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 Blue Jays have gotten out to an amazing start this season on the backs of a strong and surprising offensive output. Adam Lind leads the league in RBI’s at this point, and the Jays have hit the most homeruns in the majors to this point. Who would have thunked it??? Go Blue Jays! I’m a homer, I’ll admit it!
The pitching has, for most part, been solid behind a stellar bullpen. With the exception of Brandon League and B.J. Ryan, the other notables in the pen (i.e. Scott Downs, Jesse Carleson, Brian Tallet and Jason Frasor) have picked up where they left off last season as one of the best pen’s in the league. The starting pitching has surprising held their own despite some very high doubts coming into the season. Newcomers Ricky Romero and Scott Richmond both got wins in their starts, and Roy Halladay has started the season 2-0, with a win over 2008 questionable Cy Young choice Cliff Lee in Cleveland the other night.
Going into the opening week series against Detroit I got to opportunity to meet one of the better bloggers on MLB. The famous ‘Happy Youngster,’ a guy that has made somewhat of a name for himself catching balls in Milwaukee. He got 5 balls in Toronto, as the empty batting practice crowd gave him many opporitunities.
I wore my Paul Molitor Brewers jersey to honour a great Brewer/Blue Jay that spent so many years in Milwaukee and had a couple very valuable years in Toronto for a Blue Jay World Championship team in 1993.
After the game, me, Happy and my friend Charles took to Alice Fazooli’s (a nice restaurant near the Rogers Centre) on Adelaide Street in Toronto. (Bam! I want money!) We had a good time talking baseball, among other things. The highlights of the conversation included: border security, Teddy Higuera, the future fantasy value of Alicdes Escobar, Molitor and baseball’s caught during games. Charles showed his amazing baseball knowledge, and shared his story about the only time he got a ball at game. It was such a big moment for him; however, he unfortunately was obligated to give the ball he caught to a young man sitting near him. That is just one of those moments where you have to ‘suck it up.’ I’m sure he will get another one. My first ball was a foul ball hit off catcher Joe Oliver’s (then a Brewer) bat, pitched by Cleveland Indian Denis ‘El Presidente’ Martinez on a trip me and my dad took to Cleveland. I’ll never forget it, as there was a man next to me resentful that I caught it because he said he’d been going to Indian games for years and never a had a shot at catching a ball.
Other than that, the Blue Jays played absolutely amazing in the first two games of the season. Both games I was in attendence. Here are some photo highlights of those games.
Although Halladay didn’t pitch particularly well on Opening Day, he did get himself a win. Thus, here I am pointing to my Halladay jersey indicating that indeed – he is the man!!
I find it amusing that between pitching changes out three outfielders Vernon Wells, Travis Snider and Alex Rios observe the crowd. They try to get some amusment over a long and somewhat boring pitching change I guess.
You’ll notice in the corner of the outfield a bunch of paper airplanes. Opening day saw a lot those thrown on the field as usual, but a new one came out that I’ve never seen before: BASEBALLS! Some very disrespectful dummies through baseballs onto the field and almost caused the Jays to forfeit the game. They almost ruined my entire trip in the process. Sometimes those Toronto fans, if you can even call them fans, get on my nerves. Jim Leyland took his team off the field. You can’t blame him at all for doing it. You also can’t blame team President Paul Beeston for banning beer sales at the last game. It is just a very bad situation if you are a Jays fan. I hope this kind of thing stops, it makes me embarrassed.