D’oh! Canada: Roy Halladay’s Trade Ultimatum Leaves the Toronto Blue Jays in Hot Water, Short on Time.

Roy Halladay has likely thrown his last pitch as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.

With the latest statement from Roy Halladay’s agent that the star pitcher wants to be traded before the season starts or not at all, the Toronto Blue Jays find themselves in the uncomfortable position of dealing the face of the franchise, or risk losing him for nothing at all. Halladay has been a consummate professional during his tenure in Toronto but the 12-year veteran wants the chance to play for a World Series caliber team, and that’s not going to happen north of the border.  Worse yet, the Blue Jays be may forced to send their ace to a division foe like Boston or New York, two teams with payrolls large enough to accomodate the giant contract that Halladay will receive after his deal ends in 2010. Toronto has been to this dance before, dangling Halladay at last season’s trade deadline only to nix a deal with Philadelphia at the last minute. Now though, the Blue Jays are running out of time to make a decision that could shape their franchise for the next decade.

Roy Halladay has arguably been baseball’s most consistent and durable pitcher since a line drive ended his 2005 season. In the past four years Toronto’s staff ace has won at least 16 games every season to go along with a sub 3.70 ERA and at least 200 innings pitched. At only 32-years-old, Halladay could anchor a pitching staff for the next half decade or more, and his ability to go deep into ballgames takes pressure off the entire pitching staff. Though his increased workload may scare off some suitors, “Doc” has pitched the best baseball of his career the last two seasons (2008: 20-11, 2.78 ERA, 206 K’s; 2009: 17-10, 2.79 ERA, 208 K’s) and his work ethic and off-season conditioning are nearly unparalleled. While Toronto might not be the biggest market in baseball, Halladay proved that he could pitch under a spotlight last season, refusing to let the month-long media frenzy surrounding him affect his pitching. Players like Halladay don’t come along often and teams will likely be stumbling over themselves to sign him if the Blue Jays can’t move him before Opening Day. With a miniscule chance of Halladay resigning after 2010 Toronto has no choice except trading their best player, but to whom?

Halladay may be headed to a city near you...if you live in a major metropolitan area on the East Coast.

Roy Halladay may be coming to a city near you...if you live in a major metropolitan area on the East Coast.

The most obvious destinations are Boston, New York, Los Angeles (Dodgers and Angels) or Philadelphia. Halladay has a full no-trade clause in his current contract that would allow him to veto any deal the Blue Jays made; the teams listed above are supposedly on Halladay’s short list of organizations he would consider moving to. The Yankees are always a threat to land a big name like Halladay, but the organization is looking to trim it’s payroll and would be hesistant to part with youngsters Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain (much like they were with the Johan Santana trade). The Red Sox might be looking to make a splash after the arch-rival Yankees captured last year’s World Series, though they have to consider whether trading away players like Clay Bucholz, Daniel Bard and Jed Lowrie is worth what might amount to a one-year rental of Halladay. The Dodgers don’t have the money after the messy divorce of their owner Frank McCourt, but the Angels might become a major player if their are unable to resign free-agent Jon Lackey (though they have shown a reluctance to part with top prospects in the past). It’s difficult to believe the Phillies will actively pursue Halladay after getting burned by the Blue Jays at last year’s trade deadline, but anything is possible when a player of Halladay’s caliber is available.

Toronto has been an afterthought in the AL East for the past decade and trading away their best player certainly won’t vault them to the top of the division, but they’ve backed themselves into a corner and have to act fast in order to gain maximum value for Halladay. They won’t receive as much in a trade for him as they would have in July, but if Halladay stays with the team they will remain a mediocre ballclub in 2010 and then have nothing to show for him except for a couple of compensation picks in the 2011 draft (which are never a sure thing). In baseball’s highstakes free agent market he who hesitates is lost, and the Toronto Blue Jays are dangerously close to giving away the game’s best pitcher for pennies on the dollar.

Vicente Padilla’s Resurgence Raises Serious Question: Is Swine Flu Baseball’s Newest Peformance Enhancing Drug?

The secret to Padilla's newfound success has been linked to the H1N1 virus.

The secret to Padilla’s newfound success has been linked to the H1N1 virus.

Just when baseball thought it had cleared itself of a league wide steroid problem the ugly performance enhancing drug monster reared its ugly once again—and this time the sport is powerless to stop the new drug’s proliferation.

A few short months again Vicente Padilla was a cast-off from the Texas Rangers, banished to the waiver wire by a potent combination of poor pitching, bad breath and general unlikeability. Even a pitching starved franchise like Texas wasn’t willing to put up with Padilla’s behavior, and this is a team whose opening day starting pitchers this decade have included the likes of Rick Helling, Ismael Valdez (slaps forehead) and Ryan Drese.

The Rangers sent Padilla packing on August 17th, citing “poor personal hygiene” and his “disruptive clubhouse presence” as reasons for the release. At the time of his departure, Padilla was 8-6 for the Rangers, but sported a ghastly 4.92 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. Just two days later, the NL West leading Los Angeles Dodgers signed the Nicaraguan Nightmare to a minor league contract in order to bolster their starting rotation. After a short stint in the minors, Padilla was called up to start for L.A. and immediately looked like a man reborn, closing out the season in style with a 4-0 record, 3.20 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.  He’s been even better in the postseason thus far, allowing only one earned run in 14 1/3 innings to go along with 10 K’s and only 2 walks, quickly establishing himself as the Dodger’s defacto playoff ace.

The origin of Padilla's super-powers.

The origin of Padilla’s super-powers.

All this from the same pitcher who a few short months again was cut by Texas and left for dead. Now Padilla is in the midst of a playoff run for L.A. and looking like Orel Hershiser; what exactly happened between his time with the Rangers and his signing with the Dodgers? As the great theologian Terrell Owens famously said, “if it looks like a rat and smells like a rat, by golly, it is a rat.” Vicente Padilla does smell like a rat…and that rat is named swine flu.

Padilla was diagnosed with the H1N1 virus on July 22nd and was believed to be the first player in the four major American sports (baseball, quidditch, jai-alai and poker) to test positive for the disease. He was scratched from a start against the Red Sox and was kept away from the rest of the team to prevent a spread of the virus. Apparently quarantining Padilla worked, because he’s still the only major league player that developed a confirmed case of swine flu, although that may change after the startling discovery of Dr. Van Nostrom at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta.

Van Nostrom, a specialist in infectious diseases, released a report yesterday that confirmed one of the most well-known old wives’ tales: that which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. In his article published by Car & Driver & Science the doctor revealed his findings from Padilla’s stool sample, which may change the way America views the H1N1 virus. Below is an excerpt from Van Nostrom’s report:

“Much like a spider bite transformed Peter Parker into the powerful Spiderman and toxic ooze mutated ordinary turtles into extraordinary crime fighters, Vicente Padilla’s DNA was radically altered by his encounter with the H1N1 virus. After overcoming the disease, he was endowed with all the best characteristics of an adult pig: a strong sense of smell and keen understanding of the strikezone, as well as the ability to talk to spiders and increased velocity on his pitches. Since the diagnosis of swine flu, Padilla’s fastballs have looked better than ever and his curveballs are dropping right off the table, and this is only the beginning. If Padilla is able to fully harness the powers of the pig he will become unstoppable. There is no treatment, there is no cure, there is only unimaginable suffering ahead for all humankind.”

Padilla now has more in common with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles than he does with other human beings.

Padilla now has more in common with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles than he does with other human beings.

If what Dr. Van Nostrom indicated in his report is true, how long will it be until baseball players are throwing swine flu parties in hopes of catching up with Padilla? Is H1N1 baseball’s newest fad performance enhancer?

Not so fast, says Van Nostrom: “There are so many different strains of the flu and everyone’s body responds differently to disease, so it’s unlikely another player will have results like Vicente. That surly bastard is truly one of a kind and anyone else who develops this disease is putting their life at risk…it’s just not worth it.”

Baseball’s playing field, which had been leveled by the sports’ tough drug testing, is thrown into disarray once again with the evolution of Padilla into a super-human shutdown pitcher.

Padilla’s agent Bus Cook refused to comment on the situation, only saying that his client was pitching well because of hard work and determination, not the swine flu, and called Van Nostrom’s theory “preposterous”. Padilla was approached at his locker by a swarm of reporters following the Dodgers 5-4 loss to the Phillies in Game 4 of the NLCS, and in between karaoke renditions of Randy Newman’s I Love L.A., the right-hander muttered  “how ’bout them Cowboys”, but nothing about the H1N1 virus–only fueling speculation that he gained some special abilities from the disease.

At this point there’s nothing baseball can do to slow down Padilla. After all, Bud Selig can’t suspend someone for getting sick, even if that sickness imbued the pitcher with super-human skills the likes of which baseball has never seen before. The Dodgers will be the favorites to win every time Padilla takes the mound, and it won’t be long before the team discovers they should start him each and every game, because everyone knows that pigs never need rest. Padilla will be a free agent at the end of the season and stands to make a large chunk of change, how big simply depends on how long teams believe his powers will last…and how much better they think he can get.

Vicente Padilla; from an afterthought to the best pitcher in baseball, all thanks to the biggest health scare in America since SARS and the kangaroo flu. There’s no doubt that Padilla will dominate the baseball landscape over the next decade, Dr. Van Nostrom’s work proves this, but it also raise a very serious question. Will Padilla use his powers for good or evil once he retires? If his past behavior is any indication, governments around the world had better start working on a swine kryptonite…and soon.