I will not bash J.P. Ricciardi for the eight year job he did in Toronto. The fact is we gave him two chances, through a pair of ‘3-4 year plans’ to make the Blue Jays a playoff team again. His failures speak for themself, and it is easy to point to a number of decisions he made that did not work out for the team. I won’t mock, gock, or make fun of those decisions, as it is so popular in ‘Blue Jay land’ to do … well not yet anyway.
To be perfectly honest, my opinion of J.P. Ricciardi is that he was a ‘mediocre GM,’ performance-wise that is. His cocky, egotistical, know-it-all stance with the media led him into many mistakes ‘running his mouth’ on certain issues. It is a well know fact, that if you can’t back up this attitude, you are going to fall … and fall hard! Year after year, the Jays would truly produce good baseball teams on the borderline of making the playoffs, yet the heat on J.P. swirled around him as if the Jays had finished dead last every year. Fans, the media, even people supporting other teams on this blog site ‘dished out’ the heat on J.P. Unfair? Maybe, but if J.P. were to ever claim that, and I that bet he has, he should take a long look in the mirror because the man definately brought it on himself.
At the start of his reign, J.P. was very open with media, took responsibility for his decidsions, and rarely shyed away from the truth. This openess inevitably led to some embarrassment, as it became clear that J.P. was just not a very good liar. General Managers in baseball have to make many very tough decidsions, and similar to politicians, they need to be able to avoid certain questions that might jeopardize them in a situation, or cause further embarrassment. There were instances where J.P. would be hiding something, and then tell the media flat out that he was hiding something from them!
Notable Failures With the Media (few listed here amoung many)
1. One of J.P.’s memorable quotes was: “It’s not a lie if we know the truth,” about infamous back injury story made up for B.J. Ryan when the left-hander was actually having elbow issues.
2. After enduring a season where the Jays endured poor offensive production, J.P. was asked if he would consider trading for Adam Dunn from the Cinncinnati Reds at the time. His response was overly amped with ego, basically telling a caller on a sports talk radio show that the caller knows nothing about Adam Dunn, and that Adam Dunn “doesn’t even like baseball.” To which Dunn replied the next day, “who is this goof?”
Oh well, I have started to bash J.P. a bit. Here are some of the successes that have set the current Jays up some relative hope, but in hindsight, can also be coupled with failure.
Notable Successes Amid Failures
1. Some very good draft picks. One of Ricciardi’s first pick-ups coming to the Jays was Aaron Hill. Amid some injuries and positioning questions Aaron Hill has quickly become one of the best second basemen in Major League Baseball. We would have liked to have him strong in 2007, and a key part of the team playing third base instead of Corey Koskie in 2005, but regarless of those questions around Hill – still a great pick.
2. Adam Lind was also a very good pick J.P. made in the draft, but similar to Hill, had troubled road to the middle of the Jays order. Lind was picked up in the third round of the 2004 draft, and quickly excelled in the minors. It took a couple of years of Lind contending annually for the batting championship in the AAA International League for the Jays to realize that ‘this kid could hit.’ Under Manager John Gibbons (J.P. Ricciardi’s man for the Manager position), Adam Lind wasn’t given much of a chance after some early struggles. The kid became so distraught with the Jays early evaluation of him, that Lind almost quit baseball altogether! With the efforts of newly acquired Manager, Cito Gaston, Lind salvage the 2008 season and ‘turned a corner’ with his bat. 2009 sees Adam Lind contending for the Silver Slugger Award as a DH, we as Jays fans wonder what HUGE, MONUMENTAL waste of talent it has been keeping this guy locked in the minors and doubting his career!!! Still, J.P. a good draft pick … lol Yes.
3. The Roy Halladay contract extension was a great business decidsion by J.P. He made a couple other extension that did not work out so well (i.e. Vernon Wells and Alex Rios) but Halladay’s paid off in spades. The Jays currently have Halladay set with the team for another year, and he is still arguably the best pitcher in baseball. With deeply inflated contracts to guys like C.C. Sabathia and Johan Santana, J.P. extended Halladay to for what seems like a bargain compared to the two previously mentioned. Jays fans should feel lucky that they are able to enjoy Halladay for this, and another year. I commend J.P. for that move, but at the same time you can really fault him for tacking on the dollars, and the years, to Vernon Wells and Alex Rios.
J.P.’s Inevitable Big Failure
I’m of the opinion, shared by most analysts and people that follow the Jays, that the beginning of the end occurred for J.P. Ricciardi before the 2005 season where he drifted far from the ‘moneyball’ strategy that made him such a ‘hotshot‘ coming from Oakland to begin with. Before this season, one of the Jays top advisors (sorry as his name escapes me), a man highly adversed in sabermetrics, and well respected in baseball cirlces left the team. Coincidentally the Blue Jays expanded their payroll that year, and the money staying to fly as if we were trying to compete for free agents with the ‘big two‘ Yankees and Red Sox. Many talk about the ‘beginning of the end,’ when the Jays dished out a terrible three-year 17 million dollar contract to Corey Koskie losing some draft picks in the process. This aquisition baffled many? Yes, Koskie was Canadian, BIG ‘freakin’ DEAL, most in baseball knew he was nowhere near deserving of that money. The smart, ‘moneyball’ decision would have been to keep those picks, and move up and coming shortstop Aaron Hill to third base for his 2005 rookie season. Koskie hardly played a year for Jays before succumbing to injury.
Conclusion to this Mess
The point to remember with the Koskie signing is that it showed how far J.P. strayed from the his principles with the acquisition of more money, which in the Jays case, doesn’t always equal more value or production. Like any good business, you need seek ways to produce at high levels, with being as cost-effective as possible. Recklessly throwing money at problems works for some teams, but not most. After Koskie, the Jays risked buying a #2 starter, A.J. Burnett, that is still somewhat overvalued and in the long run ended up hurting club because of injury. We overpayed, and are still overpaying, for a supposedly ‘shut down’ c
loser with a bright future, in B.J. Ryan. One might wonder what the Jays might have become if we pursue this spots through other means?? Closers are often grown through the system, and 15-game winners can be made also without having to overspend on a player that comes with injury baggage.
J.P. Ricciardi came to Jays with a method, and it quickly turned into ‘money-flashing madness,’ that would make even the Yankees and Red Sox proud. If you are going to spend, you better make darn sure that you are getting that production in return. I wonder what J.P. thinks now when he sees Vernon Wells’ .311 On Base?
The quartet in the A.L. East has just gotten a lot more powerful. The expression, ‘beasts from the east,’ has never been more true than it is right now. The Rays, Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays look to improve on strong years that saw each of them support very respectable final records.
So, what do these teams have to look forward to in 2009? Well, at least these are the guys I will be looking forward to seeing in 2009.
The Red Sox have these guys.
Probably one of the best left-handers in the game, Jon Lester, is only getting better. Last year he showed what he is capable of. A ‘big’ 2009 may be in the works for him. If you were wondering who the guy tucked on the right is? It is Lars Anderson, Red Sox first base prospect. Anderson was only drafted in 2006, however, he has been killing the minors and should probably get a look at ‘the show’ this season. Anderson’s future prospects were definately one of the reasons why the Red Sox did not pursue Mark Teixeria as aggressively as many might have hoped. Last year’s American League MVP and all-around scrappy ‘little-big man,’ Dustin Pedroia, will be interesting to watch in 2009. First of all, the guy is always getting dirty, putting his heart on the field and awkwardly swinging to stardom. I love Pedroia’s game. If watching the AL MVP follow-up on his amazing season is not enough, then watching him making diving plays at second, steal bases and try to ‘leg out’ a double on every ball he banks off the monster is. He’s a small guy, but he plays very big and right now he ‘big in Boston.’
As if the Rays needed any more players young players. They have David Price.
The number-one-pick overall in 2007, and it is easy to see why. He has wicked stuff. The Rays had enough confidence in him to close out games in the World Series. This year, he will likely be featured in an already steller pitching rotation that includes Scott Kazmir, Jamie Shields, Andy Sonnanstine and Matt Garza. Five legitimate starters going into 2009. Most teams would take any of these guys as their #2, if not at least #3 starter. The strength of the Tampa’s rotation will be tested against a division that just got a lot stronger in the pitching department. I’m really looking forward to seeing their young pitchers next year, especially Price (that god for MLBTV and MLB Extra Innings).
Now lets state the obvious shall we.
Everybody, me among them, is going to want to see what these lunkers will do.
Yes, the Yankees landed the ‘big fish’ in the free agent market. Their team does look devastating on paper; however, as the old cliche goes: ‘games aren’t won on paper.’ These guys will compliment Arod, Jeter and Rivera in what the Yankees are hoping is money well spent. I think everyone is going to be interested watching these three, after the contracts they just signed. To be fair, the Yankees did have a lot of money coming off the books to facilitate this.
Now for the Blue Jays. With all this looming above us (just scroll up), it is obvious the Jays will have a big challenge in 2009. We are no longer big players in the free agent market, with financial constraints the Jays cannot even afford a top 10 free agent without seriously having to budget. The Canadian dollar dwindling has hurt the club, there have been job losses in the organization (so much for me getting a job there) and we lost two of our top pitchers last season, Shaun Marcum (injury) and A.J. Burnett (free agency). Most prognosticators will predict the Jays to finish 4th in the division – just like last year no doubt. Some might even throw the Jays behind the lowly Orioles in the A.L. East. A team that I didn’t even consider for this entry because I’m not really looking forward to seeing anyone on that team (hmm… maybe Adam Jones).
So, lets be positive, because none in the organization seem to be (i.e. Vernon Wells, Cito Gaston). The Jays are going to get a very good look at some young and possibly emerging players this year. Notably Travis Snider, Adam Lind, Dustin McGowan, Jesse Litsch, David Purcey and possibly even Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil, J.P. Arencibia and Scott Campbell. Travis Snider might be a ‘stud’ in the making, and if only Vernon Wells and Alex Rios could remain healthy, that would give the Jays a very strong outfield. McGowan staying healthy might actually lessen the burden of losing Burnett, Aaron Hill looks like he may be healthy and ready to get back to form, Jose Bautista and Rod Barajas are wildcards that may do well and we all hope that Scott Rolen has had enough time to rest his shoulder for a great 2009 campaign. This all being said, it will probably take all these things for the Jays to be anywhere near competitive in the A.L. East.
A.J. Burnett has just about made it anywhere, and importantly, he has always done it his
way. Swish! Two Sinatra references in one sentence. So here I am spreading the news because he is leaving today.
It is difficult not to love Burnett, because of the type of pitcher he is: fearsome attitude on the mound, cocky, throws heavy duty heat and is just flat out never scared on the mound. He knows he has the stuff, and knows he can back it up. The machismo, the hook, the heat, racking up the K’s and taking no prisoners, Burnett was awesome and he definately was one of my favourites on the team over last few years.
However, for all these admirable qualities, there were a number of glaring inconsistancies with A.J. The Yankees will need to have a better have a catcher than the aging Jorge Posada now with Burnett on the mound. Burnett was always terrible out of the stretch windup. His ERA inflatates out of the stretch, opponent’s batting average goes up and he is generally just very slow to the plate. It is not often he gives up two hits in an inning, but when does, not being able to hold baserunners is a problem and it drove me crazy when I watched him pitch. With the Yankees now battling Tampa for the division, I can see this being a problem down the road.
An obvious inconsistancy, is the injuries he has withstood in the past. In 2008, he spent limited time on the DL for the Blue Jays. Having him here in Toronto last season, pitching very well, almost made the last two years worth it. Burnett was limited by injury in those years posting 10-8 records in both seasons. Those are some mediocre numbers for a guy oozing that much machismo. Actually, when you look at Burnett’s whole career, with the exception of last season, he has never had more than an average pitching record. Maybe a bit better than average some years.
A number of general inconsistancies. That is what Yankee fans will probably find with A.J. Burnett. He can be absolutely amazing one day, then another day, runners will reach base, they will steal and manufacture runs, and Burnett will be rattled. Struggling as he pitches out of the stretch all day.
Some believe the Jays are now heading in a new direction. Saving the high free agent contracts to mid-level players, and only keeping the money for a few ‘big-time’ stars (i.e. Roy Halladay worth every penny!, Alex Rios worth it, and Vernon Wells??? not worth the injuries that is for sure). I don’t know if I see that for the future? J.P. still has to dump fairly high contracts to B.J. Ryan, Lyle Overbay, and Scott Rolen for that to happen. Cost cutting, and restructuring could be good for the Jays. Only time will tell, but now more than ever, we will see if the farm system that J.P. has been compiling can achieve the great things that some people foresee. Adam Lind, Aaron Hill, Travis Snider, David Purcey, Jesse Litsch, Casey Janssen, Brett Cecil, Ricky Romero, Scott Richmond, Brad Mills and Dustin McGowan in particular. Boys, it is your time to shine.
A.J. Burnett meet Frank Sinatra. I know you are more in to heavy metal and alternative music. Maybe, you’ll grow a taste for hearing Frank at the end of the game? Its up to you Burnett, Burrrrrnett! Dun, dunna, dunna, dun, dun, dunna, dunna, Dun!
On top of reciting everything I read, like Ron Burgandy, I’m also very good at not predicting a truthful outcome. So here goes some of my free agent predictions. Try to think the exact opposite of everything I pick, in order to get a good hint into what really might happen!
I thought a prerequsite for looking into a crystal ball is that you have to be able to see? Or maybe not. Being less drunk might also not help, hmmm yes.
The Not Stove League
A.J. Burnett – I see that you will sign a deal worth about 18 million with the Boston Red Sox. The Blue Jays cannot afford that, and the Yankees will get cold feet because of your injury status. The Red Sox are gamblers, and they have the money.
Pat Burrell – A lot talk about you right now, lets see. I see you going to a small market franchise and being signed for less than what you are actually worth. This will occur at the end of free agency. Foggy but the team could be the Marlins, or Tampa Bay.
Mark Teixeria – You are catching interest from the Nationals, but I still think that you will be in New York. As I’ve said all along. You are a good fit there. This probably hurts their chances. I’m not even going to mention CC, because I know he is going there and I don’t want to jinks my chances of getting everything wrong!
Manny Ramirez – You are definately going to a large market. The L.A. Angels look the one maybe, like they need any more outfielders, but I see it for L.A. Oh no, that could be the Dodgers!
Derek Lowe – Who will be wise enough to get Lowe? I see a large market team, because he will command a fair chunk of change. I don’t know, I think he is back with the Dodgers, there is no way they can lose so much of what helped them succeed last season.
Orlando Hudson – Loved this guy in Toronto and I’m glad that he is getting serious consideration. Kelly Johnson is being shopped by the Braves. Hudson is a southern boy, so I’m saying he ends up with the Braves if he doesn’t cost them ‘an arm and a leg’, ha ha! Cliche. Man, that might be the most annoying thing I’ve ever written, I apoligize.
Rafeal Furcal – I don’t think the Blue Jays really want to pay for him. I understand shortstop is a need, but we have the defense in Johnny Mac. He probably will be too much for the Jays to sign anyway. I’m all for getting him if the price is right, but I would rather the Jays look for power hitting, or pitching. Furcal goes to the Giants, they are liking him right now. By the way, always respected the cannon Furcal has at short.
Ben Sheets – If the Mets are not able to swing a deal with Tampa Bay for Sonnastine, or Jackson, they panic and end up spending a lot, like they normally do. Sheets to the Mets maybe, I know they too are strapped for money.
Here is one that makes no difference to anybody. Jay Payton – The guy has underachieved his whole career. A fine athlete but needs to find some way to be threatening at the plate. Hiroshima Hawks.
Sidney Ponson – What team wants to go through the pain of having this guy pitch for them, “Oh Ponson, are you too good to be on the Rangers?” Give me a break. He ends up playing on the ‘Wal-Mart Mens Slo-Pitch’ team, position catcher.
Anyway, that is all I got! I’ll be back with more history next post. I was just trying to amuse myself writing this, I could actually be right about some of these predictions, I concede that, I don’t want to dash anyones hopes reling on me to fail, or expecting their coveted player to go to the team that I actually predicted.
Now that A.J. Burnett is likely out of the picture, the Blue Jays will have to look for some ‘rare beast’ of a player in free agency. Who might that be? Well, people have floated around Canadian Ryan Dempster and almost every available bat in the free agent market, with the exception of Adam Dunn, we all know where J.P. stands on him. Manny Ramirez looks like a panda, well kind of. No question, that guy is a great hitter, but I think he is going to still be with the Dodgers. The whole ‘Panda Watch’ thing is from the movie ‘Anchorman’, if you were wondering.
I found this fun little thing on MLB.com, where if you predict where these free agents will go, you can win baseball tickets.
To be honest, I really have no clue for a number of these picks (i.e. just random guesses), however I put Burnett re-signing with the Jays as my pick with the most confidence. Wishful thinking I guess. I’m banking on the Yankees landing both Sabathia and Teixeira as their big free agent splash of the offseason, that everyone is predicting they will make. To me, I can’t see how Manny would choose another team than the Dodgers, given his acceptance with that team this year.
The rest are just random predictions, like Lowe and Abreu going back to their former teams Boston and Philly. I don’t know where that came from? Don’t take me as a source on this, check out http://hotstove.mlblogs.com/ and http://allbaseballallthetime.mlblogs.com/ for that. Those guys are very good on the free agent beat!
This is a fun promotion, however, and you never know? Maybe some of these random guesses might work out!
A certain Toronto sports radio station told me to look up this article on the Jays and their future. ESPN.com writer Howard Bryant wrote “Blue Jays Hoping Late Run is just the Beginning” on their website today.
He gives good a perspective on how other teams, and also other people for that matter,
percieve the Jays looking forward. More importantly, looking forward post-A.J. Burnett. Here is the link, for those that are interested:
He pulls quotes from Red Sox first baseman, Sean Casey, and J.P. Ricciardi throughout the article. I find it interesting that the article gives you the idea that the Blue Jays future success is only dependant on the return or departure of A.J. Burnett.
Don’t get me wrong here, A.J. Burnett has been a big part of our sucess this season. But he is only one player, and a pitcher at that. The reason for the Blue Jays being a scary team that no in the league wants to face, is the rotation and bullpen. Joe Maddon, Rays Manager, says “the Blue Jays have the best front-end rotation in the league.” He is right. We certainly haven’t been winning games, until recently, with our bats this year.
If the front-end of the Jays rotation is so feared, then what are we without one of it’s pieces? According to this article, and the impression of the Blue Jays ‘from the outside looking in’, is apparently not much.
This brings up questions, coming into next season, that Jays fans have been thinking about all year. Is A.J. replaceable? How deep really is our pitching (in the minors etc..)? Are our front-end starters really that dominant? What about Litsch, Marcum, Purcey, McGowan? Can they be one of the guys capable of replacing Burnett at the front-end? Can our offense be a strongpoint? (we’ve been a lot better under Cito)
Very Important Questions:
Is there a chance A.J. will not opt-out? Do we want to sign him if he does? (for a catastrophic amount) Do we give up on J.P. Ricciardi like we gave up on ‘his boy’ John Gibbons? Can we have the kind of year Tampa has had? Can this team beat Tampa?
The article ends with this quote from Sean Casey: “Look at Tampa. We feel like Tampa is winning every night. It seems like in order to win this division when you’re not one of those top two, you have to have one of those perfect years. You have to win every night like they’re doing, and we’re still right on their heels.”
Under Cito, do the Jays have to ability now, to put together one of these years? We have definately proved that during the second half of the season. Does that make you, as a Jays fan, confident? Or is the loss of A.J. Burnett the ‘end all be all’ for this team?
It will hurt, but I think that that is a bit of an exageration. If the fate of the Blue Jays, post-A.J. Burnett, turns into a mediocre and disappointing season in 2009. Then the ‘evil economics’ of baseball will have reared its ugly head on the Jays again. Succumbing, once again, to the ‘Evil Empires’ of New York, Boston and maybe now LA.
If there is one thing that you can say about the Jays over the past 4 years, is they are fighters. You pretty much have to be, to maintain a .500 record in a division where two teams usually dominate. Every year it seems like we play such heated battles with the Yankees or Red Sox, and every year we pretty much break even in these matchups, playing absolutely outstanding and exciting baseball. The games show that we deserve to be in their company, they show we can play with the best, and not only that, we can beat the best.
The Jays always put up a fight no matter how far back we are, and no question, the Yankees and Red Sox fear us. For many reasons, the Jays haven’t been able to put together the kind of seasons ‘The Big Two’ have had over the past years, but we definately ‘bring it’ everytime we face them. That shows that we have some pretty good things going on in Toronto, the pieces might not all be there, but there are a number of very solid pieces on this team (e.g. Halladay, Downs, Rios, Wells, McDonald) and the other regulars.
This past Sunday was an amazing pitchers duel between A.J. Burnett and Dice-K. Burnett made his mistakes, but so Dice-K. The bullpens fought ‘tooth and nail’, but the Red Sox ended up winning on two solo homeruns in the late innings. One by Coco Crisp in the 8th and the other by Jed Lowrie, in extra innings clinched it for the Wild Card leaders. Those guys are not likely homerun candidates but they came up HUGE for Boston that day.
Seems like every year the Jays play well, but just not well enough to surpass these teams. The Yankees and Red Sox are behind the door (metaphorically speaking) and they keep on slamming it on us. That is our story (captured in this design, below). Although this season, Tampa took a bat and smashed the door in. And ‘good on them’ I say, GOOD ON THEM. Would have liked it to be the Jays, but somebody had to do it.