouting. But the Phillies have reason to keep a set of eyes on Halladay. Since coming off the 15-day disabled list with a groin strain, he had not been overpowering. He was 0-2 (4.50 ERA) in three starts and had walked five batters after issuing 12 bases on balls in his previous six starts. He had given up nine hits in back-to-back games. But yesterday, he was much happier with his command and picked up the pace in the final third of the game.
"When he smells the end … the finish line … he knows how to finish," Jays manager Cito Gaston said.
Halladay said he's moved beyond the rumours, just as he said he would after the All-Star Game. He'll keep reporting to work until he's told otherwise. So was that goodbye? Halladay said to read nothing into his tipping his cap to the crowd. Stay tuned.
Yesterday's crowd of 36,534 meant that Halladay's starts have attracted an average of 28,809 compared to the Blue Jays' season average of 22,234 in games he didn't start. However, take away opening day (48,027) and two starts against the New York Yankees and Red Sox, and five of Halladay's 10 starts at home have been under that average figure. The Blue Jays have a number of factors to weigh in making this deal, but don't let anybody tell you fan backlash is one of them.
MONDAY 2 MONDAY
Tough to know what to make of Canada's quarter-final loss to Honduras at the Gold Cup on Saturday but I know this: If my team keeps constantly getting screwed over by referees, well, I might look at changing the on-field captain.
That's not to blame Paul Stalteri for Canada's 1-0 loss in Philadelphia. But the point is, we've all seen dodgier interference calls in the box than the one that Salvadoran referee Joel Aguilar called on Stalteri, leading to Walter Martinez's penalty-kick goal. That call is hardly on par with Mexican referee Benito Archundia's off-side call in 2007 that cost Canada's Atiba Hutchinson a goal in a 2-1 loss to the United States.
(Plus, given their contentious history, I'd take a referee from El Salvador working my game against the Honduras any day.)
By and large, I like what interim head coach Stephen Hart accomplished in the Gold Cup. It's interesting that Canada won games in the tournament without the security blanket of Dwayne De Rosario. That must auger well for the future.
There is never a clear-cut way forward in this country when it comes to the world's most popular game, but my sense is that it's time for the captain's arm-band to be worn by someone other than Stalteri on a regular basis. I don't know if Canada will create any more breaks by having someone else get in the referee's face. But it can't hurt, can it?
Oh, and let's be clear: Canada lost to Honduras and was eliminated from the Gold Cup because it failed to convert any of its ample chances. Again, it was the story of Canadian soccer on the international stage: plenty of industry, not enough finish.
Just in time to launch Terrell Owens's assault on Western Civilization - his VH1 reality show makes it debut today - the Buffalonto Bills receiver has been seen squiring Maybelline model Jessica White. … Chris Bosh's agent, Henry Thomas, is moving to Creative Artists Agency and taking his clients (Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Devin Harris, among others) with him. I wish he'd take Bosh's BlackBerry with him and throw it in the garbage. The Charlie V thing was good for charity but enough is enough. We're verging on Bosh overkill. … I'm no big fan of Bob Costas because he's been co-opted by the NFL (he doesn't bring the same jaundiced eye to reporting on that league as he does to Major League Baseball), but he was 100-per-cent right when he told reporters at the All-Star Game that he believes Manny Ramirez has been welcomed back so quickly after his 50-game suspension because fans are suffering from "steroid fatigue." … There's a reason Ultimate Fighting Championship and mixed martial arts have their disciples: Some people like watching other people beat the hell out of each other. If you can gussie it up with a few rules and persuade people they aren't merely interested in it because of the gore - make them feel as if they don't need a shower after they've watched it, or that they're somehow smarter than the yobs who watch pro wrestling because of the so-called spiritual elements of the serious martial arts - so much the better.