NEW YORK — Roy Halladay has no desire to become a hired gun, to join a team on the cusp as a free agent en route to a championship.
That’s not his style, and not the way he wants to earn a World Series ring. He wants to build toward the big moment with a group he’s known and grown with for years.
But the Toronto Blue Jays ace is becoming more and more frustrated with the club’s continued inability to get over the hump. In recent years, the team has assembled for spring training expecting big things and each time it has gone unrealized.
The mediocrity is starting to wear on him, something the usually reserved right-hander surprisingly opened up about during the all-star game’s media day Monday.
"It’s hard to keep doing the same things each year and it’s hard to not see a progression," said Halladay, his usual stellar self this season at 11-6 with a 2.71 ERA. "I don’t think you ever go out there and kind of take that route of, `Here we go,’ but it’s definitely hard to see. You want to see things go in the right direction, but you don’t want to take on the self-pity thing. You want to try to help do something to turn things around.
"That’s the hardest thing. We sit down every spring training and we talk about the same things and it’s almost like a little bit of `Groundhog Day.’ That definitely gets frustrating, you want to talk about why we’re succeeding, what we’ve done to help us get to the point of where we’re at, and we just haven’t done that.
"It’s hard to keep talking about the same thing."
Unfortunately for him, the Blue Jays story hasn’t changed much in recent years.
They’ll start the second half of the season fourth in the American League East at 47-48, nine games back of first-place Boston and 8 1-2 behind wild-card leading Tampa Bay. Definitely not where they expected to be, but better than where they’ve been.
Still, it will take a miracle for the club’s post-season drought not to reach 15 years and a trip to the playoffs tops Halladay’s must-do list. While he remains committed to the Blue Jays, it sounds like the relationship could face some rocky times if things don’t improve.
His current contract expires after the 2010 season.
"I don’t know if move on, but I want to play for a team that can win a World Series," he said. "That’s the one thing I really want to accomplish in the rest of my time, is win a World Series. …
"I’ve got two years to decide (about his future). That’s still a ways off for me, but I definitely want to keep moving in the right direction and I hope we do in these next two years. I’d like to get something accomplished and then after that, readjust and see where we’re at."
.Halladay’s contributions to help the Blue Jays win go beyond his domination on the mound. His salary is well below market value for a pitcher of his stature and he worked to structure his deal to give the team more financial flexibility.
His 2008 salary of US$10 million allowed GM J.P. Ricciardi to spend the rest of a $100 million payroll on surrounding him with better talent, creating a window of opportunity that is being squandered. He’ll make $14.25 million in 2009 and $15.75 million in 2010 — bargains by baseball’s bloated standards.
"That really left a window of this year, next year and possibly the year after as kind of the two or three years we might have the best chance to do it," said Halladay. "You feel like there’s a window there where you’re kind of hoping to allow them to do some things and the players we’ve brought in, they’ve been phenomenal, we just haven’t been able to turn that corner."
How to get the Blue Jays to do just that remains the mystery.
Manager John Gibbons was fired June 20 and was replaced team icon Cito Gaston, the man who led the club to its only World Series titles in 1992 and ’93. They’re 12-9 since that change but it’s unclear if that will be enough.
"I don’t know what it is that’s going (to make it) click," said Halladay. "Obviously I’d love to have Gibby but with Cito there’s a little bit more accountability for some guys and he talks to them individually, good or bad and I think that’s helpful. I think there’s a good communication there.
"Players, I think they respect Cito and they also feel accountable. I like that change and hopefully that’s something that helps us go in that right direction."
If things don’t improve this year, Gibbons may not be the organization’s only big change. Halladay’s belief in Ricciardi is a big reason why he committed to the Blue Jays and with the GM’s job in real jeopardy, the ace may find himself playing for a team with a new vision next spring.
That plan may not be what he signed up for.
"The people we had as coaches were also a big part of why I like things here," said Halladay. "I think when those changes happen, you look at the people coming in and you decide at that point. I’m a big fan of Cito, I’ve always liked Cito so I think you can’t predict the future more than anything. I like to see what people are about and go from there.
"Obviously I love J.P., would love to have him stay but you address those issues when they come up."