Halladay belongs with Blue Jays

While my wife Michelle is rocking my son Ryan to sleep upstairs, Emily and I catch a bit of the baseball game while she drinks her warm milk. Late last week, Emily said, "Daddy, where did your smile go?"

Trading the Toronto ace would hurt hometown fans

Toronto ace Roy Halladay has recorded 123 wins against only 52 losses since 2002. ((Jeff Roberson/Associated Press))

It's a summertime ritual for my daughter Emily and me.

While my wife Michelle is rocking my son Ryan to sleep upstairs, Emily and I catch a bit of the baseball game while she drinks her warm milk. Late last week, Emily said, "Daddy, where did your smile go?"

My three-year-old couldn't help but notice the scowl on my face.  I told her that Daddy isn't happy because the ball team, after its best start in years, has once again fizzled out.

Now there's talk that the team is entertaining offers for its best player, and possibly the best pitcher in the major leagues, perennial all-star and Cy Young threat Roy (Doc) Halladay.

Solid citizen

Doc has been a solid citizen for the Jays since the team selected him 17th overall in the first round of the MLB draft back in 1995. Roy made his debut in the bigs in 1998, and in his second career start, took a no-hitter into the ninth inning at the then-SkyDome. He settled for his first major league win, a one-hitter.

Halladay is scheduled to become a free agent in 2010. ((Rob Carr/Associated Press))
There were flaws in his delivery though, and Doc struggled mightily. In 2000, his ERA ballooned to a gaudy 10.64. By the next spring, the team optioned Doc all the way back to A ball to rebuild his delivery. Struggles like that can break the soul of an athlete.

Like Bull Durham 's Nuke Laloosh, Halladay was "blessed with a million-dollar arm."  Unlike Nuke, Doc had more than a "10-cent head."

His work ethic and his focus are second to none. He busted his butt in the minors, eliminated his bad habits, learned from his teachers, and the good Doctor was back in the big leagues to stay. 

Since 2002, Doc has recorded 123 wins against only 52 losses.  His story is a special one, and it's one I still marvel at almost 10 years later.  Many No. 1 picks don't have the mental toughness and discipline to combine with their god given talent. When the Jays sent Doc to A ball to re-invent himself, many so-called experts wrote him off, figuring that he was done.

Those same experts predicted 2009 would be a long season for the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays though, with their patchwork pitching staff, led by the Doc, plus timely hitting and Cito Gaston's calm, cool managing style had the boys of summer storming out of the gates to a 27-14 record in their first 41 games.  In their next 49 though, Canada's team has a record of 17-32. 

Yuck. 

Unprecedented injuries

The Jays are facing unprecedented injuries to pitchers. Plus hefty contracts to underachieving hitters have handcuffed the team. With our economy in the toilet, and the Jays' 26th in the major league attendance, the team won't have the financial power of the Yanks or the Sox to get to the promised land this year. The prospects for next year don't look good either.

Doc is a free agent after the 2010 season. Now, the 32-year-old loves it here in Toronto. How refreshing is that?  An American-born baseball player who actually wants to stay here because he likes the city.

But Halladay's love for quiet, good, clean Toronto can only take him so far. He wants to win.  He wants to pitch a meaningful game in September and pitch for the first time in October.

Can you blame him?

Face of the team

He's done everything they have asked. He's won, he's mentored, been the face of the Jays in the community, and spent time and money supporting charities in Toronto. He even took less money on his most recent contract so the team could afford high-priced free agents.

Halladay, left, took less money on his most recent contract so the Blue Jays could afford high-priced free agents. ((Winslow Townson/Associated Press))
The internet, papers and sports shows have been dominated by the Jays' announcement that they are willing to listen to offers for him. A trade should net four to five players, young and cheap players ready to make an impact.  It's probably best for the organization, and no doubt it's better for Doc to go to a team where he doesn't have to carry the other 24 guys on his back.

But what about the fans who make it 'must see' TV or go down to the ballpark specifically when he is pitching? If the team deals him before the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline, what little energy is left in Rogers Centre will evaporate.  I won't go to the games, and I'll watch a hell of a lot less this summer if he isn't on the team.

Sure, baseball is a team sport, but this one individual is so special and revered by baseball fans in this city — like Wendel, Dougie and Darryl are to the Maple Leafs, or Gordie is to the Hip. That's what Doc Halladay is to the Blue Jays.

If I were running the franchise; I'd take my chances on a Jays team, healthy and strong with Doc in 2010.  With a little luck and some magic, that team could be like the upstart Tampa Bay Rays of 2008 and make it all the way to the World Series.

Please Edward Rogers, Tony Lacavia, Paul Beeston and JP Richardi; don't sign off on moving Doc. Please Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, Lyle Overbay, Brandon League, Jesse Carlson and Brian Tallet; be like Doc.

Dustin McGowan, Jesse Litsch, Shaun Marcum, Scott Richmond and Casey Janssen, get healthy, we need you.

And please Doc Halladay, stay in Toronto.  We need you Roy.

Michelle asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I said surprise me with two tickets to a game when Doc is pitching.

Time is running out.