THE DEAL SWUNG on a phone call. To a 9-year-old. That's what Brandy Halladay would like you to believe, would like her 9-year-old son Braden to believe, too. That once the numbers were crunched, the offers digested, he made his father a Phillie.

"It's such a family decision," Roy Halladay's wife was saying after yesterday's press conference at Citizens Bank Park made it official. "We were sitting with our agent who is like family and we said, 'OK, we've got to decide what to do.' So I grabbed my phone and I called my 9-year-old. And I said Braden, 'This is the situation. I'm going to put you on the phone and you guys decide if this is what we're going to take.'

"So our 9-year-old made the call. He made the decision. I know that sounds utterly ridiculous, but we're a tight family. If the kids weren't happy . . . "

Roy Halladay would still be a Blue Jay today?

And Cliff Lee would still be here?

"He's been so involved in all of this," Roy Halladay said of the eldest of his two sons. "And he's a diehard fan. So as much as we could, we tried to keep him involved. And he made the right choice. So we'll go home and tell him he made the right call."

The right call. The only call. The more Brandy and her man spoke yesterday, the more you understood why this happened, why he would agree to only a 3-year extension with the Phillies while other pitchers of his pedigree have sought - and obtained - 5 or more. Why he would forego the chance to guarantee $40 million more in salary just so he could pitch here, now.

And why they knew what Braden would say before the call was made.

"Braden was printing out Phillies rosters last week," Brandy said. "He knows everything about this team. He's really into them."

The Halladays make their home in Odessa, Fla., just north of where both the Blue Jays and the Phillies conduct spring training. So they get that part about the Phillies being different now as compared to when they first moved there. They get that this organization is far from its days of having a red X slashed across its emblem, that its core of stars will peak over the next two seasons.

They don't have to be told about the city, either, or about the booing, or about the tough media.

"I've heard you guys are a little ruthless at times if you don't like us," Brandy said. "So I'm just gonna smile and suck up the best I can to the media. And hope that works in my favor."

What they like is what that toughness implies. Hard work. No nonsense. No frills. A team that represents its culture, a clubhouse that, Roy Halladay said, "I've heard nothing but positive about."

"We're really normal people with a really great job," Brandy was saying. "So the idea of being someplace where the primary focus is you being famous, or how many sponsorships you can get, we're just not interested in it. Roy just wants to do his job.

"Philly is a place where he can do that. We can still do the charities and work in the community without it being a frenzy all the time. I don't think I have to be dressed to the nines to walk out the door here. I'm a very casual person by nature anyways.

"This just fits us. This fits our life. That's how we grew up."

They met when they were 9 by the way, in Colorado. She, 2 years older, was best friends with Halladay's sister, but moved away to Chicago in high school, one of the 17 places she lived growing up. They started dating after high school, after she moved back. But she wants a more stable and normal lifestyle for her family, and he does too.

Halladay repeatedly said yesterday that he did not have control over his destination. But the more questions he answered, the more it was clear that he did, and that the Phillies were the only team capable of getting him to accept a 3-year extension rather than one for 5. Fort Myers, where the Red Sox train, was too far to drive to. The Yankees' site in Tampa was close enough, but the celebrity, the bigness of playing in New York was a concern.

"This is where I wanted to be," he said. "That was the bottom line for us . . . I think there are things not only in business but in life that are worth it. For me, this is one of those things. There are so many positives to this for me and my family. I just couldn't pass it up."

He said this wearing his new jersey, his new number, 34. It is, of course, the same number Lee wore in his brief but memorable stint here.

"No, no, no," Brandy protested. "That should have been ours in July. So technically he just kept it warm until we got here, right?"

Back in July, as the trade deadline came and went, a lot of people here were a lot of ticked that Halladay wasn't coming. Now a lot of people, Lee included, are a little ticked that Halladay's arrival exiled the Phillies' best postseason performer to Seattle.

"I just got through saying, 'I can not hear that comment for the next 5 years,' " Brandy Halladay said. "Everybody says, 'Oh so interesting, he's taking Lee's number.' It should have been ours to begin with."

Lee was 4-0 in the postseason, including the Phillies' only two wins over the Yankees in the World Series. Halladay admitted yesterday that he watched enviously, that he dreamed of being the 34 on that mound last October and November.

"You wonder what might have been," he said.

So why take 34 as a number?

Because it was offered. "As long as it says 'Phillies' on the front," he said, "I don't care what's on the back.

"I don't feel like I'm replacing anybody. I feel like I've been given an opportunity to go out and do the best job that I can. And that's it. Regardless of who was here before me and what they were able to have done. It's an opportunity to do my best. I won't think about who was here. I'll think about what's to come."

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