J.P. Ricciardi watched Roy Halladay become the first pitcher to throw a postseason no-hitter on color television at the New England Sports Arena in Marlborough, Mass., and like anyone who has ever been around Halladay -- as a teammate, as a member of the same organization, as a friend -- Ricciardi felt unfettered joy. Because Halladay has earned nothing less, by the way that he has conducted himself, the way he has prepared, the way he has treated others.
"It's almost like he is being rewarded for being such a good guy," Ricciardi said, "and it doesn't always happen that way."
Sports headlines are saturated with prima donnas and contract disputes and trade demands, and Halladay has never been about any of that -- even when he wanted out of Toronto. The way he handled that was a model of restraint, of professionalism.
During the offseason of 2008-09, Ricciardi was told by the Toronto's ownership that the Blue Jays were not going to expand the team's payroll. In fact, they would wind up making cuts. Halladay had signed an extension with the Blue Jays in the spring of 2006 under the presumption that Toronto would expand its payroll in an effort to give the Blue Jays a greater chance to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox, and as soon as Ricciardi learned that plan was changing, he felt obligated, in good faith, to inform Halladay, who had a full no-trade clause.
The GM spoke on the phone with Halladay before spring training about the change in direction, and after Halladay reported to Dunedin, Fla., for the Jays' training camp, he met privately with Ricciardi and told him: "Look, I understand what the organization is trying to do, and if you have an opportunity to deal me to give me a better opportunity to play with a winning team, I'd like to explore that."
Halladay said nothing to reporters, made no demands. He just did what he has always done: arrived early to prepare, putting in hours and hours of work before anybody else came to the ballpark. He routinely started his cardio work in the morning before a 7 p.m. game, as always. His demeanor with teammates never changed, his treatment of others never changed, throughout the 2009 season.
Every time another team called to express interest in Halladay, Ricciardi immediately informed Halladay, meeting with him or calling him, to ask him if he was interested in that particular club. The trade talk heated up in July of 2009, but before the trade deadline, the Jays' ownership decided it didn't want to move Halladay. Privately, he wanted a chance to go to a winner; publicly, he was nothing but supportive of Ricciardi and the organization and the decision, and he continued to be the plow horse on the mound, taking the ball, doing his job without complaint.
After Halladay pitched his final game in Toronto, a clubhouse attendant brought a Jays jersey to Ricciardi's office. It was from Halladay, who had signed it, beneath these words: "You're the best."