WASHINGTON, D.C. — Divorces are usually nasty beasts, vindictive to the nth degree.
Splitups that move along amicable lines are the rarest of beasts.
So it comes as no surprise that the breakup of Roy Halladay and the Blue Jays has, through spring training and now into the opening day of the season, resulted in a few subtle jabs being tossed back and forth.
Despite all the smiles and all the nice, nice talk, a little grit, a little sandpaper is being rubbed across the wound.
On Halladay’s side is the fact that for 12 seasons he toiled to the best of his ability on teams that ranged from rotten to mediocre and back again.
He never bitched or moaned, never complained and was viewed quite rightly as a team player.
When the truth started being told last July, after Halladay was hung from a pole by then general manager J.P. Ricciardi leading up to a non-transaction at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the ace of the Jays staff was forced to say more or less that he wanted out because he wanted to win and he couldn’t see that happening with the collection of stiffs that surrounded him.
Not in 2009 and certainly not in 2010.
It set a tone.
This spring at not-so-sunny Dunedin, Fla., the theme that resonated through the clubhouse by the key veterans — Shaun Marcum, Aaron Hill and Vernon Wells — was that although they all admired what Halladay could do on the field and that his presence every fifth day would be missed, that the team, especially the starting rotation, would be a tighter, more engaged group now that Halladay had moved on.
“Everybody’s a lot more loose and relaxed and laid-back, myself included,” was how Marcum put it.
And just the other day, Monday in the bowels of Nationals Field just outside the Phillies clubhouse door, Halladay was going on about how much different the culture and atmosphere was of being with a winner rather than a loser, of how he could count on his new teammates and offence, of how he was just a piece of a winning pie, of how it was so great to play for a winner.
“Nothing against Toronto but ... ” Halladay started off before ticking off the above listed differences.
The thing is that the talking points of what the Jays said about their clubhouse and Halladay and what Halladay said about his former club and his new one are all true.
It may be a little painful to admit, but Halladay was a loner most of his time with the Jays.
On every baseball team it should be noted that friendships and camaraderie do not exist between one and all on each team’s 25-man roster. There are universal subgroups.
The position players bond together, as do the relievers, as do the starters and then there are the Latin players who hang together because of language and culture. It’s that way on every club.
The problem with Halladay was simply that he was so dedicated, worked so hard and had such a talent gap between himself and the others — he was buddies with Chris Carpenter way back and more recently for a time with A.J. Burnett, two pitchers who came close to matching his talent — that the younger pitchers were intimidated and didn’t know how to approach him.
Halladay simply cast too big a shadow and didn’t have the wherewithal or the ability to reach out and bridge the gap with the revolving door of unripened and untested starters that would come and go like so many Boxing Day shoppers rushing through a revolving door.
So maybe the Jays are a tighter group, at least the starters, without Halladay, like survivors from a sinking ship in a lifeboat.
And undoubtedly Halladay for the first time feels like he can spread his wings and soar.
When divorces occur, words get bent and twisted and taken out of context.
It may take a while for the Jays and Halladay to get over each other despite how much Marcum says “the page was been turned.”
But it’s not like the tong war that’s happening with Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and his wife Jaimie.
Now that’s a legitimate War of the Roses.