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Sixth in a 10-part series

In a recent interview with Batter's Box, Toronto Blue Jays General Manager J.P. Ricciardi was characteristically blunt about his relationship with the media.

"I really donít care what the writers say about me," Ricciardi said at the time. "Because in the end, they donít really count."

While it's true that anyone who lives in the public eye -- as Ricciardi does -- has to turn a blind eye to the criticism offered his way or risk being drowned in it, it's also true that the work of those writers he "doesn't care about" is often the first and only line of communication between the team and the fans.

Both Toronto Star Blue Jays beat writer Geoff Baker and columnist Richard Griffin have had plenty to say about "the Ricciardi Regime" since former G.M. Gord Ash left town -- some quite good, and some extremely critical.

"Ricciardi and Keith Law have articulated their approach to reporters better than the Ash administration did," says Baker. "Especially since they felt it would be a tough sell." What would be such a tough sell? The "sabermetric" approach to running a team, of course.

Good News, Bad News
"The new regime has made it a point to hammer home to the media some of the vital statistics that do influence a baseball game more than the traditional ones," explains Baker. "We were using the OPS stat at the Star when Ash was still here, especially when evaluating the production of Carlos Delgado, but it was nice to see someone else emphasizing the importance of things like on-base percentage and slugging in team notes and on the scoreboard during games," he says.

Still, Griffin expresses some concern with the current G.M.'s approach to gathering players. "Ricciardi saying 'makeup can be more important than ability' is like Baywatch saying 'I.Q. is more important than looks,'" says Griffin. "They drafted or signed Trever Miller, Corey Thurman and Aquilino Lopez sight unseen, using computer generated stats ... I think that a player sticks with the club on the basis of personality and character, but that he is acquired on the basis of stats and cost."

While not disagreeing with Griffin's stats/cost bottom line, Ricciardi defends his statement, saying, "After being in this game for a long time, evaluating every day, I can say that a player's makeup can be more important than his ability."

For example, says Ricciardi, "Chris Woodward has twice the skills [Mike] Bordick has, but Mike is able to overcome his limitations and do things you can't learn just by watching. Delgado's that type of guy. He plays through a lot of pain that people don't see, but he wants to be in the lineup every day."

It sounds like Griffin and Ricciardi might be -- gasp! -- agreeing that stats and makeup are complementary components in evaluating a player, and anyone from a G.M. to a columnist to a fan might jump to an unjustified conclusion based on numbers or early results.

Baker points out one example. "Hailing Jose Cruz Jr. or Raul Mondesi as successes in April [this year] would have been too soon, given their histories," says Baker. "And both ultimately fell to more earthly norms."

"Likewise though," he continues, "predicting the Jays offensive production would tail off this year without Shannon Stewart was a no-brainer and you didn't need months worth of a post-trade sample size to prove it. Stewart is historically a proven, year-round run producer while the Jays replaced him with players who have yet to endure a season as full-time big-leaguers."

Continuing that single line of argument, Baker says, "Maybe Bobby Kielty, Reed Johnson or someone else will develop into a similar, full-time run generator, but the Jays don't have one now and the drop in run production is no surprise."

Yet, he recalls, "there were still people insisting in June that Stewart could be dumped with no harm done to the offence."

Critical Analysis is Key (Uh, Not Jimmy)
It's this type of critical analysis that makes many pro-Ricciardi fans uncomfortable with Blue Jays coverage in the Star, and might be the kind of analysis that leads Ricciardi to say, "I don't worry about what the writers say, because they're never going to agree with what we're doing, and they're never going to see it the way we do."

In fact, says Baker, "Sometimes, being consistent in that critical analysis means applying the same standards to the new J.P. Ricciardi regime, which has yet to exceed Ash in any on-field results."

Baker continues, "It's not realistic for a team in a four-newspaper market to say 'We'll contend by 2006' and then expect you to sit back for three more years and question nothing. My biggest concern would be Ash reading our paper and thinking we picked on him while giving his successor a free pass."

Is it fair to say the Star has been fair to Ash and Ricciardi by being equally critical of both? Baker compares the two by even-handedly pointing out strengths and weaknesses of both front offices.

"Ricciardi can be very upfront and honest about goals and objectives, while Ash seemed more defensive and closed," says Baker. "One thing though, is that Ash could always be reached, day or night, for important things and always returned calls, sometimes answering his own office phone."

That might not seem like a big deal to the casual fan, but think for a moment about the feelings of frustration and anxiety that arise when you try to call the bank and can't reach a "live person." It's Ricciardi's -- or anyone's -- right to not take a call, of course; but the attitude of the beat writer or columnist can't help but be affected when accessibility rules change with an administration.

"Ricciardi did not give reporters his cellular telephone number or his office line when he took the job -- screening all calls instead through an administrative assistant," recalls Baker, who admits, "he has gotten better at it this season."

Playing the PR Game
Accessibility issues point out another difficulty of dealing with the Ricciardi regime, remembers Baker.

"Last October, we couldn't get a hold of Ricciardi anywhere in the days before his contract extension," he says. "But he was being quoted in Boston newspapers ... [so] I've had to read stories written by reporters in Boston, or elsewhere in the U.S., to find out things that were not being told to reporters [in Toronto] by Ricciardi."

Then in July, Baker recalls, "there was a Rob Neyer column [on ESPN.com] in which Ricciardi said the Jays realistically might not contend until 2006 or 2007. An honest assessment in my book -- although the Jays had always spoken of 2004 or 2005 as being realistic contention dates when dealing with Toronto media."

This presentation of one story multiple ways to various sources -- though quite common in the public relations game -- reveals one of the Ricciardi team's weaknesses, says Griffin, who calls it, "the tendency towards paranoia."

Griffin knows a little something about this PR game. "It's a very difficult thing for a PR department to create positive press," he says. "In Montreal, we went the extra mile to accommodate and influence the major U.S. media, suggesting story lines and colour pieces to ESPN, Sports Illustrated, the major papers, etc. to make our players larger than Canada," he recalls.

"When the U.S. major markets were positive about the Expos, the fans, in turn, believed they had something good," says Baker. It's the same story, Griffin says, as Jim Carrey, Lorne Greene, Shania Twain and William Shatner going to the U.S. to find success.

"The current Jays regime also goes to the U.S. press," he says. "But mostly to complain about how little the fans and the media in Toronto know. That's no way to build positive press in Toronto, by ripping [the city] abroad."

But like Baker, Griffin sees both the positive and negative in the Ricciardi front office approach. "The biggest strengths of the current regime are in not choosing to sign the Brian McRaes of the world," he says, alluding to the outfielder with impeccable bloodlines and a .727 career OPS.

However, Griffin says, "It's hard to define weakness until you see what they can do with, say, Carlos Delgado's salary. They tried to throw a bunch of pitchers against the wall and see who stuck, but that's no way to build a winner."

Ah, the pitching.

Pitching Help's Just Around the Corner (Again)
"Our pitching still has a way to go," admitted Ricciardi to Batter's Box. "We feel we're two drafts from having enough pitching where we can see the results, that if one guy goes down, we have another guy coming."

Of course, in that instance, Ricciardi is referring primarily to homegrown pitching, something that outside of Roy Halladay, recent Blue Jays teams have not had terrific luck in developing. And, says Baker, that actually might not be the way to go.

"Believe me, I understand the Jays have a long-term plan," says Baker. "But every team in baseball claims to have super-stud mound prospects. Some work out, some don't." To increase the odds of success, he says, "you have to pay for established pitchers with a track record. That costs money."

For instance, says Baker, "Pinning your contention hopes on Jason Arnold or Dustin McGowan means waiting years more for them to develop. Look at how long Kelvim Escobar, or even Halladay took to become an effective starter, never mind a 15- or 20-game winner."

And there are no guarantees, he points out, "as we've seen with 'can't miss' Chris Carpenter, who has yet to win 13 games in a season."

But how does the team acquire these "pitchers with a track record"? One approach, Baker thinks, would be to wait for Carlos Delgado's $19 million contract to come off the books after 2004. "But we have no proof [the Blue Jays] will re-invest that money into team payroll," he says. "Plus, they will have a big offensive hole to fill at that point. So, I don't see how they'll 'succeed' for many years without upping payroll."

Remember, Griffin Was an Accounting Major
Ricciardi points out his frustration with public perception and payroll in saying, "The biggest disappointment with the writers in general is that they don't understand that the payroll here is $50 million, going to $48 million."

The G.M. explains, "we're trying to compete in a division with the Yankees and Red Sox. They [the writers] don't understand the decisions we have to make based on finances."

Not surprisingly, Baker disagrees. "I don't feel that [the team] has to outspend the Yankees or Red Sox to win the AL East, or the wild-card," he says, even tossing a compliment the G.M.'s way in saying, "especially with Ricciardi around."

However, believes Baker, "I do feel the team has to spend a higher percentage of what their rivals are [spending] if they hope to contend. And not in three more years. That's silly. No one ever really knows what will happen with minor league pitching prospects and the Jays can't bank their entire future on that."

Baker adds, "You still have to offer fans something in the interim. A team shouldn't expect fans to go from 2002 until 2006 or 2007 without offering them any short-term hope of contending beyond June. That's essentially what is happening here."

Ultimately, says Baker, "Until the standings change -- whether the Jays win 85 or 75 games this year -- any arguments to the contrary simply aren't supported by the facts."

Like a Shortstop: No Margin For Error
Still, says Ricciardi, the missing element from that analysis is the margin for error. "We're going to have to outwork other people. We'll have to be better at our scouting and player development," he says.

"The thing about the position weíre in is, if we make a mistake, it sets us back," adds Ricciardi. "When the Yankees or the Red Sox make a mistake, it doesnít set them back. We're working on a very thin wire."

It's true, says Baker, that "Ricciardi has built a very good, low-cost offence." But now, he adds, "[Ricciardi] says he has no money for proven free agent pitchers and must take years to develop his own arms. That sounds an awful lot like Ash, who spent more money on his offence but also couldn't get any added dough from [management] to bolster his pitching staff when needed."

That's unfortunate, says Baker, "because history has shown that the top-spending teams have been #1 and #2 in the AL East for six straight years. It doesn't matter that the ineptly-managed Orioles spend a lot, too. What does matter is that the teams ahead of Toronto are well-managed and have the cash."

The only difference, claims Baker, "is that Ricciardi's Moneyball approach has saved millions of dollars for [the owners] in building the latest third-place team."

Despite consistent criticism of Ricciardi from the Star, Griffin says he has been misrepresented at least in his initial commentary on the Toronto G.M. "[Blue Jays president and CEO Paul] Godfrey made the right choice [hiring Ricciardi instead of Dave Dombrowski]," says Griffin, "given the circumstances of downsizing payroll and trying to maintain the team's consistent six-year mediocrity."

Griffin admits that "Dombrowski had been my choice and I [have admitted] that he would not have been the right man for this circumstance." Unfortunately, says Griffin, "the headline writers -- as they often do -- took liberties and made it look like I was putting the Griff stamp of approval on the Ricciardi regime."

No, that stamp of approval has not been forthcoming from Griffin, Baker or the Star. Not yet.

Doesn't matter, says Ricciardi. "I've always had thick skin."
Rating Ricciardi | 61 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Pistol - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 03:27 PM EDT (#33312) #
Nice work again Mick.

Baker points out one example. "Hailing Jose Cruz Jr. or Raul Mondesi as successes in April [this year] would have been too soon, given their histories," says Baker. "And both ultimately fell to more earthly norms."

What's the relationship between Griffin and Baker like?

This is the second comment in this series that I could see as Baker taking a shot at Griffin (the other being the bitter sportswriter quote from one of the first parts of the series).
Dave Till - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 03:44 PM EDT (#33313) #
That's unfortunate, says Baker, "because history has shown that the top-spending teams have been #1 and #2 in the AL East for six straight years.

But history has also shown that the low-spending Oakland A's have had championship-quality teams for several years running. And that the top-spending New York Mets have fallen into a well and can't get out.

The acid test for the Rogers/Ricciardi regime will be whether they will spend to fill the holes once the results of the Ricciardi drafts begin to bear fruit. The fans will be patient for a couple of years, at least, but will lose faith if the team doesn't progress (or if Baltimore leapfrogs past them).

Excellent article, Mick.
Mike Green - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 04:17 PM EDT (#33314) #
The problem I have is reading Griffin and Baker, you don't really get a true picture of Ricciardi's strengths and weaknesses as a GM. His strengths seem to me to be:

1. he's open to new ideas, whether it is gathering statistical information on players or trying Roy Halladay on 3 days' rest,

2. his draft preparation is obviously outstanding.

His weaknesses seem to be:

1. working collaboratively (the departure of Tim Wilken,who was in part responsible for the drafting of Dustin McGowan, Alexis Rios and Guillermo Quiroz, is suggestive of this, as is the hiring of Carlos Tosca who seems to be on a leash and may need it)

2. letting his personal feelings about a player overly influence his judgment (the signings of Tam, Sturtze, and perhaps Creek and Lidle have a bit of this flavor)

The funny thing about this is for all the criticism of Ricciardi's reliance on stats in player evaluation, a more telling criticism is his failure to adequately take them into account in the pitching signings I mentioned. But then, this would require a 3 dimensional portrait of the man.

And, why have I not yet read Jamie Vermilyea's name in the Star this year? If I were a reporter, I'd want to know what the team saw in him when he was drafted late. And as a reader, I wish for more description, and fewer attempts to judge.
_Andrew Edwards - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 04:29 PM EDT (#33315) #
there were still people insisting in June that Stewart could be dumped with no harm done to the offence.

Umm, I'd still insist now that Stewart was dumped with little cost to the offence.

Sure they went down from being the best-hitting team in baseball. They regresed towards the mean. It's not like F-Cat was so dispirited by losing Stewart, and that's what caused his BA to drop.

Stewart has been better than Kielty, but his 20 or so extra runs would not have made a difference to a team that clearly wasn't going to compete. I'll take the quality hitter we get to control next year over 1 or 2 more wins this year.

Incidentally, that's not ex post facto flacking for JP. That pretty much exactly what JP himself said at the time.

To increase the odds of success, he says, "you have to pay for established pitchers with a track record. That costs money."

You mean like they did for Roy Halladay? Or like the A's did for Harden, Mulder, Zito, and Hudson (incidentally, how many times does Beane/Peterson have to create an ace before we stop calling it luck?)?

No, no, we should buy proven veterans. It worked for the Mets.

. "But we have no proof [the Blue Jays] will re-invest that money into team payroll," he says. "Plus, they will have a big offensive hole to fill at that point. So, I don't see how they'll 'succeed' for many years without upping payroll."

In other words, if you assume (without giving any reason) that the Riccardi regime will take the worst possible course of action, then you'll see that the future of the JP Jays is not very bright.

I see no reason to doubt JP's ability to 'fill an offensive hole', as both Baker and Griffin have already conceeded. So basically this is a criticism of Riccardi based on the unjustified assumption that he's gonna plow Delgado's $19M into sports cars and bimbos. Fair-minded.

Ugh, come on guys.
_Rich - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 04:34 PM EDT (#33316) #
So many errors, so little time...

1. predicting the Jays offensive production would tail off this year without Shannon Stewart was a no-brainer and you didn't need months worth of a post-trade sample size to prove it

Stewart was traded July 16, and the offensive tail-off is purely due to his departure and "inadequate" replacement? These numbers don't count, I suppose:

OPS By Month (June / July / Aug)

Wells: 1.092 / .905 / .861
Delgado: 1.008 / .975 / .945
Myers: 1.087 / 853 / .462
Johnson: .897 / .589 / .601
Cat: .740 / .576 / 1.234
Phelps: .990 / .442 / 1.012
Hudson: .839 / .623 / .611

Geoff, do you EVER actually look at any evidence before you write?

2. But every team in baseball claims to have super-stud mound prospects. Some work out, some don't." To increase the odds of success, he says, "you have to pay for established pitchers with a track record. That costs money."

Yes, developing a staff from within isn't easy, but the claim that every team pretends it has legit prospects is more unsubstantiated drivel. People who actually pay attention to the farm systems, like Baseball America, John Sickels, and Baseball Prospectus, have been writing for the last several years that the Jays had little or no pitching prospects likely to be impact major leaguers. Does Geoff ever read minor league reports?

It IS difficult to build a staff from within, as we've talked about on Da Box before, but it's certainly not impossible. Right now Seattle, Oakland, Houston, Kansas City, Florida, and San Francisco all have done a good job building at least part of a quality rotation from the farm system. By drafting 15 college pitchers in the first 18 rounds and managing pitch counts carefully, JP is minimizing risk (there's that phrase again) in trying to develop some quality arms. JP is at least as bright as the GM's who built the staffs I just mentioned, and I have every confidence that some of the minor league hurlers will become good pitchers at SkyDome.

3. You still have to offer fans something in the interim. Who exactly is complaining about the 2003 Jays besides the Star? For years the local media, led by the Star has griped the Jays were overpaid, dull, and listless. They are none of the above now, playing exciting baseball with a young squad, hustling, and promising to bring along players from a very talented farm system. What's the problem?
_Jordan - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 04:36 PM EDT (#33317) #
Great work, Mick, as usual.

It occurs to me that both sides -- the Star and the Blue Jays -- need to think about calling a truce and feeling out the possibility of a rapprochement. They don't need to be the best of friends -- they won't be, and the nature of their jobs almost forbids it -- but they should think about lowering their weapons a little. This is because (a) neither side benefits from an openly antagonistic relationship between a ballclub and its most widely read beat writers, and (b) I really don't think the two sides are all that far apart.

The Star guys are not dummies; they know a lot about the game and they're learning more all the time. Some of the questions Baker asks and objections he raises are wholly reasonable ones for even the most ardent of Ricciardi fans. I'm a huge admirer of JP and his organization, but it is no answer for him to say: "I don't worry about what the writers say, because they're never going to agree with what we're doing, and they're never going to see it the way we do." Whether he likes the writers or not, whether he respects them or not, is beside the point. He can't give up on them, he can't write them off, and he doesn't need to be at war with them -- it uses up too much negative energy and hurts the team's image with the paper-buying public. Like it or not (I'm sure not), he needs to invest some time and patience with building a reasonable relationship with the local press. For a man with little time and not a tremendous amount of evident patience, that's probably not easy, but I do recommend it.

At the same time, the Star guys should realize that they've dug themselves into a substantial hole with a very smart, very determined guy who, unlike Gord Ash, doesn't need to be liked. The Star, and Rich Griffin in particular, greeted Ricciardi's arrival with stones and torches, and rarely let up after that. The relationship was already bad, and the White Jays fiasco made it far worse. You can't put together a front-page piece of organizational character assassination and not expect to outrage the man who runs the organization. You can't criticize a guy for not giving his cellphone number to writers who evidently have an agenda stacked against him. Ricciardi may be negative about the local press, but he has reason.

So I think, this off-season, when tempers have cooled a little, reasonable parties from both sides should meet over drinks somewhere to talk about bringing an end to this fight. It should start with the Star, and the first steps towards rapprochement should not be rejected by the ballclub. This state of affairs really shouldn't be allowed to continue much longer.
_Rich - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 04:42 PM EDT (#33318) #
Jordan,

I largely agree with your very intelligent post. In all honesty, however, I am rather pessimistic that Geoff Baker and Richard Griffin have it in them to deal with the Jays in more balanced, informed manner. The latter in particular has not reserved his venom exclusively for the Jays, as writing negative columns has comprised the bulk of his work for several years, and I'm skeptical about his ability and willingness to re-evaluate his approach. As for Geoff Baker, while I appreciate his appearances on this site, it seems to me that each time he writes to explain his views he only comes off as more and more uninformed.

These two are becoming like Bob McCowan and Damien Cox, who have nothing but very harsh criticism, both personal and professional, for Pat Quinn, and then whine publicly about how he won't appear on their show. Accepting criticism is part of the job for coaches and GM's, but there should be a modicum of fairness in the media's coverage somewhere.
_Rob C - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 04:58 PM EDT (#33319) #
If Baker thinks that the Jays should be 'upping payroll', where does he think that money is going to come from? This isn't the Leafs we're talking about here - there is a limited amount of revenue, and the Jays have to work within those constraints. Spending big money on free agent pitchers is no guarantee that you'll get the performance, either. Hell, pitchers are far more inconsistent than position players in terms of year-to-year performance. Guys like Greg Maddux create this false impression that top-shelf pitchers roll off great season after great season. Yeah, sorry, just a handful can do that, and their cost is far too high for a club like the Jays to carry. Developing a strong pool of minor league pitching talent is the best way for the Jays (or any team, really) to get to a level where they are perennial contenders.

"They drafted or signed Trever Miller, Corey Thurman and Aquilino Lopez sight unseen, using computer generated stats ... I think that a player sticks with the club on the basis of personality and character, but that he is acquired on the basis of stats and cost."

I think if Griffin understood that minor league statistics do have predictive value, he might not be so quick to harshly judge the practice of stats-based prospect evaluation. Besides, how else would you want to acquire players, if not through the considerations of stats and cost? The concept of 'character' is as ephemeral and ill-defined as 'leadership'. We always hear about how the Yankees are neck-deep in 'character' and 'leadership'. Makes me gag.
_Ryan - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 05:47 PM EDT (#33320) #
\"We were using the OPS stat at the Star when Ash was still here, especially when evaluating the production of Carlos Delgado, [...]"\

That should read: "We were abusing the OPS stat at the Star when Ash was still here, especially when doing a hatchet job on Carlos Delgado."

I remember that article, and while Baker made some good points, he also made some real silly ones.

\In fact, says Baker, "Sometimes, being consistent in that critical analysis means applying the same standards to the new J.P. Ricciardi regime, which has yet to exceed Ash in any on-field results."

Baker continues, "It's not realistic for a team in a four-newspaper market to say 'We'll contend by 2006' and then expect you to sit back for three more years and question nothing. My biggest concern would be Ash reading our paper and thinking we picked on him while giving his successor a free pass."\

I wish Baker and Griffin would realise that being critical shouldn't come at the expense of being credible. If they're critical of everything the Blue Jays do, how are readers supposed to get an accurate picture of what the organization is doing? When can someone tell that Baker is reporting the facts fairly, or that Griffin is basing his opinion on actual evidence rather than a dislike of the team?

Neither of them addressed a number of the primary criticisms of their work, from the misrepresenting of stories to cast the team in a bad light, to getting the facts wrong on a regular basis, which also coincidentally casts the team in a bad light.

And no, I don't think the Star should sit back for another three years before they evaluate the team. But I also don't think they should create their own stories in the meantime, as they did with the "White Jays" pieces and Ricciardi's out-clause.

\"The current Jays regime also goes to the U.S. press," he says. "But mostly to complain about how little the fans and the media in Toronto know. That's no way to build positive press in Toronto, by ripping [the city] abroad."\

I'd like to see Griffin provide a source for this statement. I've heard about Ricciardi apparently complaining about the Toronto media, but I've never heard about him ripping the fans. If Griffin is going to make a claim like that, he needs to back it up.

I find it funny that Griffin would talk about "positive press in Toronto" when he and Baker are the two primary sources of the negative press in the city. The guys at the Globe and National Post don't seem to have any trouble talking about the club in a positive light (the Sun is somewhat mixed). Why are the writers at the Star so dramatically different?

\Griffin admits that "Dombrowski had been my choice and I [have admitted] that he would not have been the right man for this circumstance." Unfortunately, says Griffin, "the headline writers -- as they often do -- took liberties and made it look like I was putting the Griff stamp of approval on the Ricciardi regime\

The headline writers took the headline almost directly from his column that day. The headline was "Ricciardi was the right choice for Jays" and beneath it was "Dombrowski down and out in Detroit." I don't see how that's much different from what was near the end of his column:

"The Jays made the right choice in hiring the man with the plan, instead of going with the track record in Montreal and Florida."

Griffin still hasn't explained why this was the only remotely-positive piece he's ever written about Ricciardi since he's been in Toronto. If he truly feels Ricciardi has done some things well, why didn't he write about them before and after this column ran? Why did he choose to write this piece immediately after the "White Jays" fiasco?

Baker and Griffin left a lot of unanswered questions here. Some things I wanted addressed:

- Why they seldom write positive pieces about the organization.
- Why they frequently take cheap shots at the organization. (mostly Griffin)
- How does Griffin explain the contradictions in his column and the shifting of his opinion to oppose the organization's position on a particular issue.
- How do they explain the common perception that they are against almost everything the team does.
- Why should readers give their opinions serious consideration when it seems they are based on a dislike of the team itself rather than an objective analysis of the facts.

Basically, I wanted to know why I should take these two writers seriously. Based on the weak answers they've given so far in this interview, I still have no reason to.
Coach - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 06:15 PM EDT (#33321) #
Ricciardi's Moneyball approach has saved millions of dollars for [the owners] in building the latest third-place team.

This is one place (of many) where Baker and I part company. He thinks I'm just an optimistic fan who swallows corporate propaganda. I think he's blind to the improvements. "The latest third-place team" is making huge strides in the right direction, unlike the 2001 and several previous versions. As Mike Green points out, there are very few stories in the Star about the three minor-league teams in the playoffs, the emerging stars or two highly productive drafts.

Who exactly is complaining about the 2003 Jays besides the Star?

Former employees who couldn't or wouldn't adapt to new ways of thinking, and their friends. Certainly not most fans. This site exists because so many people shared the hope inspired by the hiring of Ricciardi, and J.P. has done nothing to disappoint us. Not every personnel decision has turned out perfectly (nobody bats 1.000) but none of the others has imposed a two- or three-year "penalty" on the budget. His plan makes sense, it's been successful elsewhere, and we're very lucky he signed the five-year extension. This team isn't being assembled to win once, but to contend every year. If Baker and Griffin can't see that, they aren't as astute as they think.

"The current Jays regime also goes to the U.S. press," [Baker] says. "But mostly to complain about how little the fans and the media in Toronto know. That's no way to build positive press in Toronto, by ripping [the city] abroad."

This really sounds like sour grapes. If somebody in the Jays' brain trust made an off-the-cuff remark -- quite possibly about someone at the Star -- that wouldn't surprise me. Baker's use of "mostly" is simply ridiculous.

More than any other front office in baseball, J.P. Ricciardi and Keith Law have acknowledged the team's fans -- us -- so I can't imagine they are "complaining" quite so vehemently. Many of us have pointed out that Toronto crowds are not the greatest, and come to think of it, we're not that impressed by the media.

If anyone had "ripped" the city to the extent that Baker is suggesting, it would have been news. Without any evidence, it's a cheap shot.
robertdudek - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 06:24 PM EDT (#33322) #
To increase the odds of success, he says, "you have to pay for established pitchers with a track record. That costs money."

That's exactly what Lidle was. An established pitcher with a good track record who wasn't very cheap. JP didn't have money to bring in 2 guys like that or else I'm sure he would have. The fact that Lidle has been a huge disappointment this year could not have been foreseen by anyone, I think.

Chalk it up to bad luck and try again for next year. I wouldn't mind bringing Lidle back next year at around $2 mill, but he's probably had his fill of Toronto.
_Ryan - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 06:28 PM EDT (#33323) #
\"The current Jays regime also goes to the U.S. press," [Baker] says. "But mostly to complain about how little the fans and the media in Toronto know. That's no way to build positive press in Toronto, by ripping [the city] abroad."\

Coach, was it Baker who made the above statement? After reading the paragraph preceding it, I had attributed it to Griffin.

If it was Baker, my apologies.
_Mick - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 06:32 PM EDT (#33324) #
The fact that Lidle has been a huge disappointment this year could not have been foreseen by anyone, I think.

Oh, I don't know ... sure, his ERA blows chunks, but the guy is 12-13. Let's say he finishes the year on a 2-1 "tear" and completes the season at 14-14. Isn't that approximately what everyone expected? Isn't this guy Fred Norman with a fastball?

(Norman, for you kiddies out there, won between 11 and 14 games every year from 1973-1979 and took home two World Series rings with the Reds.)

I know, I know ... I'm committing a Morganistic Generalization by pointing to his W/L record rather than his ERA+ or K/BB ratio. But seriously ... 14-14. Isn't that about right for Cory Lidle?

And Coach, why in heaven's name is Lidle's page at BaseballReference.com sponsored by Batter's Box???
_Mick - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 06:35 PM EDT (#33325) #
The quote is Griffin's.
_Ryan - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 06:37 PM EDT (#33326) #
Thanks for the clarification, Mick.
robertdudek - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 06:40 PM EDT (#33327) #
If you had told me that the Jays would score 900 runs in 2003, I'd have pegged Lidle at 17 and 11.
_Jordan - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 06:53 PM EDT (#33328) #
For those who thought the last sentence of my previous post made even less sense than usual, there was a line missing, now replaced. Ah, the power of administrator access....

And Coach, why in heaven's name is Lidle's page at BaseballReference.com sponsored by Batter's Box???

Don't blame me -- I voted for Kodos. But I will take credit for sponsoring Vernon Wells, Josh Phelps, Jayson Werth, Kevin Cash, Corey Thurman and the 1993 World Champion Toronto Blue Jays. I let Chris Woodward's sponsorship lapse, as I suspect JP will eventually be doing the same.
_jason - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 07:26 PM EDT (#33329) #
It'll be interesting to see what the Jays do in regards to pitching in the off-season. Signing Halladay to a long-term deal is a no-brainer, but if they can't or won't sign Escobar I wonder if they won't be tempted to dip into the FA pool for at least one proven starter considering the buyers market MLB is becoming.
Coach - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 08:18 PM EDT (#33330) #
The quote is Griffin's.

My apologies to Geoff. I'm not surprised to misread something today, as there are some distractions on the home front, and I responded hastily. It doesn't change how I feel about what was said.

Ricciardi may be negative about the local press, but he has reason.

The few times J.P. has complained, it wasn't "the press" but the Star he singled out. While I agree that a truce would benefit everyone, most of all readers of the paper, it appears that Mr. Baker and Mr. Griffin don't believe anything they've written has ever offended the team, so I'm not expecting them to make any concessions.

"No one ever really knows what will happen with minor league pitching prospects and the Jays can't bank their entire future on that."

OK, Baker said that. I checked carefully. Pinning all your hopes on any given prospect is foolish, but if you have assembled a dozen or more blue-chip arms, there's a strong likelihood that at least a few will turn out to be useful big-leaguers. Predicting which ones make it, when and in which roles, is guesswork, but does Geoff really think that none of Bush, McGowan, Arnold, Peterson, Vermilyea, Perkins, League, Rosario, Harper, Nin, Banks, Isenberg, Marcum, Mastny and the other exciting youngsters will help? The suggestion that if Chris Carpenter didn't become a star, nobody will, ignores the probabilities.

if you assume... that the Riccardi regime will take the worst possible course of action...

Exactly. Why not give J.P. the benefit of the doubt? Baker's claim that "established pitchers with a track record" are necessary elements of success is reasonable enough. We disagree on the ideal timing of such acquisitions -- I don't see the point of investing in the next Roger Clemens before the team is ready to win.

This rebuilding 2003 team, for a few glorious weeks, appeared to be far ahead of schedule. In 2004, the gains should continue, but it's still premature to open the vault for a free agent stud pitcher. If by 2005 and 2006 all the other pieces of a championship team are in place except for a #2 starter, only to have Rogers cry poor, I'll be leading the criticism.
_R Billie - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 08:25 PM EDT (#33331) #
It depends on what the compensation for said free agent starter is...I'm very sure the Jays are not going to be giving up their first or even second round pick in a draft for years to come. Maybe they will if they know a free agent of theirs (say Escobar) will bring back a like-valued pick in return.

But right now just based on the last two drafts alone, the value of those first two picks is significant (currently representing Russ Adams, David Bush, Aaron Hill, and Josh Banks). Bush could be in the majors as early as next year and the other guys the following two years. Losing those high picks would be a definate blow to affordable future depth. In fact, based on early returns of the Jays' drafts, I'd say they'd be better off trying to get as many early picks as they can.

Which is one thing in favour of resigning Escobar...he probably represents one of the most talented arms available with a fair amount of experience AND he doesn't cost any draft picks. Outside of that, the Jays can only deal with non-tenders. And if he costs too much, you can comfortably accept an extra young player or two in the draft and use the salary room to trade for or sign others.
Pepper Moffatt - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 08:36 PM EDT (#33332) #
http://economics.about.com
Which is one thing in favour of resigning Escobar...he probably represents one of the most talented arms available with a fair amount of experience AND he doesn't cost any draft picks.

Wouldn't the Jays get any draft picks if someone else signed Escobar?

Mike
Named For Hank - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 09:03 PM EDT (#33333) #
Who exactly is complaining about the 2003 Jays besides the Star?

Amen. I've had a great time this summer, watching a fun, exciting team. Could it be better? Sure, if we won a little more often.

I have little hope that either of these guys will ever lay off. The argument that the Jays' approach to team building will not work without giving any supporting evidence of substance is the same argument that they always present: The Blue Jays stink because we think they do.

Remember, Richard Griffin told us that J.P. would be a rotten GM because he wouldn't have the stones to trade Mondesi, Koch or Stewart before their contracts were up. Well, I don't see those guys on the Jays anymore... So they have to make up some other reason to dislike J.P. based on an invented future inaction: not filling in the holes in the roster that will be left when our draftees don't pan out.

If you take their track record into consideration, predictions like these can be easily ignored.

"The current Jays regime also goes to the U.S. press," [Griffin] says. "But mostly to complain about how little the fans and the media in Toronto know. That's no way to build positive press in Toronto, by ripping [the city] abroad."

See, here's where I have trouble with these articles: if Griffin had said this to me, I'd have to follow it up with another question. The implication is that the Jays front office frequently talk to the U.S. press to complain about the Toronto press. I'd ask 1) is that what you are saying? and 2) can you give me some references to the papers, reporters and articles? 3) What constitutes 'going to the U.S. press'? For instance, an interview with J.P. in a Boston paper while the team is in Boston, that would not be 'going to the U.S. press', because they would have come to him, right? So what Griffin is saying is that while at home, in Toronto, Toronto front office personnel call U.S. reporters, specifically to complain about the Toronto press, and have, on more than one occasion, but have also called U.S. reporters from their offices in Toronto less frequently to discuss other matters.

How he can possibly know this without being one of the U.S. reporters is pretty astounding. Maybe Dionne Warwick told him? Or maybe he's so obsessed that he keeps a running tally of articles in U.S. papers about the Jays, and that's how he knows that most of the articles are about how much the Toronto press stink.

(By the way, I'm not suggesting that I'd be a better interviewer, because I absolutely would not. I'm just saying that without follow-up questions that either illuminate or expose their thinking, these articles are sort of becoming just one more platform for Griffin and Baker to spew their inane garbage from instead of the analytical pieces they could be.)

The more I read about these guys, the more their egomania is obvious in their words. "I'm mad that he calls the U.S. press instead of me, but he does it because he's talking about me."

Don't try to equate yourself with the fans, boys: we'd chew you up in 524b and spit out the feathers.

Do either Baker or Griffin have an actual semi-coherent plan to make the team better within the financial constraints that the team faces? Because I know these guys who do, who Griffin and Baker take potshots at...maybe they could help out by maybe telling us all the details of their brilliant, workable, feasible plan.
_R Billie - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 09:12 PM EDT (#33334) #
Wouldn't the Jays get any draft picks if someone else signed Escobar?

Most probably true...despite his average overall stats I still think he'll probably qualify as an A or B class free agent. Though depending on who signed him it might be a second round pick instead of first they get.

Certainly there is an opportunity cost to keeping Kelvim (be that getting extra draft picks and/or other pitchers). But it's unknown what free agents would entertain coming to the Jays and what non-tenders or trade targets would be available. The one action almost completely in the Jays hands is whether to re-sign Kelvim.

It might well be better for the team to take the picks for Kelvim and sign a handful of Lidle type non-tenders. But if they turn out like Lidle and Sturtze did this year...ugh. I do think Escobar represents a significant upgrade over those types of pitchers...and certainly if Kerry Wood or Kevin Millwood consider Toronto a viable option you consider "trading" Kelvim's compensation picks for them. But I doubt any pitchers of that calibre will be in TO's price range.
_Jordan - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 09:22 PM EDT (#33335) #
Further to that ... in arbitration, Escobar probably would cost circa $4-$5 million, which is what the Jays would likely have to pay for a useful #2 starter anyway. So if the worst thing that happens is that Kelvim accepts and come back in 2004, it's not so bad, assuming he doesn't have any more Chernobylesque lapses of judgment.

If they offer him arbitration but he goes elsewhere, then the draft picks will be a nice consolation prize, and even a second-rounder (David Bush, Josh Banks) can be pretty cool. Keeping in mind, of course, that the fact that signing Escobar means losing those draft picks might well make some potential suitors back off. But if Escobar has his heart set on a multi-year deal, then the Jays can probably offer him arb on a pretty low-risk basis.
Gitz - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 09:43 PM EDT (#33336) #
Chalk it up to bad luck and try again for next year.

Whatever. Did Jeremy Giambi stiff out because of bad luck? Are all injuries the result of bad luck? Did Scott Hatteberg have a crummy year because of bad luck? What happened to Adam Dunn this year? Bad luck? Is Jack Cust a flameout because of bad luck? All those homers and runs Bruce Chen gives up despite his good K numbers -- bad luck? Ted Lilly is 9-1 against teams with losing records but 1-9 against teams with winnng records: bad luck? And on the flip side: Esteban Loaiza: a severe run of good luck? Livan Hernandez? All good luck?Let's not forget Jeff Tam, who obviously got clocked because of "bad luck"; it had nothing to do with his non-sinking sinker or his crummy control, that's for sure. and it certainly had nothing to do with his crummy year the previous season. He was a decent flier to eat innings that didn't work out. Still ... maybe the Jays should bring him back next year, because surely he will regress back to the mean, because surely he suffered from bad luck this season -- and last season, of course. He's due!

I apologize for being overly sarcastic, but this really bugs me: some people have bad years that may or may not be related to "bad luck." It's a crutch narrow-minded stat freaks like to throw out (Robert, I'm not directing this at you), and they frankly do it too much for my liking. Cory Lidle is 30-years-old and enjoyed a couple of good years pitching quite well in a pitcher's park. Until then he was fairly mediocre; while anybody surely would not have predicted his peripherals to suffer as they have this season, it's specious to "chalk it up to bad luck."

I will agree to this: try it again next year. Given the rawness of the Jays pitching prospects, it's not like they have a choice; otherwise, another 85-win year would be the best we could hope for. Sooner or later, the team has to take the next step -- I don't think it's unreasonable to ask that 2005 be that season -- lest they fall into the White Sox trap of not fulfilling their potential.
robertdudek - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 10:32 PM EDT (#33337) #
Gitz,

Lidle has a decent K/W ratio this year (even better the last two years) and until his stint on the DL, wasn't giving up many homeruns. It would take a real pessimist in April to think that he would stink in 2003 (I'm not sure what you wrote about him in March, but if you predicted a 6 ERA, congratulations).

I'm willing to put some money on the line and predict that Lidle will bounce back next year.

You must know that hits on balls in play are heavily influenced by chance (and defence), much moreso than K/W and more (though not a lot more) than homeruns.

This is a consistent approach I take: I look first at K, then W, then K/W then HR, then ERA, basically in that order.
Pepper Moffatt - Monday, September 15 2003 @ 11:12 PM EDT (#33338) #
http://economics.about.com
I gotta agree with Robert on this one. While I think Lidle isn't great, I think he's had bad luck with balls in play this year. I do agree though that he's probably not as good as he looked in Oakland.

Here are the dERA stats for the Jays, using a formula provided by Craig B. Any errors in these numbers are solely my responsibility:

Chulk_Vinnie 2.48
Halladay_Roy 3.48
Lopez_Aquilino 3.57
Escobar_Kelvim 3.77
Reichert_Dan 3.89
Kershner_Jason 4.23
Service_Scott 4.51
Acevedo_Juan 4.51
Miller_Trever 4.53
Lidle_Cory 4.59
Hendrickson_Mark 4.85
Tam_Jeff 4.97
Davis_Doug 4.98
Bowles_Brian 5.25
Sturtze_Tanyon 5.28
Politte_Cliff 5.36
Towers_Josh 5.45
Thurman_Corey 5.70
Linton_Doug 5.86
Creek_Doug 5.92
Walker_Pete 6.50
Wasdin_John 6.64

Cheers,

Mike
_dp - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 12:21 AM EDT (#33339) #
"This site exists because so many people shared the hope inspired by the hiring of Ricciardi,"

And we're all thankful for it. But can you seriously say this:

"and J.P. has done nothing to disappoint us."

I'm gonna echo Gitz here. He made some dumb moves this winter, and too often on this site they get written off. We all know that a successful bullpen can be cobbled together from cast-offs, but that doesn't mean when your castoffs fail you're off the hook. JP brought in Creek and Tam, both of which were foolish moves, both of which, IIRC, were motivated by personal history with them. That was the veteran presence brought in to bolster the pen. He gave Creek a major league contract, which was a huge mistake with such a mediocre pitcher. He took a Devil Ray castoff in Sturtze and did the same. Lidle's '02 numbers only looked good because of a great run in the middle of the season; aside from that, he was bad.

Decisions JP made that I didn't like at the time but turned out OK- Bordick and Myers- were offset by far worse ones. Just because statistically some retreads stick and others don't doesn't mean it is all luck, and if you don't take JP to task for the decisions that don't work out, you can't give credit for the ones that do (AFIK, Lopez was Kieth Law's find, or do I have him confused with Thurman?).

The Kielty trade has looked pretty bad, especially with the Jays paying Stew's salary- they could've taken draft picks and I think they'd be better off. I want to like Kielty, but he's had about 450 PAs as a corner OF/DH this year and has failed to slug .400.

This isn't to say that JP's doing a poor job- if Ash had traded for Lidle he'd have handed him a 3 year $15 million extensions before he pitched a single game- but when you say the Jays have been fun to watch, I've seen my share of excruciatingly painful ones, including the disaster in Baltimore where the Jays didn't have anyone in the pen who could record an out. I see a manager who doesn't know how to run a bullpen and a GM who has let this slide. I see a GM who may like himself a little too much, leading to more Tams, Creeks, and Adamses (this season's performance at AA scares me- he looks like a pretty far cry from a major league infielder at this point, and he isn't young for AA). And it is worth pointing out that most of the hitting talent on the '03 Jays and even in the minors is inherited.
_dp - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 12:28 AM EDT (#33340) #
"Lidle's '02 numbers only looked good because of a great run in the middle of the season; aside from that, he was bad."

Should read "mediocre". I was not as high on Lidle coming into the season as other people seemed to be. My guess would've been an ERA around 4.75. I drafted him in fantasy ball because of the praise he got from people here, a mistake I repeated in the BBFL with Chris Woodward.
Gitz - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 01:22 AM EDT (#33341) #
Robert,

Alas, I was relatively high on Lidle, recommending him over Lilly. And, in fact, in my comment above I mentioned that it would have been a stretch for anyone to think Lidle would take such a step back, at least E.R.A.-wise.

The overall point is that we should not be too shocked at his performance. It may not be bad luck, that is all, but simply bad pitching at the wrong times -- hence three-run homers instead of solo jobs, etc. If you want to call that luck, by all means do it. We may very well be talking about the same thing but are simply calling it different names.

I am not completely sold on the idea of DIPS. I believe it can be a decent tool combined with good scouting -- and even then it has it limits. I am still unsure of what it tell us, even though it is an interesting concept, and I do not think that Theo Epstein would rely solely on it to pick up a particular pitcher. For instance, if I was Theo and was thinking about signing somebody who had an abnormally high BA against on balls in play, I would want to know more: how was his velocity? Was his command good? Was he giving up line drives consistently or were many hits simply bloopers or questionable hits? Is this guy a sinkerballer -- i.e. Jeff Tam -- or a "gimmicky" pitcher or a traditional pitcher? For those questions the numbers can only tell so much. So I'll the DIPS, I'll take the eyewitness scouting reports, and I'll go from there.
_Mick - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 01:25 AM EDT (#33342) #
Since it's the fourth or fifth time it's come up, please let me remind everyone that these interviews were conducted by e-mail, and not even interactively -- rather, one e-mail sent each direction by the interviewers and the subject(s). Baker sent three or four e-mails afterwards with clarifications and corrections, but there was no opportunity at any time for followup or spontaneity.

Essentially, "interviews" like these are simply a case of giving the subjects a platform -- just as was previously done with Keith Law and J.P. Ricciardi. These are being presented in a different format -- featurette rather than transcript -- so that may give this series the illusion of "real journalism."

As much as I've enjoyed writing it, and I do appreciate the kind words that have been posted throughout the series' run so far, it is not to be confused with investigative journalism.

Blogs strike me much more as a bunch of folks gathering in the corner pub, or in Section 132, or whatever. Everyone is welcome, of course, to post questions in the hopes Geoff or Rich will answer them, and hey, they just might. I can oretty much guarantee you they're at least reading them ... but they might not, and haven't so far.

And that's fine. But please, keep in mind the format ... no followups were even possible, much less considered.
_Nigel - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 01:50 AM EDT (#33343) #
Just to follow up on a few points. I generally agree with Robert on Lidle. It was a calculated risk (as opposed to something like Sturtze where he was clearly hoping for a miracle) as Lidle had enough history to expect something better than has been delivered. Clearly the calculated risk has backfired and I find it hard to fault JP for that. I also generally agree that his true performance probably lies between what we've witnessed and what his performance was in Oakland (due to park effects). His park adjusted ERA+ prior to this year is 114. So he is a slightly above average starter. I'm just not sure that his salary level is justified but that wasn't JP's fault.

Where I have serious concerns is with JP's pitching bullpen choices and in particular the bullpen. I'm beginning to feel that this is a serious blindspot for him. For all the credit he gets for the Lopez rule 5 grab he has to take heat for letting talent walk for nothing and keeping 40 man roster spots open for the Doug Creek's of this world. Scott Eyre and Brandon Lyon are currently providing average to above average innings for post-season contending ballclubs. Both were let go for free. You cannot add to that things like the Quantrill trade because those have salary issues that have to be assessed in light of roster management more generally. But I will repeat, they were let go for nothing. I have seen a number of people try and justify both of the moves on the site and I do not see it. No matter how you stack it up both Eyre and Lyons would be prominent members of this bullpen (and that is not meant as a ringing endorsement of them). The choices were made even more terrible by the fact that there was no reason for either move. The 40 man roster decision with Lyons was particularly ridiculous with Creek and Coco manning two of the positions for starters.

Generally, I am a huge JP fan and have liked many of his decisions. However, I part company with JP where young talent is let go for free. If this was a pennant contending club that needed 40 man roster spots for particular talents then maybe letting some untested, non-core talent go is acceptable. Maybe. That is not and was not the scenario here. I know many people have acknowledged that not 100% of the decisions have worked out perfectly. I agree and think that calculated risks that backfire do not deserve harsh criticism (see: Cory Lidle). I do think letting talent go for free is silly.
robertdudek - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 09:30 AM EDT (#33344) #
Gitz,

That's why I said 80%. Some hardcore DIPS believers would have you believe it's something like 98%.

If Lidle had been giving up runs in bunches his whole career, then it could reasonably be considered an attribute of the pitcher. To my knowledge, this has not been the case. The simplest and most logical explanation is that we've witnessed an ERA-fluke season.
_Spicol - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 09:50 AM EDT (#33345) #
Scott Eyre and Brandon Lyon are currently providing average to above average innings for post-season contending ballclubs.

We've all read JPs statements regarding character and makeup being extremely important to a team. There's more at play here than performance. I'm not sure about Eyre but comments had been made about Lyon's poor attitude and work ethic.

But Creek and Sturtze...those were absolute mistakes. Hopefully, they're only sophmore mistakes.
robertdudek - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 10:20 AM EDT (#33346) #
Spicol,

I like "sophmore" mistake - very clever (note: this is not sarcasm).
_Simon - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 10:22 AM EDT (#33347) #
Coach mentioned earlier in the thread saying that the 'latest third place' team was different somehow than the others. I agree with that, but just a word of caution I guess, you said that the two highly productive drafts was a reason for the difference, where I think what Baker is saying is that prospects have to succeed at the ML level. Just like when Esco, Carp, and Doc all came up together, we were meant to be set for years right? Well, I just hope that none of our prospects struggle off the bat because than the contention date is going to be put back further and further. JP's estimate of 2006 seems to make no space for potential problems. I'd say that the group of Bush, McGowan, Gassner (if you want to include him in this wave) will arrive in 2005 after having a full year in AAA. Arnold will already be here. But then JP is saying that he expects the club to contend the very next year? That's a lot of expectations and responsibility placed on a very young pitching staff.
_Spicol - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 10:41 AM EDT (#33348) #
I am not completely sold on the idea of DIPS. I believe it can be a decent tool combined with good scouting -- and even then it has it limits.

I'm sold on the concept of the majority of pitchers not having a whole lot of influence over hits on BIP. I stress the word 'majority'. I don't have data available to me to back up my hypothesis but I believe that some pitches influence hits on BIP more than others. For example, the sinker. It's difficult to get a sinker in the air. You can hit it hard, but it has to find a whole between infielders to go through for a hit. A fastball or a poorly thrown breaking ball, however, is easier to get loft on as a batter. The hit can go through the gaps between infielders but it's also easier to hit over the infielders heads. The volume of the playing field that a hitter can hit a fastball into is larger (yes, I said volume...think of the playing field in 3D). I have to think that since a sinker is more likely to be on the ground and less likely to have the loft to make it over an infielder's head, the hit rates would be lower on sinkers. If there was a way to break DIPS down by type of pitch thrown, I think we would see significant differences. This would be revolutionary and seriously change the way pitchers throw, how they are developed and how they are chosen.

On the aggregate, pitchers may not have a whole lot of influence over hits on balls in play but at the individual level, I think the pitches a pitcher throws can influence the result of a batted ball.
_Spicol - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 10:43 AM EDT (#33349) #
(note: this is not sarcasm).

Yeah, but is THAT part sarcasm? ;)
Pistol - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 10:53 AM EDT (#33350) #
The Kielty trade has looked pretty bad, especially with the Jays paying Stew's salary- they could've taken draft picks and I think they'd be better off.



The Jays wouldn't have received picks for Stewart since I can't imagine them offering him arbitration. And if they did he almost certainly would have accepted.
Pistol - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 10:57 AM EDT (#33351) #
"and J.P. has done nothing to disappoint us."

I'm gonna echo Gitz here. He made some dumb moves this winter, and too often on this site they get written off. We all know that a successful bullpen can be cobbled together from cast-offs, but that doesn't mean when your castoffs fail you're off the hook.


Iím more in Coachís corner on this one. While every JP move hasnít worked out perfectly, and some have been bad, I donít believe that any of the moves have affected the long term picture of the team at all. Say Tam, Creek, Lidle or Sturtze all worked out great, what would happen then? Theyíd price themselves out of Toronto and the team would have a few more wins this year. If they sucked they wouldnít be kept around. Myers and Bordick worked out well, but ultimately they arenít affecting the team when it will matter either. All of these players were one year gap fillers. Now if JP was giving out multi-year contracts to players that donít work out (and the Berg 2 year deal didnít make sense to me even if it was cheap) than that is something else. On that basis I have no real complaints with JP.

Whether the Jays will be able to take the step from an 85 win team to a 95 win team I believe will primarily depend on what they are able to get from the minor leagues and I couldnít imagine 2 years ago the system being any better than it is today.

The question is obviously does JP know a good pitcher when he sees him? Given the fearsome foursome (Tam, Creek, Lidle, Sturtze ) you could conclude that he doesnít. However, looking at what the first 2 drafts have brought the team I think he can pick them out just fine. For the most part in the draft it just comes down to who picks better and it appears that the Jays are extremely strong in this area. Iíd find it hard to believe that they could identify good draft eligible pitchers better than other teams, but not be able to do the same with pitchers with more of a track record.
Named For Hank - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 10:58 AM EDT (#33352) #
But please, keep in mind the format ... no followups were even possible, much less considered.

I kinda figured, and I appreciate that. I'm enjoying the series, and I certainly appreciate the work involved and also the cooperation of Griffin and Baker...I was just kind of hoping for a stronger defense from them, y'know? Not just their same old weak responses. I was really kind of hoping they had some stronger motivations or proofs or something that wasn't coming across in their articles that would maybe let me see their side a little more clearly.

So I guess what I'm disappointed in is them. :)

Keep 'em comin', I'm hungry for the last four.
Gerry - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 11:01 AM EDT (#33353) #
I am not completely sold on the idea of DIPS. I believe it can be a decent tool combined with good scouting -- and even then it has it limits.

I'm sold on the concept of the majority of pitchers not having a whole lot of influence over hits on BIP.


I believe Tom Tippett did a recent study on this. His feeling is that the results are about 50/50. Some pitchers do have the ability to make the hitters miss a bit so the fielders do have a chance to make a play (anti-DIPS), while some hits will just sneak through anyway due to luck (the other 50%, pro-DIPS).
Coach - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 11:06 AM EDT (#33354) #
But can you seriously say this: "and J.P. has done nothing to disappoint us."

Absolutely. If you are assuming some impossible standard of perfection, you can find fault. If your expectations were that the GM should have a plan for continued progress and execute it well, how can anyone be disappointed? I won't say "mission accomplished" yet, but for the first time since Gillick departed, there is a clear mission, and it's right on schedule, if not ahead.

We've seen the end of throwing buckets of cash over multiple years at the likes of Joey Hamilton, Homer Bush, Alex Gonzalez and Raul Mondesi. The "panning for gold" approach to free agents has produced a few nuggets. People like DP, who delight in complaining about the rocks, will never be satisfied.

If you want to know what being disappointed in a GM is really like, try being a Rockies fan. The master plan changes all the time. Dan O'Dowd gave ridiculous contracts to Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle, but can't find a 2B, SS or 3B regular. Or ask a Mets fan what he thinks of Steve Phillips. If you think J.P. will ever do something as foolish as trading for Mo Vaughn or Roger Cedeno on multi-year deals, you're just not paying attention.

There's more at play here than performance.

For sure. I don't know if Eyre had any "character" issues, but Lyon's attitude prompted his release. That wake-up call inspired him to take his career seriously for the first time; it was unlikely to happen while he was whining and pouting in Syracuse. Another prime example is the departed-but-not-missed-at-all Felipe Lopez. Someone tried to "call" J.P. on his initial comparison of F-Lop to Tejada. On tools alone, that was valid, but it didn't take long for Ricciardi to realize the kid was his own worst enemy, and to get something of value for him before everyone knew.

Even the GM of a fantasy team makes educated guesses and plays hunches on trades and free agents. Some work out, others don't, and you have no idea in advance which will be which. Applying hindsight to label each move "right" or "wrong" is pointless -- success often depends on how quickly you assess which ones aren't going to help, and try something else. When you have achieved perfection at that level, try it in the public eye while managing millions of dollars and dealing with real people.
_Spicol - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 11:26 AM EDT (#33355) #
http://www.diamond-mind.com/articles/ipavg2.htm
I believe Tom Tippett did a recent study on this. His feeling is that the results are about 50/50.

COMN to see Tippett's study. He doesn't ever go as far as to say 50/50. In summary, he's basically saying Voros McCracken underestimates pitchers' influence over hit rates on BIP but everyone else overestimates. He uses general statements like "(u)sing power or control or deception or a knuckleball, pitchers can keep hitters off balance and induce more than their share of routine grounders, popups, and lazy fly balls" which is essentially conventional wisdom.
I'm saying that it's got a lot more to do with the specific type of pitch thrown and not general ability. He compares power pitchers and "crafty lefties". It's a great study but I think more would come out of a comparison of batted sinkers vs. batted fastballs. Admittedly though, even if you could get the raw data, it would be tough concluding anything...not every slider is thrown in the same fashion.
_dp - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 11:28 AM EDT (#33356) #
"But Creek and Sturtze...those were absolute mistakes. Hopefully, they're only sophmore mistakes."

This is what you have to look at: were those mistakes isolated incidents, something the GM learned from, or do they indicate a flaw in the GM? I'm not saying I know- JP seems like a bright, bright guy, not the type to repeat his failing again and again, unlike Ash, who we watched make "mistakes" and then repeat them. JP's decision to lock up Hinske and Wells was a good risk, and with Wells having exploded this year, it has already paid off, but if it turns out Hinske can't handle third, he'll be an expensive 1B/DH.
robertdudek - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 11:36 AM EDT (#33357) #
AFAIK,

Groundball pitchers give up hits on bip at a higher rate. Flyballs that stay in the yard are more easily turned into outs. But GB pitchers give up fewer doubles/triples, so the effects nearly cancel each other out.

Volume has nothing to do with it. Outfielders have more time to get to a batter ball than infielders; they also don't have to worry about fielding the ball and throwing it to a base, all they have to do it catch it.
_Spicol - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 11:56 AM EDT (#33358) #
Groundball pitchers give up hits on bip at a higher rate.

That's not what I want to know. I want to know what the hit rate is on batted sinkers in play. Groundball rates tell me nothing. Overall, groundball pitchers might give up a higher rate of hits due to any number of reasons.

Volume has nothing to do with it.

Volume has nothing to do with the groundball/flyball discussion due to the reasons you've mentioned. Volume has much to do with the discussion of a sinker vs. fastball specifically. Hit a well pitched sinker hard and more often than not, it goes into the ground. Remaining low to the ground means there is a certain chance it is out of an infielder's range. Hit a straight fastball hard and it has just as good a chance as the batted sinker of avoiding an infielder. But it's height is not as limited. It has a higher chance to be hit over the infielders' heads and fall between the infield and the outfield.
_Ryan - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 11:57 AM EDT (#33359) #
I'm not worried about having another Doug Creek incident. Creek was (IIRC) the first free agent signing of the offseason. Ricciardi jumped the gun and signed him before getting a read on what the market was like. Even if Ricciardi is half as smart as people here believe him to be, he'd understand that the free agent market this offseason could be a repeat of last year's.

I'm not too worried about a repeat of Sturtze, either It was Ricciardi's personal connection to Sturtze that likely led to the signing. This may sound silly, but how many other players are there around the league that Ricciardi personally signed?
_dp - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 12:00 PM EDT (#33360) #
"People like DP, who delight in complaining about the rocks, will never be satisfied."

"Rocks" include failing to find a bullpen and starting staff. Gems include pulling a closer out of thin air, and recognizing the value in Myers and Bordick- one of BPro's criticsms about the Ash Jays was that they had the star calibur, but never the surrounding staff (role players) to turn it into anything. I think JP has done an excellent job- at least on offense- of finding those guys. I like the way the minors are going under his direction- he seems conservative in his timetable, and in that regard, is the exact opposite of Ash. I like offensive-heavy teams more than those built around pitching, and with the mashers coming up, the Jays will be entertaining on that front for some years to come. I like speed a lot, but I'd rather see 7 runs a game with no steals than 5 runs with a bunch of SB/CSs

I don't think I've been unfair to JP- I like this team, and I like the future. Maybe it is because of Ash, but I've gotten used to false hopes. If you assume everything positive a GM does is because of skill and everything bad is luck, then you'll be blind to his faults. I see some flaws here, ones that look like they are in JP rather than his circumstances. I love his personality- he's one of the most entertaining GMs to listen to. I just won't deify him the way some people here have elected to- as much as I like Toronto, I have no desire to live there, so I'm not gunning for a job in the front office. :>

I'm a Met fan, BTW, and I liked certain aspects of what Steve Phillips did. I think if you'd given Phillips a payroll of $50 million, he'd have put together a better team- because of the owner and the media, it seemed like he'd spend money just to spend it- like bringing in Appier (which made the Vaughn trade "necessary") and Zeile. He was good at identifying cheap talent, then letting it rot in the minors. He also made some brilliant moves that get forgotten- Benitez and Cedeno for a worthless and overpaid Todd Hundley., bringing Rickey in to mentor Cedeno. But the Mets have been headed for disaster for a long time, unlike the Jays, who seem to have endless promise that never materializes... JP looks like the guy who can change that, but until he does, I'm not going to say he has...
_Pod - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 12:00 PM EDT (#33361) #
When discussing JP and pitching don't we need to talk about defense and its impact on pitching?

I think Wells is an above-average CF (but not quite in the Cameron, Hunter range). I think Hudson has great range but probably lacks experience in his positioning (ie. an anti-Ripken).

I think Hinske and Delgado and Woodward are likely the worst defenders at their positions in the AL, giving us presumably the worst infield defense in the AL. Given that flyball pitchers can get killed at the Dome this is not a great setup for us.

I think Cat is the worst rightfielder in the AL. (Kielty hasn't looked great either.) Stew was a reasonable LF (his arm made him below average) but Johnson looks great out there at either corner.

And finally, Frankencatcher (pre-Cash) was pretty weak as well on D.

So of the 8 positions, 4 are league worst, 2 are mediocre and 2 are above average. Given that there are 14 AL teams, each team should have on average 1 player who sits at or near the bottom in terms of defensive ability...for the Jays to have 4 is quite shocking.

Gotta run to lunch and don't know how to end this rant, so carry on...
robertdudek - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 01:00 PM EDT (#33362) #
Delgado has turned into a decent defensive 1B - no way I would put him among the worst.
Mike D - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 01:07 PM EDT (#33363) #
I completely agree with Robert on Delgado. Have you seen who Boston trots out at first base?
_Strom Thurmond - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 01:33 PM EDT (#33364) #
FOR COACH or someone who's reading these comments. One name i see in reading either articles or comments by the readers is about Tim Wilken, why doesn't the battersbox interview Tim Wilken to get his take about what's going on and what had transpired to prior to JP's arrival and maybe how some of these present major leaguers that he was supposed to responsible for came to Toronto and what he's doing now, I think I read he was with the Devil Rays??? I think the readers might find it very interesting!
Mike Green - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 01:44 PM EDT (#33365) #
Pod, the Blue Jay overall defense is below average, and it has affected the pitching, but your individual player evaluations are not in accordance with the statistical evidence. Hinske has the worst defensive stats among regular third basemen in the majors; Woodward's stats are modestly below average; Hudson is one of the top 3 defensive second basemen in the league (you can actually make a pretty good Gold Glove case for him); Delgado is average. Check out espn.com for range factor, zone rating, dp/inning, and fielding pct: http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/stats/fielding?groupId=7&season=2003&seasonType=2&split=79&sortOrder=true&sortColumn=fieldingPct.

JP has to either give Hinske another year to improve or to get someone else to field the position. My guess is that he gives Hinske another year.

It is worth mentioning that JP was critical of Woodward for not improving his fielding, and critical of Politte for pitching with an injury, but has been silent on Hinske's defensive disaster, which may or may not result from playing with an injury. Playing favorites?
_Jonny German - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 02:27 PM EDT (#33366) #
JP's decision to lock up Hinske and Wells was a good risk, and with Wells having exploded this year, it has already paid off, but if it turns out Hinske can't handle third, he'll be an expensive 1B/DH.

It was a good risk, and Wells hasn't just exploded enough to make his contract pay off, he's worth Hinske's contract too. Disagree with projecting Wells to continue to perform at this level? It's not nearly as unreasonable as projecting Hinske to bomb out rather than bounce back. Especially given the hand injury and his poor judgement in playing through it, and the fact that he doesn't have very far to bounce back as it is.

Consider this: last year Eric had 64 extra-base hits (38-2-24 2B-3B-HR). Projecting this year to the 566 AB he had last year would give him 79 extra-base hits (61-1-17). Furthermore, his BB/K ratio has improved, from .558 to .622 (with his BB/AB unchanged). The main difference between Hinske 2003 as compared to Hinske 2002 is his batting average. In terms of his OPS, it's the only difference: bring his .244 in 2003 up to the .279 he had in 2002 by adding 14 singles to his totals, and his 2003 OPS becomes .848 (.367+.481) to last year's .846 (.365+.481).

My money doesn't just say Hinske will be fine, it says he IS fine.

Next topic...

I think Hinske and Delgado and Woodward are likely the worst defenders at their positions in the AL ... I think Cat is the worst rightfielder in the AL ... So of the 8 positions, 4 are league worst

He thinks, therefore it is.

I won't argue that Hinske's been bad, but I will argue that it's been more brain-cramp problems than anything, and I like the chances of that improving. I can't say much about Delgado, but let's see, whose word should I take, Robert Dudek & Mike D or Pod? I'm just gonna have to go ahead and go with D & D on D's D. Yeah.

But then things really fall apart... Woodward league-worst? How about Bordick? Or did you not notice that Bordick is now regular shortstop?

Cat the league-worst right fielder? How exactly is that significant when he's not the right fielder?!.

Frankencatcher not so hot? How about Cash, starting catcher for almost a month now?

Yeeeesh!
_Pod - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 03:34 PM EDT (#33367) #
Mike, thanks for the weblink. Your Hinske comments are valid and as has been discussed before on daBox, Eric probably doesn't hit well enough to play 1B or LF. JP is locked in to EH at 3B - hence the loyalty. Which brings us back full circle to your assesment of JP. I think loyalty is both a strength and weakness of JP.

Upon review, I think the Delgado defenders are probably right, there just aren't a lot of superior defensive 1B's other than Olerud and the Twins 1B.

I can't for the life of me, however, conjure a weaker SS than Woodward in the AL...Eckstein (?) perhaps but who else is worse than Woody with the glove?

I understand JP's budget plight as mentioned in a Globe article a few weeks back, but I'd still prefer JP set a more balanced club and would have all my bench guys as glove men, so that if we were up in the 7th I could put them in to preserve the lead.
Craig B - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 04:33 PM EDT (#33368) #
I can't for the life of me, however, conjure a weaker SS than Woodward in the AL...Eckstein (?) perhaps but who else is worse than Woody with the glove?

Too easy... Cristian Guzman. Ramon Santiago also looks bad to me, but he's still just a young'un.
Craig B - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 04:41 PM EDT (#33369) #
Incidentally, Win Shares (definitely not my cup of tea for contemporary defensive measurements, but not totally awful) has Woody ranked in the upper middle of the pack...

WS per 1000 defensive innings (400+ defensive innings)

Valentin
Tejada
Vizquel
Bordick
Guillen
Woodward
Guzman
Eckstein
Rodriguez
Infante
Lugo
Garciaparra
Peralta
Cruz
Santiago
Berroa
Jeter
_Pod - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 05:01 PM EDT (#33370) #
My initial comments were intended to be incendiary, so I guess I should've expected a few flames.

Jonny, the D assessment was intended as a year-to-date review (hence the use of "pre-Cash" and "Stew was"). I guess it should've read Cat "was" the worst RF. My bad. Cash and Bordick have obvioulsy played less than their weaker-D teammates.
_Scott Eyre - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 05:02 PM EDT (#33371) #
However, I part company with JP where young talent is let go for free.

Before we get carried away here by lumping me with Brandon Lyon in the "young talent let go for free" bin, please remember that I'm 31 and am making over $700K this year.

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/profile?statsId=5869
_Pod - Tuesday, September 16 2003 @ 05:05 PM EDT (#33372) #
Woody ahead of ARod and Nomah...now there's a surpise...not my cuppa either.
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