Too Good, Too Soon?

Friday, May 30 2003 @ 03:29 AM EDT

Contributed by: Jordan

Batter's Box denizens aren't the only ones wondering what would happen if the Blue Jays, who entered this season fully expecting to rebuild all year and collect prospects at the trade deadline, find themselves in contention. Dave Perkins asked JP Ricciardi the same thing. Here's what he said:

Best-case scenario, if we can keep the same team and not have to deal anybody, we'll do it. [If the Jays can stay in the wild-card playoff picture], I go sleep on Ted Rogers' doorstep and try to beg, borrow or steal whatever we can get. I hope we're in that situation, to find out. If we've done everything on our end to win, we could hope so.

This should come as great reassurance to those of us who worried that JP would damn the torpedos and forge ahead, carving up a wild-card contender at the deadline in order to complete a master plan for contention two or three years down the road. JP is a very competitive guy, and he really, really likes winning. Given a chance to win -- and we all know how fleeting those chances can be -- he'll take it, and become a buyer rather than a seller at the deadline. He should be commended for his attitude.

That said, I will respectfully disagree. In the unlikely event that the team continues to do very well -- the .703 ball they've played during May was great fun while it lasted -- and competes with the likes of Anaheim and Boston for the wild-card entry, still JP should not be swayed. Changing course midstream is rarely a good idea, and his long-term plan is a fine one that deserves to be played out. Stewart and Lidle could bring back some awfully nice return in trade from a contender on the brink, and if the Blue Jays can get a #2 starter for 2006 by dealing Shannon in July, they shouldn't hesitate. As for dealing minor-leaguers, JP won't trade away Grade-A prospects like Gabe Gross or Russ Adams, of course, but he could lighten the farm system sufficiently to bind his hands a couple of years down the road, when he really does need to deal away serious talent.

The players might not like it, but most of them will be gone in the next couple of years anyway. Who'll be on the roster Opening Day 2005? Halladay, Hinske, Wells, Phelps and maybe one or two others. Important guys, to be sure, but also professionals; they'll get over it, especially if staying on course now rewards their discipline with a string of playoff appearances later. The media will no doubt howl, but by September the Leafs are playing exhibition games anyway and Joe Public will settle in front of the TV for his hockey fix. It will be forgotten in the long run.

There are conditions under which I would support a playoff push. If one or more of the Big Five -- Angels, Mariners, A's, Yanks, Red Sox (I'm assuming Minny will be the only Central Division post-seasoner) -- is clearly hurting or too far out, then the risk becomes more reasonable. If the Jays are, like, 2 games out of the WC or division lead with an easy schedule left, then you want to guard against the White Flag Sox Syndrome (though take a look at Toronto's August schedule -- brutal, in a word). But otherwise, this is a team and organization assembled for the long haul, and an amazing May run shouldn't derail that train.

Others may sensibly and powerfully disagree, of course. Please feel free. :-)