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Gregg Zaun did his best. Had his 9th-inning drive to left-centerfield fallen in, the Jays would've tied the game and would've had an excellent chance to win it. But Jeremy Reed made a fine running catch, and so my last Game Report of the year, just like the first 53 or so, ends with an L. I expect I'll be taking home the Unluckiest Rosterite Medal at the post-season Boxy Awards (televised live in Rogers Cable 23 in Iqaluit).

Lots to talk about from last night's game, which, as I mentioned in the Instant Replay thread last night, was about as good a match as you could ask for from two also-ran teams in late September.

--> So first, let's talk about the near no-hitter. By the third inning, it was clear that Hernandez had overwhelming stuff and that the Blue Jays were just about helpless against him. By the end of the 6th, I thought he had a pretty good shot at pulling it off; I figured Gregg Zaun, who was the closest Jay to draw a bead on him all night, might golf a double down the right-field line, but it was Corey Koskie who broke the spell with one out in the seventh.

Now, I mentioned this last night, but I just do not understand how that ball could be scored a base hit. If you missed it, Koskie waited out a change-up and poked it towards left field. Yuniesky (I love that name) Betancourt appeared to misjudge the ball's trajectory and jumped too soon; the ball banged off his wrist and bounced into left field. Now, I'm not an official scorer, and I don't know what the exact rules are. But it seems to me that when a batted ball actually hits the fielder and he doesn't make the play, it's an error. You know? I mean, how can you escape responsibility for the play when the ball bangs off your body? Betancourt clearly misjudged the path of the ball, and in any book, that's an error.

I was hoping, from that point on, that the Jays would get a clean hit, so that sports sections across America the next day don't read "Scorer Robs Teen Phenom of No-No." But Hernandez remained in command till the 8th, when Aaron Hill hit a ball so hard it ripped Hernandez's glove off for an infield single. So basically, the Jays had as many hits against the starter as they hit Mariner fielders. It's a novel way to mount an offence, but I don't think it's going to catch on.

--> Let's also talk about the pitcher who almost threw the no-hitter. This was my first chance to watch The King pitch, and I'm glad I caught him on a good night, because wow. He has (1) an overpowering fastball, (2) backbreaking off-speed stuff, (3) a really good change-up, (4) moderate to excellent control of all three pitches, and (5) the mound presence of a veteran. Last night, his command was merely very good -- if he has a night where it's laser-sharp, then the opposition will be lucky to get a baserunner, let alone a hit. With Hernandez, it's not a matter of if he throws a no-hitter someday, but when.

It may be just as well that Hernandez didn't get his no-no tonight -- I've always feared for a young pitcher who throws a no-hitter so early in his career, because really, it's all downhill from there (ask Bo Belinsky). It's one of the reasons I wasn't actually all that sorry when Bobby Higginson took Roy Halladay deep with two out in the ninth back in September 1999 -- that kind of intense experience at such a young age has the potential to really screw you up.

As a general rule, bringing a pitcher to the majors in his teens is a dicey proposition. Poor David Clyde is Exhibit A for that folly, and Dwight Gooden is a more recent example (CC Sabathia is hanging in so far, but I'm not sure of his long-term chances). But from Bob Feller to Bert Blyleven, there are success stories, too, and I suspect Hernandez fits better in the latter group. If I were in a fantasy draft next season, I wouldn't let this kid slide past the second round, and I rarely draft pitchers early. He looks like the real deal, and it was a treat to see him pitch as a rookie and come so close to the record books.

--> I've rarely seen a leash shorter than the one John Gibbons has attached to Dave Bush. Now, I can understand Gibbons' frustration, because (a) Bush had cratered against the Yankees his last time out, and (b) he lost his command altogether in the 4th inning. But honestly, does Bush have to match Hernandez zero for zero? He was terrific the first time through the order, punching out three batters and looking at the top of his game. Then, clearly, he lost his control in the 4th, walking the first two batters, issuing another free pass later, and hitting the last batter he faced.

But in between there, the two singles he gave up were seeing-eye grounders -- a couple of feet to either side and they would've been double plays. The HBP took place on an 0-2 count when he was trying to come inside. But by that time, Brandon League was warmed up, and out came the manager. Honestly, I've come to conclude that Gibbons simply does not have a good rapport with Bush -- for whatever reason, they're not hitting it off. You know how some commercials or some songs on the radio just come to annoy you, and you switch them off before they're halfway through? I think that's how Gibbons views Bush. I think he just bugs him, and the two of them are not on the same wavelength at all.

I'm coming to suspect that Bush might not be in the organization's long-term plans. I was shocked when the Jays sent him down to Syracuse earlier this year, because I couldn't see any real reason for it. My guess, at this point, is that if Bush figures into a deal that can improve the club for 2006, he'll go. Assuming the Jays can fetch themselves a top starter like a Burnett or a Washburn next season, then with Halladay, Lilly and Chacin in the rotation, there's room for just one more guy. Dustin McGowan has the higher upside and could be all the way back from TJ surgery next spring; aside from the bullpen, there'd be no place left for Bush. I could certainly be wrong, but that's my sense at this point. At least Bush can tell his grandkids that he faced Randy Johnson and Felix Hernandez in back-to-back starts.

--> Usually, when Brandon League follows Dave Bush into a game, we can count on (a) a play on the term "bush league" that's already getting old, and (b) a small deficit widening into a large one. But League brought his A game out of the pen last night, and from the first batter, whose wood he shattered with a diving fastball, he had it all working.

For 3 2/3 scoreless innings, it looked like League and Zaun were playing catch out there: the youngster was quick, effortless, and relaxed -- all the things Bush wasn't in the 4th. Every pitch he threw had sizzle and spark, and Adrian Beltre is still looking for the fastball League blew by him. Although Koskie bailed League out with a couple of very nice plays at third, the Mariners had nothing else on him all night. For three innings there in the middle of the game, that was one of finest pitching duels I've seen in a long time.

That's what League brings to the table, and that's why the Jays really want him to find the arm angle, mechanics and command to match his raw stuff. Pat Tabler opined that command was the only thing separating League from Hernandez, and while I think that's overly complimentary to League, who's still basically a two-pitch guy, the point is taken. Contending teams need breakout seasons from young players, and to contend in 2006, the Blue Jays need either McGowan or League to put it all together ahead of schedule. If they both manage it next year, watch out.

--> Closing the book on last night's pitchers, it was another good outing from Shaun Marcum. Switching from League to Marcum is like climbing out of your Porsche and sliding into a Honda Civic. Both will get you where you're going, but the ride sure is different. Marcum seems to be about where Vinny Chulk is at the moment, and I'm reasonably confident he can be better. He should be contributing to the Toronto bullpen at some point in 2006.

--> A couple of managerial mysteries last night. John Gibbons started Reed Johnson instead of Gabe Gross last night, and after watching Sparky struggle just to make contact against Hernandez, I wondered if Gibbons was trying to punish him or something by making him face this brutal righty. But then Rod Black noted that lefties are hitting something like a buck-seventy against Hernandez, so I suppose it didn't make much difference (and Gross failed to come through as a pinch-hitter late in the game). Johnson's moment to shine was against the lefty Guardado in the ninth, but that didn't pan out either. Just one of those nights at the ballyard.

As for Mike Hargrove, I just shook my head when he called for the sacrifice bunt during the Mariners' three-run fourth. At that point, Bush was struggling badly to find the strike zone, and the promise of a big inning loomed. Why would you give up an out in that situation? The sacrifice bunt is a one-run strategy, trading an out for a chance to move the runner(s) into scoring position. The sacrifice has its place, but the middle of a potentially big inning is not it. Seattle came away with three runs before Bush was hooked, but I have to think they could have gotten more. That's last-place strategy.

--> The Jays were in very tough against one of the best young pitchers in the game last night. But the game only served to highlight that this offence just won't scare a lot of people. The Blue Jays have been shut out a league-leading 13 times this year, and there's no outstanding guy in the lineup on whom you can count for the big blows. The Mariners don't have much of an offence either, but when Richie Sexson strides to the plate, the other team's fielders all back up and the pitcher takes a deeper breath than normal. The Jays have no back-up-the-fielders batters, and that's a hole that needs to be filled.

So, there's my take on last night's game. The feature article today goes on at some length, and hopefully, presents a fairly thorough take on the subject. Hope you enjoy.

The Ricciardi Report

It's more than a little strange that my first Richard Griffin reference of the year appears in my final Game Report. But Griffin’s recent interview with JP Ricciardi, which was positively effusive when compared to some of his earlier work, sought to answer the question of the general manager’s long-term future. Griffin’s conclusion: J.P. here after ’07? Don’t bet on it. Here are some relevant extracts for the article that will follow:

Usually, when a team's biggest star is nearing the end of his contract, the powers-that-be think about extending his stay. Not so, at least so far, with Ricciardi. Jays president Paul Godfrey responded to the question as if an add-on had been talked about but shelved. Yes, they'd like Ricciardi to stay, but no, they haven't discussed specifics beyond this deal through '07.

"I just want to win," Ricciardi said. "I'm not worried about a job. If I wasn't here, I'd get a job. It may sound crazy, but I don't need to be a GM just to be a GM. I want to do this job because I want to win.

“We could win in the next few years and I could say, ‘You know what, this is great,’ and go do something else. I'm not going to be a GM the rest of my life, I can tell you that. … Right now, I have two years left and I want to honour them," Ricciardi said. "We're going to play our best baseball in the next two years. We'll see what happens. I like it here.

"Going forward, we did everything we were asked to do. We've got the club in a financial situation where we have flexibility. Our farm system is doing well.

“Personally, I'm sick of losing. … The losses eat me up too much," Ricciardi said. "I don't want to lose anymore. I'm not going to do anything stupid, but we're all about winning going forward. We have a lot of things to sell. We're a good young club, with good young players. That's got to be exciting to some (free agent) that wants a challenge."

The Jays' credibility with their fans, as true players in the AL East, will be compacted into the next two seasons. For Ricciardi, working the final two years of this high-wire act without a net (or an extension) is a no-lose situation. He's secure enough he can get another GM job, but he wants to finish what he started.

"I'm more vested here, now," Ricciardi said. "When I was with Oakland, it hurt when we didn't win. We drafted those kids. We developed those kids. We made those trades. We've done that same thing here now. Even the kids we inherited that weren't ours, we've been through four years with those guys."

The last time Ricciardi had a chance for leverage, following his first year, he took shrewd advantage, working out a five-year extension. No doubt, he could sway the Jays, again. The lack of talks or effort regarding a Ricciardi extension speaks volumes. Early odds of Ricciardi being Jays GM in '08 are 40-60.

I actually have no idea whether JP Ricciardi will stay in his current position once this contract expires (although I'm sure he will be allowed to finish out that contract to the last day). I’m not sure he knows himself, and I’m actually not all that interested. What I am interested in doing is taking the pulse of his tenure as GM four seasons after his arrival.

It’s not just Griffin’s speculation that prompts to me to tackle this subject. I’ve been reading a lot of observations about Ricciardi’s performance here lately, and it strikes me that few of them take a sufficiently big-picture view of the situation. The job of General Manager of a professional sports team is like an iceberg: everyone can see and comment on the fraction above the surface, but it’s the nine-tenths behind the scenes that really matter. I’d like to explore that nine-tenths a little more, and try to provide a more complete assessment of JP Ricciardi, General Manager.

I suppose I should begin by listing what I’m not going to study. One is Ricciardi’s public persona, which has occasioned a lot of comment but doesn’t really contribute much to an evaluation of his record. I suppose that an intemperate comment or two on “Wednesdays with JP” could hurt the marketing efforts somewhat (though not nearly as much as the “let’s scalp the girlfriend” ad), but then again, how many GMs go on the radio each week and take calls from the mouth-breathing fan base? It seems to me that Ricciardi has been more than accommodating in that regard.

I don’t know what he’s like personally, and again, I don’t care. I was introduced to him once, at an exhibition game in Florida; we shook hands and had a conversation that was the very definition of terse, and that was that. It seems to me that he paid too much attention to the local baseball press when he started, but over time, he relaxed and dealt better with the media. As far as his public profile goes, Ricciardi appears to have been an exemplary GM. That’s nice, but it’s not why we’re here today.

I'd like to briefly review Ricciardi’s tenure by looking at four related but still discrete areas: the ballclub’s finances and economics, the minor-league system, the scouting department, and player transactions and acquisitions. I’ll give a little letter-grade at the end of each section, and issue an overall grade at the end, for whatever that's worth. Here we go:

1. The ballclub’s economics

When JP Ricciardi took over as the Blue Jays’ new GM in November 2001, this was the starting lineup that greeted him, along with the present-day status of those players:

Darrin Fletcher 	RET
Carlos Delgado 	        Fla
Homer Bush		RET
Tony Batista 		JPN
Alex Gonzalez  	        Tam
Shannon Stewart 	Min
Jose Cruz       	Los
Raul Mondesi      	RET
Brad Fullmer		RET

Chris Carpenter StL Esteban Loaiza Was Joey Hamilton RET Steve Parris RET Chris Michalak RET Billy Koch RET

That team finished 3rd, 2 games below .500, and cost about $72 million. Nine of the 16 starters are out of North American baseball; only Delgado and Carpenter are still solid players, the latter thanks in no small part to Dave Duncan.

Paul Godfrey, when first explaining his choice of the relatively unknown Ricciardi as GM, emphasized that every other candidate they’d interviewed – and they’d interviewed a lot – each said he could deliver a competitive team, so long as the Jays raised the team’s annual payroll to $100M (at the time, among the game’s higher amounts). Godfrey told each of them that the mission was far tougher: field a competitive team on half of that per season, because that was what was coming down the pipe from the accounting people at Rogers.

Only Ricciardi said he could do it, and that was one of the reasons why he got the job. For all Godfrey was certainly impressed with Ricciardi’s baseball acumen, clear-cut team-building strategy and straightforward manner, it would be a mistake to think that any other factor in the hiring decision surpassed this: his ability to field a halfway-respectable team on a tight budget.

It’s a little fiction, peculiar to sports fans, that we come to believe the general manager of our favourite team must please us in order to keep his job. In order to gain our overall approval, the GM (or other official) has to make enough moves that we think help the team. Short of winning the championship, a rare event for most GMs, it’s these day-to-day and long-term actions that often determine how the fan base responds to him.

JP Ricciardi does not, however, report to his fans — neither the ones who post thoughtful reflections at Batter’s Box, nor the ones who harangue Mike Wilner on a regular post-game basis. Nor does he report to the members of the sports media, a far more demanding and jaded group than any fan could hope to be. Nor does he report to his manager, his players, or anyone else within the organization with an opinion on what the club should do (meaning, pretty much everybody).

JP Ricciardi reports only to Paul Godfrey — co-founder and president of the Blue Jays, former Chairman of Metro Toronto, and one of the most powerful men in the recent history of the city. Ricciardi and Godfrey both report, in turn, to Ted Rogers, a communications visionary and global power mogul. When you have to please these two gentlemen — not to mention a host of company directors, shareholders and politicians whose opinion Godfrey and Rogers in turn must court — well, you’ll find yourself focusing very exclusively on a narrow set of facts and issues:

1. Ted Rogers spent a ton of his company’s cash — literally — to buy the Blue Jays from Interbrew, in order to make the ballclub the centerpiece of a vertically integrated sports media empire.

2. It didn’t work. “Vertical integration” is a lost ‘90s buzzword, and Rogers has been losing money on the team pretty much since the day of purchase.

3. There are, I’m sure, more than a few people inside the Rogers empire who thought the purchase was a mistake, and who would be quite happy to see the company dump the team right back onto the open market or gut the annual payroll down to $30M.

4. The intense pressure these people would be bringing to bear on Rogers and Godfrey would have multiplied considerably during 2004’s Year From Hell, and that pressure would have migrated directly downwards to the General Manager’s suite.

So when assessing JP Ricciardi’s performance, you have to do it in the context of the complex, tense and extraordinarily high-stakes corporate environment that is the Toronto Blue Jays. A lot has been riding on how well Ricciardi’s team performs, and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the ballclub’s continued viability has been part of it.

What Ricciardi has done, and it should not be overlooked, is to assemble a respectable roster every season since 2003 on a very limited budget — a budget that was, until this season, hamstrung by the Carlos Delgado contract. I do include 2004 in there, because the roster was competitive on Opening Day that year – it was, however, subsequently shredded by injuries, and while $50M spent intelligently can buy you a decent starting 16, it won’t buy you depth, as Dave Berg and Howie Clark can attest.

By keeping the team more or less respectable on a tight budget, Ricciardi was perhaps hoping to prove the old parable about those who show themselves trustworthy with small things being trusted with greater things. Reports from the financial pages have indicated that each year under Ricciardi’s rule, the Jays’ losses have shrunk, which presumably would weaken the arguments of the corporate doubters. It certainly set the stage for last winter’s momentous news.

When Paul Godfrey announced the purchase of the Skydome from SportsCo. Ltd., longtime Jay watchers knew a turning point had been reached. When plans were announced to retrofit the stadium to make it fan-friendlier, there was finally hope that the team could play in a professionally run ballpark. And when Godfrey subsequently announced an increase in the team’s annual payroll to $70M for the next three seasons, it was the clearest evidence possible that Ricciardi had satisfied his most demanding critics and pleased two very hard-to-please bosses.

The purchase and renovation of Skydome was a major step forward in the resuscitation of the Blue Jays franchise, not least because it signaled the club’s return to truly competitive baseball. For keeping the club together through a harsh financial restructuring and helping to rescue the franchise from what might well have been the brink, JP Ricciardi gets an A.

2. The farm system

It takes years, quite literally, for a new general manger to put his stamp on his team’s minor-league operations. In most cases, the players a GM drafts won’t see the light of major-league day for three seasons after they’re chosen, if they see it at all. If a GM relies too heavily on high-potential high-school players, the time lag could be as many as five or six years. Under Ricciardi, who favours advanced players almost exclusively from college, five draftees have already reached the majors and many of the rest are at Double-A, a year away from The Show.

It might be helpful, at this point, to recall just what was left in the minor-league cupboard by Gord Ash before JP Ricciardi came on board. Here are the final starting rosters of the Jays’ three top farm teams at the end of 2002 (Ricciardi came onboard in November 2001, but I can’t find any rosters before ’02, so this will have to serve. Players brought in by Ricciardi in his first year are asterisked).

Syracuse 2002		Tennessee 2002		Dunedin 2002

C Josh Phelps C Paul Chiaffredo C Guillermo Quiroz 1B Gary Burnham* 1B Shawn Fagan 1B Aaron McEachran 2B Orlando Hudson 2B Jimmy Alvarez 2B Dominic Rich SS Glenn Williams SS Danny Solano SS Kurt Keene 3B Josh Klimek* 3B Jim Deschaine* 3B Joe Bernhardt LF Pedro Swann* LF Rich Thompson LF Shannon Carter CF Selwyn Langaigne CF Dewayne Wise CF Alex Rios RF Jayson Werth RF Gabe Gross RF Justin Singleton DH Chad Mottola DH Matt Logan DH Simon Pond*

SP Brian Cooper* SP Pete Bauer SP Dave Gassner SP Pasqual Coco SP Diegomar Markwell SP Matt Ford SP Mike Smith SP Ryan Spille SP David Abbott SP Mark Hendrickson SP Vinnie Chulk SP Aaron Dean SP Chris Baker SP Gustavo Chacin SP Jason Colson CL Brian Bowles CL Hugo Castellanos CL John Ogiltree

Out of these 30 position players and 18 pitchers three years ago, there is today one bona fide star (Hudson), three regulars (Chacin, Rios, Chulk), three marginal big-leaguers (Werth, Gross, Hendrickson) and one top prospect (Quiroz). The remaining 40 players (83%) are out of baseball or are minor-league veterans. Remember that regardless of who was general manager, Paul Godfrey was under orders to chop the team’s 2001 payroll of $72M. Now try to imagine the Blue Jays of the past few years with a $50M payroll, few if any free-agent acquisitions, and many of these guys filling out the roster.

Now, in fairness, there was some 2001 farm talent that had migrated to Toronto by the end of 2002. That group included Vernon Wells, Felipe Lopez, Chris Woodward, Kevin Cash and Brandon Lyon. Only Wells remains today, and whether Felipe Lopez would have blossomed in Toronto is open to debate. And keep in mind that players like Alex Rios and Gustavo Chacin were treading water developmentally until the new coaches installed throughout the system (led by the esteemed Dick Scott) finally made breakthroughs with them.

Today, the Jays have perennial playoff teams in two long-standing organizational cities (Auburn and Dunedin) and thriving relationships with three new cities (Manchester, Lansing and Pulaski, including a Double-A championship in New Hampshire). Only the Syracuse relationship is in dire straits, and while the situation there is far from ideal, it’s also the only minor-league outlet that is not humming along very nicely on and/or off the field.

Most of the Jays’ minor-league teams are stacked with decent-to-solid ballplayers, and they usually field fairly competitive teams while training and coaching the next generation of Toronto Blue Jays. For reviving a moribund farm system and bringing it almost all the way up to pre-eminence, JP Ricciardi gets a B.

3. The scouting department

This topic doesn’t get the attention it deserves, and whatever attention it has gotten has been usually negative, thanks to columns from Bob Elliott and others with ties to the old regime. Much has been said about how the Blue Jays scouting department under Gord Ash was filled with solid baseball lifers who brought several high-ceiling prospects to the organization. And there is certainly a lot of truth to that, though you’d be hard-pressed to think so based on the 2002 farm system, above.

Now, Roy Halladay is a gem, and Vernon Wells is a Gold Glove centerfielder. But Halladay and Wells were selected 19th and 5th in the entire game in their respective draft years, and really, it’s a little hard (though certainly not impossible) to mess up first-round picks. But while the system produced a few stars, there was virtually no depth: beyond a scattered handful of potential impact guys, the system was verging on barren when Ash departed.

Look at it this way: the true test of a scouting department is in the players it delivers once the blue-chippers are off the board. Here are the Blue Jays’ post-first-rounders from 1995 through 2001:

Brandon League
Pete Bauer
Mike Snyder
Ryan Bundy (4th)
Billy Brown (3rd)
Brent Abernathy
Craig Wilson
League looks extremely promising, and Wilson had himself a more-than-decent career once the Pirates gave him playing time. Otherwise, however, this is entirely swing-and-a-miss territory.

More to the point, the Jays’ scouting department in the Ash administration had adopted, according to more than one report, a quasi-country club atmosphere. Salaries were generous and expectations were modest — one good signing could assure years of hassle-free scouting henceforth. It would be an exaggeration to say Ricciardi cleaned house, but not much of one.

Scouting director Tim Wilken — a scouting star with undeniable talent but with a philosophy incompatible with a rebuilding, college-focused organization – left for Tampa Bay, and numerous veteran scouts followed. In their place came young, hungry scouts on board with the organization’s fiscal realities and player development philosophies, headed by a new and equally young scouting director in Jon Lalonde.

Every year they’ve been on the job, Lalonde and crew have improved. The inaugural 2002 draft brought today’s starting shortstop and #4 starter, Russ Adams and Dave Bush, but little else. 2003 produced future infield star Aaron Hill as well as two solid command pitchers (Shaun Marcum and Josh Banks) and two useful late-rounders (Jamie Vermilyea and Ryan Roberts).

2004 was the Year of the Pitcher, with top-ranked prospects David Purcey, Zach Jackson and Casey Janssen coming onboard, along with powerful hitters like Chip Cannon and Adam Lind. And even lacking a 2nd-round selection, the 2005 draft looks promising, with potentially dominant lefty Ricky Romero, Lind clone Ryan Patterson, and intriguing pitchers Robert Ray and Eric Fowler. Just as importantly, the remaining drafted players have populated numerous competitive and occasional championship minor-league teams — an occurrence all but unknown five years ago.

At this point, it seems safe to conclude that not only is the scouting operation younger, less experienced and less expensive than the one Ricciardi replaced, but it’s also better. Barring a major financial restructuring within the game, the Blue Jays will never again be among the highest-payroll teams in baseball. Accordingly, they will live and die by their scouting department and their minor-league coaching operations. Both are healthy and thriving, especially compared to their predecessors, and the credit goes to Ricciardi, who merits a B+ for his gutsy work here.

4. Player transactions and acquisitions

Here is where the results begin to get mixed. Ricciardi arrived from Oakland with a lot of qualifications on his CV, but primary among them was his player evaluation talent and scouting acumen. He has said in the past that that’s what he prides himself most on as a professional — but it’s the area where most of the remaining controversy about his success as a GM still focuses.

Ricciardi’s player transactions can be broken down into three general categories: salary dumps from the Ash regime, minor-league acquisitions, and major-league acquisitions. Let’s look at all three briefly:

Salary dumps: From pretty much any perspective, these were all successful moves; Ricciardi was one of the first GMs to recognize the sensibility of sunk costs in player payroll. In his first winter as GM, he jettisoned the contracts of Raul Mondesi, Alex Gonzalez and Brad Fullmer. (Trivia challenge: who were the three players obtained in return for these veterans?) He cut ties with Homer Bush the following May. All four were on multi-year deals, and not one was missed after his departure. Paul Quantrill might be considered a salary dump, but personally I’d consider his trade as more of straight talent swap, which I’ll discuss below.

Arguably, cutting Chris Carpenter could be considered a salary dump too, since he was about to become unreasonably expensive in arbitration. With Carpenter quite likely to win the National League Cy Young Award this year, that of course looks like a very bad move. But even Ricciardi’s harshest critics haven’t really ridden him hard on this one, and it’s not surprising. Carpenter had a lot of maturation to do, as a pitcher and a person, and he wasn’t going to do it in Toronto, where the Jays couldn’t afford to pay him millions in the hope he’d come around. St. Louis, where pitchers resurrect their careers, was the perfect place for him, and as Barbara Bush would say, it’s worked out very well for him.

Minor-league transactions: Where Ricciardi has made moves to bring in minor-league talent, he has not fared quite so well. Felipe Lopez, who has done some (though not a lot of) growing up and has become a solid shortstop, was dealt for John-Ford Griffin, who currently appears to be a bench player, and Jason Arnold, who has been a near-complete bust. Aquilino Lopez provided a decent year as a Rule 5 pick, but cratered shortly thereafter; another Rule 5er, Corey Thurman, never amounted to anything. Justin Miller has been noteworthy only for his tattoo collection, and Eric Crozier is about as valuable as Josh Phelps right now. Chad Ricketts was injured early and often.

The shining exception to the run of bad news might be Chad Gaudin, acquired for Kevin Cash and tearing up the International League (though he has struggled badly in multiple major-league appearances). Jason Frasor has also been a solid acquisition: that was your basic good-for-both-teams deal.

Where Ricciardi has also shone, interestingly, is in picking up veteran placeholders, especially catchers. Tom Wilson delivered reliable lefty-bashing offence after being rescued from Oakland, and Ken Huckaby has contributed. JP’s moment in the sun, however, was signing Gregg Zaun to a minor-league deal two seasons ago to provide depth at Syracuse. Zaun has now been Toronto’s starting catcher for about two seasons and has become one of the young team’s leaders. Pete Walker was also a great pickup, not once but twice. So the vets have worked out quite well overall, but the prospects, for the most part, have not.

Major-league transactions: It’s definitely a mixed bag here. Ricciardi deserves credit for dropping Billy Koch’s salary on the A’s while picking up Eric Hinske, a starting corner infielder the last three seasons. Whatever you think of Hinske’s production or his contract, he still represents tremendous value for Koch, who was at his peak value then and is now out of baseball. JP fleeced Oakland again two seasons ago by picking up Ted Lilly for Bobby Kielty. Justin Speier was also great value for Mark Hendrickson. But these deals are balanced by less successful ones.

Kielty, for example, was pretty much a bust after coming over from Minnesota for Shannon Stewart. Stewart had no place in Toronto, but he was also a valuable trade commodity; Ricciardi misread Kielty’s potential. Ditto for Cory Lidle, who was simply brutal after arriving in a deal for two lower-end prospects. Cliff Politte fizzled as closer, while Tanyon Sturtze was a low-cost, zero-return reliever. John Wasdin is a name we’d all rather forget.

Luke Prokopec is a tough call. The Blue Jays probably didn’t recognize Prokopec as the same pitcher they’d scouted with the Dodgers, and his injury soon showed why. It seems fair to give Ricciardi a mulligan here, though it’s worth noting that Cesar Izturis has become a better player than the Jays’ organization forecasted. And the best to be said about Paul Quantrill is that even if his salary was out of line with what the Jays could pay a middle man, Ricciardi may have underestimated the importance of having an effective veteran reliever in the bullpen.

The other aspect of major-league acquisitions, of course, is free-agent signings and contract extensions. Again, it’s a mixed bag. Frank Catalanotto has provided very good value for his salary, when he’s been healthy. Mike Bordick was an invaluable teacher for the likes of Orlando Hudson and Russ Adams. Shea Hillenbrand for Adam Peterson has to go down as one of the finer Blue Jay trades, even if the Diamondbacks were shedding salary to some extent.

But it’s on the bigger-ticket items that Ricciardi has been burned more often. Vernon Wells’ five-year deal was a wise and productive contract; Eric Hinske’s was not. Miguel Batista was signed to be a #3 starter, then was moved to closer; he has been an overall disappointment in both roles. Corey Koskie is looking like a mini-millstone at third base, a player who got old before his time. The wisdom of Frank Catalanotto’s two-year extension last September was highly debatable. Even low-budget gambles like Pat Hentgen haven’t always paid off.

As it stands, Ricciardi’s sense of which players will be productive for his organization has been about a .500 proposition, and there’s a good argument that big-league personnel moves have been his weakest link. At this point, it seems fairest to give him just a C in this category, pending this coming off-season’s moves. And that’s how we find ourselves at the crux of the matter.

The moment of truth

This winter, JP Ricciardi faces his fourth off-season as GM of the Blue Jays. The organization he leads to the Winter Meetings will be vastly different from the one he inherited from Gord Ash: better stocked with player and front-office talent, more streamlined, and less costly, with the big-league club playing in a revamped stadium and confident about the future.

Despite those substantial successes, however, Ricciardi’s regime will likely be judged by what he does this fall and winter, and how the team he thus assembles performs in the last two years of his contract. Ricciardi himself may be his own toughest critic in this regard – as he told Griffin, he hates losing and he’s tired of it. This off-season, he has $20 million to spend and a truckful of prospects from which to deal. This is his time.

More than one observer at Batter’s Box has said – accurately, I think – that Ricciardi can no longer be satisfied with simply bringing in nice, useful, solid-average players. Another Shea Hillenbrand or two will not put the team in a serious dogfight with the Red Sox, Athletics, Indians, Yankees, White Sox or Angels. The Blue Jays have exactly one great player (Roy Halladay), a couple of very good ones (Vernon Wells and Orlando Hudson), a few youngsters who could break out big-time (McGowan, Hill, Rios), and a whole bunch of ordinary guys. The team needs, at the bare minimum, a powerful cleanup hitter (left field? First base? DH?) and another ace pitcher in order to make the leap; another power hitter, to bump Koskie to the #6 spot in the batting order, would be even better.

Ricciardi has said repeatedly this season that such players are going to be difficult to acquire. And I’m sure he’s right. Nonetheless, as Anthony Hopkins said to Tom Cruise in MI-2: “Well, it’s not Mission Difficult, Ethan, it’s Mission Impossible.” It is not impossible for Ricciardi to make these kinds of moves, and while it’s probably going to be difficult — well, that’s his job. JP is going to have to make a couple of very bold moves this off-season, wagering much of the organization’s money and/or tradeable commodities to make a serious playoff run.

There is a lot of risk entailed in that, and so far, risk is not something for which Ricciardi has shown much of a penchant. Whether strictly because of budget constraints or because he just prefers it, he has largely collected low-risk, medium-upside players; his bigger investments, as detailed above, have not often paid off. But with fewer budget constraints and a crying need for impact players in 2006 and 2007, he must abandon the low-risk strategy, take a deep breath and dive in.

There are tough calls to be made – relegating Eric Hinske to a bench role and Miguel Batista to long relief, despite their contracts, should be just the first moves. Treasured young players, including some of my personal favourites, should be shipped off to purchase a star player or two, even if (as is almost certain) JP will have to overpay in a seller’s market. A major free agent will demand a contract richer than any current Blue Jay’s; if he’s the right guy, he should receive it.

These would be breathtaking moves, signaling to everyone that this organization is going for it. Ricciardi would be opening himself up to tremendous amounts of second-guessing, and there will be no shortage of people happy to nail him if the moves don’t work out. But that doesn’t change the absolute necessity of the task in front of him. The brass ring is coming around, and Ricciardi has to grab it. For the record, I think he will.

The very first article I wrote for Batter’s Box, way back in November 2002, was an assessment of the big-league roster and the expectations raised by the Ricciardi regime. And those expectations were high indeed; after suffering through the Ash decline, Jays fans were revitalized by the energetic young GM unafraid to drop popular underperformers, versed in scouting and player development yet open to new sources of information that his in-house statistical department could provide him.

It was, in a word, fun, and it’s still fun to be a Blue Jay fan. How many other teams have a present and a future as exciting as Toronto’s? How many other GMs in the game would you prefer to have running your favourite team? The Blue Jays have a plan, and despite misfortunes, both predictable and otherwise, they’re sticking with it. It’s hard to ask for more.

The final judgment on JP Ricciardi’s tenure as Blue Jays GM will be largely influenced by his performance in the next 12 months. It’s possible that he won’t capitalize on the present opportunity, and that the big-league team will continue to tread water or perhaps even fall back. But it cannot be overestimated how significant is the rebuilding job JP Ricciardi has done here, creating an organization that virtually any other GM would love to enter. Even if the Jays don’t advance further, Ricciardi gets a B+ from me for his work as GM.

And if — when — the Blue Jays do make the playoffs, you can bump that grade to an A.

And We End As We Began | 60 comments | Create New Account
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Paul D - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 08:42 AM EDT (#128566) #
Wow, excellent report Jordan.

A couple of points: Don't you think Towers will be in teh rotation next year?

And in the minor league section, you mention that Rios and Chacin weren't really prospects until they received coaching from the new regime. When you look at Rios (and Quiroz), it seems to me that they are the same players they've always been, the only difference is that they've each had one fluke season.
braden - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 09:42 AM EDT (#128567) #
Nothing beats wanting to kill a few minutes at work and seeing nearly 7000 words waiting to be read. Excellent work, Jordan.

The answer to the trivia question, if I recall correctly, is:

Mondesi for Scott Wiggins
Gonzalez for Felix Heredia
Fullmer for Brian Cooper (I may have the first name wrong on that one.....)

Again, great read.
Mike Green - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 09:44 AM EDT (#128568) #
Rios had hit .300, albeit without power, in Dunedin at age 21, and was a FSL All-Star under the Ash regime. When you look at his ups and downs since then, it is hard to say what the impact of his coaching since JP took over has been.

Quiroz had hit .260 in the FSL, at age 20, but had 12 homers most of which were in the second half of the season, under the Ash regime. Quiroz did take a solid leap forward in the EL, and it seems to me harsh to fault his struggles since then after his injuries to coaching under JP.

It's really difficult to assign a grade to drafting and development, because most of the key drafts were pitchers (Bush, Maureau, Banks, Marcum, Purcey, Jackson, R. Romero), and it is not yet known how all but Maureau will turn out. I must say that I am more sanguine than Jordan about Aaron Hill. I am almost positive that, barring serious injury, Hill is going to be a solid (at least) offensive and defensive contributor for many years.
Named For Hank - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 09:53 AM EDT (#128569) #
But it seems to me that when a batted ball actually hits the fielder and he doesn't make the play, it's an error. You know? I mean, how can you escape responsibility for the play when the ball bangs off your body? Betancourt clearly misjudged the path of the ball, and in any book, that's an error.

I believe that it was Jerry on the radio who said that if the fielder has to leave his feet the play is not usually scored an error. He also said that in Seattle it would have been an error.

Excellent report.
Jordan - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 10:49 AM EDT (#128571) #
Excellent points all round on Rios and Quiroz (and Chacin). Really, it's too early to be classifying them as one regime's success or another regime's failure. It seems to safe to say that both Rios and Quiroz still have a lot of potential -- at this point, however, whether they develop or not is a matter for the major-league coaching staff, rather than their minor-league counterparts.

I also don't want to be unfair to the Wilken regime, which in addition to the players listed above, also came up with players like Dustin McGowan, Reed Johnson, Michael Young and Casey Blake. In a few years' time, I think, we'll be able to do a more in-depth comparison of the Lalonde versus Wilken regimes -- I suspect a basis of that discussion will revolve around high-ceiling versus low-risk. But we shall see.
Anders - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 10:51 AM EDT (#128572) #
An excellent job, as always.

The Jays are going too have an awful lot to figure out between novemember and april
Jonny German - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 10:57 AM EDT (#128573) #
Outstanding, Jordan.

Carpenter had a lot of maturation to do, as a pitcher and a person, and he wasn’t going to do it in Toronto, where the Jays couldn’t afford to pay him millions in the hope he’d come around.

I think you're understating the risk Carpenter represented at the time, as he needed elbow surgery. There was no guarantee he'd ever pitch again, let alone retain his tools and put them all together to pitch far better than he ever did before the surgery.

Where Ricciardi has also shone, interestingly, is in picking up veteran placeholders, especially catchers.

One more catcher - Greg Myers turned in an absurdly good season out of nowhere.

Cliff Politte fizzled as closer

I think Politte goes under the 'Good' heading for acquiring him for Plesac, and under the 'Bad' for ditching him after he failed as closer. With the understanding that a big part of ditching him was for hiding an injury, and that it he would have had to be paid significant money while it was still unclear if he would fully recover from the injury.

There is a lot of risk entailed in that, and so far, risk is not something for which Ricciardi has shown much of a penchant.

It's interesting that this makes Ricciardi the quite the opposite of his supposed mentor, Billy Beane, who is as bold as anybody in his major league player personnel moves.

JayFan0912 - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 11:11 AM EDT (#128575) #
I think ricciardi's grade should be lower, if only for the statement that he cannot afford to pay konerko... But he can afford to pay hinske, cat., batista what konerko would make. Each of these players IMO is easily replaceable with minor leaguers/roster players. Also, why would you want to pay a pitcher with the injury history burnett has 10 Mil/4 years, but not give konerko, a real need for this team, 12/ 4 years.

Going forward, the club needs to add proven superstars. It's much easier to let rios/hill/adams/etc develop if you have a top of the order with high ops/slg guys. It also lets you compete, and gives you consistency at the same time. A singles hitting team, without a lot of speed, leaves very little room for error or injuries.

Plus, who would trade a young, proven, high ops/slg guys. Or better yet, what would they ask for in return ? VW and Halladay come to mind.
Pistol - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 11:25 AM EDT (#128576) #
Agreed, great column Jordan.

"I think you're understating the risk Carpenter represented at the time"

I believe it was actually a shoulder problem which generally end up worse than pitchers with elbow problems.

I also agree about Politte. His first year with the team was quite good.
Craig B - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 11:34 AM EDT (#128577) #
I think ricciardi's grade should be lower, if only for the statement that he cannot afford to pay konerko

I know the media love to pigeonhole people based on a single comment, or a single act. It's lazy, sure, but it's an easy way to do analysis and it has the advantage of being very memorable. (I'm not saying you're being lazy, 0912... you're not paid to do this!) It means that you can trot out the same trope every time a subject comes along. You avoid actually having to think.

But we all should try to do better. The fans do this too - every time people talk about Cito Gaston, someone brings up Shawn Green being platooned as a stick to beat him over the head endlessly with. But we shouldn't do that. It's much, much more important to look at the entire body of work that a person has done. To get as far back as possible, get as much perspective as possible, and look at the totality of what they have done and what they have said they will do.

As it happens, 0912, I agree with your more general point. JPR disturbs me by not wanting to spend money on stars, seemingly perferring to spend the same amount of money on a wider variety of average players. But even that is only one aspect of his job. I don't agree with Jordan on the grade overall, but I think he did a fantastic job of analysis, getting as high-level a view as possible, from a number of different but complementary perspectives. Well done.

That being said, I wouldn't go as high as B+ either. But letter grades are pretty subjective. I'm quite happy that my team has the GM it does, and that's enough for me!

Jordan - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 11:38 AM EDT (#128578) #
Oh, and braden is correct on the three players acquired in those three trades. I forgot to add that Jim Deschaine also came over from the Cubs in the Gonzo deal.
VBF - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 11:43 AM EDT (#128579) #
Sure we're all bothered by statements like that. But so what? I wouldn't change someone's grade based solely on a statement. Now, if he acts on this statement, that would be reason of change. Let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Heck, if everyone assumed JP's actions based on his statements and motions, Aaron Hill wouldn't be a Blue Jay. If you want to put any merit in a statement, put some in this one: "I just want to win". JP isn't a moron, and he knows exactly what it's going to take.
Jordan - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 11:56 AM EDT (#128580) #
And to follow up on jayfan0912's and Craig's points -- if JP comes back from the Winter Meetings with the likes of Kevin Millar and Richard Hidalgo, then yes, that grade will plummet fast. But I don't think he will, and that he'll find at least one major bat through trade. But youneverknow what the off-season will bring.
Wildrose - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 12:06 PM EDT (#128581) #
Nice body of work Jordan. We're lucky to read something so well written.

My only real critique of Ricciardi is that I feel when he first became G.M., he over-valued his own guys at the expense of some of his new charges. Clearly he overvalued former Oakland farmhands, Hinske, Miller, Griffin and Arnold. Fortunately we lost only one top player in those transactions, Felipe Lopez, but none of these guys have turned out as Ricciardi had hoped. Often you see this in sports, a real bias towards your own athletes that you've developed. A G.M. has to be coldly calculating, you can't fall in love with your top prospects.

I agree Jordan, Ricciardi has to be bold. He's always struck me as somewhat conservative. I think if he was a mutual fund manager, he'd be outstanding, but this is sports, and the time to gamble and make some difficult choices is upon us.
Eric Purdy - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 12:25 PM EDT (#128584) #
"Also, why would you want to pay a pitcher with the injury history burnett has 10 Mil/4 years, but not give konerko, a real need for this team, 12/ 4 years."

How about because Konerko can't slug .450 away from his very favourable home park?
PeterG - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 12:30 PM EDT (#128585) #
I think the main reason JP will pursue Burnett over Konerko is that there is a far greater chance of the former agreeing to come here than the latter. You have to go hard after the FA's you think you can get and then trade from your stength to your weakness. Say, for example 2 FA pitchers are signed because that's what TO can get. JP, then, must turn around and trade some present pitching that these new FA's will replace for the bats he doesn't have. Unlike many, I don't think he will move Towers. I think the pitchers most likely to be moved are Bush and Lilly plus one prospect, say Josh Banks. OTOH, what it may come down to is what the trading partner wants. He may have to trade someone he wants to keep in order to acquire what he wants.
Jonny German - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 12:36 PM EDT (#128586) #
JPR disturbs me by not wanting to spend money on stars, seemingly perferring to spend the same amount of money on a wider variety of average players.

I agree with this, but it's not going to truly bother me until I see what he does this offseason. He's been saying things recently that indicate he prefers to spread money around rather than go for star power, but as far as what he's actually done he has very little track record in this area. I can think of three examples:

- He was willing to sign Halladay to a big extension not significantly below market rate when the payroll was still low
- He was not willing to offer Delgado anywhere near his market value
- He was willing to overpay Matt Clement, again despite the low payroll at the time. Clement may or may not be a star, but he was being offered a lot of money.

I can't recall any other times when the Ricciardi had an opportunity to make a play for a big-dollar player. Consider the following free agent contracts from last year:

Pos	Name	        Team	Guaranteed      Yrs
3B	Troy Glaus	Ari	$ 45.000	4
C	Jason Varitek	Bos	$ 40.000	4
SS	Edgar Renteria	Bos	$ 40.000	4+
SS	Orlando Cabrera	Ana	$ 32.000	4
RHP	Matt Clement	Bos	$ 25.500	3
3B	Corey Koskie	Tor	$ 19.000	3+
2B	Jeff Kent	LA	$ 17.000	2
SS	Cristian Guzman	Was	$ 16.800	4
3B	Tony Batista	Japan	$ 15.000	2
OF	Steve Finley	Ana	$ 14.000	2
OF	Moises Alou	SF	$ 13.250	2
Those are the free agent hitters closest to Clement in terms of total contract value. The only one I can see there being any argument that he would have been a better signing than Koskie for the Jays would be Kent, but it's a weak argument as far as I'm concerned, and there's no reason to believe he would have signed the same contract with Toronto. JP didn't simply choose to not pursue a star hitter last offseason - there weren't any available that weren't huge risks at the price, not with a $50M payroll.

JP is currently talking about not signing a guy like Konerko, but maybe he has some other plan that's just as good.... suppose, for instance, that he were to sign Burnett and Larry Walker and trade for Jonny Gomes and Austin Kearns... It may be improbable, it's certainly risky, but it isn't impossible and it isn't out of line with what he's been saying. Actually, it might be impossible... I believe the Cardinals hold an option on Walker and I don't know if they're inclined to pick it up. Anybody?

Ducey - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 12:44 PM EDT (#128587) #
Nice article.

I don't see JP's past conservatism as a negative. You don't go out and draft highschoolers when their might not be a team for them to play on in 5 years. You also don't pull the trigger on a massive trade when if you get it wrong your team might fold.

JP has been conservative because the situation required it. Now with a more stable base he should be able to take more risks. I for one don't think he should sign Konerko. You might pay $8 to 10 million a year for a guy with a lifetime .278/.345/.481 line. You are going to have to sign him for 4 years or so. Sooner or later that contract is going to come around to bite you. The Jays just got out of that situation for goodness sake.

Look at the last off season. How many of the high priced free agent signings have really paid off? The real value is in the younger guys who are cheap and starting to establish themselves (see young hitters on the Indians or Rangers). If I am JP I focus on trying to pry some of these guys loose rather than tying up my budget with expensive and ultimately unproductive (bang for buck) veterans. Alternatively, I take advantage of teams trying to unload some guys who are getting expensive and a have a year or two of arbitration left.
Nigel - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 01:03 PM EDT (#128589) #
Really a fantastic article. It's a really well thought out piece.

I'm not as high on the job that JP has done as some are but I don't think that the first part of the article can be understated. That JP could slash payroll and maintain the semblance of a competitive club may have saved baseball in Toronto. For that JP deserves an A+++. Whether he's the right person to spend Rogers' money on an expanded payroll is the question.
Jim - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 01:09 PM EDT (#128591) #
Nicely done, a very fair review of the work JP has done.

I would disagree with the grades in general – I’m a much tougher grader.

For example, it isn’t hard to lower the payroll. Certainly JP did it quickly, but to get to the point they are at now it would have been just as easy to allow the contracts of Mondesi and Delgado to expire. So he certainly saved them some money in past seasons, but today’s budget is not a difficult number to achieve.

As for the farm system, I certainly disagree. I see a system that is well below average. Some of this is attributed to the graduation of Hill, Adams and League, but I can’t see this system being ranked in the top 15 by Baseball America come March of 2006 (and no I don’t believe that if BP ranked the farm systems they would see the Jays in the top 15 either). Certainly arms for the bullpen should be plentiful for a long time, but I don’t see the makings of a good rotation past Halladay coming from the farm system. As for trade value, there is very little in the Jays system that would excite other teams.

The Jays are at a disadvantage that isn’t going away anytime soon. I can’t see the difference between the two superpowers and the Jays being made up with low risk, average moves. To put yourself in a position to win championships, bold chances must be taken. Based on what I’ve seen I don’t feel like JP will even attempt to take those chances, and therefore will never get this team ‘over the hump’. If you are content with a solid team that will compete and win 76-84 games then JP is your guy. If you are of the mind that you are willing to throw caution to the win and end up in a situation where if things go well it could lead to a championship, but you could crater badly then JP probably isn’t for you. Hopefully he proves me wrong.

As far as other GM’s I’d rather have (in no order and off the top of my head)
Doug Melvin

As for teams with brighter futures (excluding the huge payroll teams – again in no order)
Nick - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 01:13 PM EDT (#128592) #
Excellent job, Jordan. It's amazing to me that a free website run by volunteers has more thoughtful and insightful analysis regarding the Jays than any major newspaper in one of the largest North American cities. Obviously, the mainstream press has a distinct advantage in money and access to important members of the ball club, but that advantage (mostly) vanishes in an analysis like this.

One factor in the $/economics area (for which he received an A) that has worked in JP's favor that was not mentioned here is the increasing strength of the Canadian currency. The Canadian dollar traded at 61.98 US cents in January 2002. It reached a 13-year high yesterday at 85.69 US cents. If the Canadian dollar remained steady or especially had it declined further, there is no payroll increase and the strong organizational base that will hopefully be used as a springboard this winter isn't nearly as fortified. For all the talk of bad luck for JP and the Jays, this is one factor out of their control that has really helped the viability of the franchise.

I agree with the common sentiment here that it is premature to assign JP a meaningful grade until after the winter. Competitive teams in New Hampshire and Dunedin is one thing. Competitive team in Toronto is significantly more important and significantly more difficult. Moment of truth indeed.
Mylegacy - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 01:15 PM EDT (#128593) #
Wonderful review! Good work!

I think deep inside JP's Italian body lies a Scot. If you look closely you'll see JP having haggis not pizza for lunch. I don't think JP is emotionally equipped to spent over 10 Million on ONE player. He'd rather have 25 guys at 3 mill a pop than two guys at 24 million and 23 guys to split 56 million. Halliday is his extravagance.

If he goes over 10 million again I suggest D. Young, look at his splits away from Detroit. We have NO chance of getting Burnett Bos will at least match us and where would you rather play? Any other free agent pitcher? We can do as well in house for 10 cents on the dollar.

Happy hunting JP this off season is yours. I suspect that JP will do less, not more, and I suspect that will end up being quite shrewd. If there is an eye popper it'll be a trade not a free agent signing. So sayeth Mylegacy.

JayFan0912 - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 01:19 PM EDT (#128594) #
My point is that the jays don't need to sign average players anymore. I thought the reason you would stock your farm system was to avoid doing this, and the jays are beyond the point where they have to sign these players. Take cat. for example, gross could have been used instead of him, and we don't know what gross could do over a full season.

And, btw, Burnett carries way more risks that konerko IMO. Serious injury history, never really reaching his potential in the NL, etc.

I am not saying konerko is the greatest player, but what are the alternatives ?
The rangers wouldn't trade teixeira (who has .781 ops away), for VW.
AWeb - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 01:20 PM EDT (#128595) #
I too am unsure why people are so eager to sign Konerko. He's 31st in OPS in MLB, and basically eqivalent to Hillenbrand (who's been only slightly better at home this year) on the road. Is there a reason to think that Konerko is ready to make a big leap (ala Derrick Lee this year)?

Konerko would be nice to get, and would be an ungrade, but if he's the biggest bat acquired in the offseason, JP has failed. I'd rather have Brian Giles, although he's getting pretty old. Giles would be like a powered up version of Catalanotto.

Unfortunately, most of the best hitters are on good teams with high payrolls. Some of the best hitters on bad teams (thinking trade here) : Jason Bay, Adam Dunn, Todd Helton, Griffey Jr., Troy Glaus. So there's young and cheap, middle age and expensive, old and injury prone.

Bay would be the best possible pickup, but why would Pittsburg trade him? They can barely score with him. Although they have bad pitching too, so youneverknow.

The Dunn rumors that crop up here make sense (in terms of teams, not so much the deals proposed), but do the Reds want to trade him?

It might be the Jays have to get lucky on a young player that shows potential (Ryan Howard types), or an older one who might get healthy (like Glaus, Griffey this year). Tough job for JP, but I think the consensus here at least is that he has to do something big, and run the risk of it turning out horribly.

CaramonLS - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 01:31 PM EDT (#128596) #
I might have given JP a lower grade with regards to the transactions. Probably a B- for the farm system, but other than that Awsome Review.

I think his Trade grade slipped a couple points in my view at this years trading deadline. I beleive there was a Window to get a prospect (such as Casey Kotchman) from Anahiem, because they truely wanted some additional Bullpen help (Batista) as well as Hillenbrand. Now his best assets are in a freefall. Hillenbrand's off season value is pretty minimal, and Batista... Well, no comment.

I really think a Deal like this could have been worked out: Kotchman + XXX (minor leaguer) + XXX Roster player (Think Rivera/Davanon) for Hillenbrand + Batista.

Thats my opinion anyways.
Jordan - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 01:56 PM EDT (#128597) #
Nick's point about the rising Canadian dollar (or more to the point, the falling American greenback) is a good one, and ought not to be overlooked. As much as the Jays have had their share of bad fortune, the currency markets at least have smiled on them lately.
ScottTS - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 02:07 PM EDT (#128599) #
I really think a Deal like this could have been worked out: Kotchman + XXX (minor leaguer) + XXX Roster player (Think Rivera/Davanon) for Hillenbrand + Batista.

In a funny way, the Jays early brush with contention may have made it more difficult to make this kind of a deal. I wonder if the Jays management hung on to the possibility of contending later than they should have, in which case it doesn't make much sense (at the very least from a PR perspective) to deal away two contributing players for a prospect, even a highly touted one such as Kotchman.

Pistol - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 02:08 PM EDT (#128600) #
"I think the main reason JP will pursue Burnett over Konerko is that there is a far greater chance of the former agreeing to come here than the latter"

The more time that passes the more I think it's a long shot that Burnett will end up in Toronto just because of the number of teams that will be interested. I've seen the Tigers and Rangers both mentioned and certainly a couple of the power payroll teams will be in the mix. The Orioles were interested in Burnett when it meant that they'd have to take Lowell as well and that trade almost happened so you figure they'll be in the mix as well.

The bidding on Burnett will start out at 4 years and $50 million, and could very well go higher. I suspect there'll be better alternatives that that.
Craig B - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 02:34 PM EDT (#128603) #
Jim said "it isn’t hard to lower the payroll" which I totally disagree with. Teams that make substantial cuts to payroll usually end up spending multiple years at the bottom of the league. Cutting payroll and staying even reasonably competitive is really, really hard.

If you take all the teams who were in the bottom 10 in team payroll in 2003 and 2004 and 2005 (Tampa, KC, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Washington/Montreal, and Toronto) you have Cleveland, Washington, Toronto, and four shipwrecks. Milwaukee are slowly emerging this year, but before that they finished sixth and last in one of baseball's worst divisions three years in a row.

Sure, it's not hard to cut payroll - if you don't mind losing 95+ games for three straight years while you do it.
Jim - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 02:47 PM EDT (#128605) #
'Sure, it's not hard to cut payroll - if you don't mind losing 95+ games for three straight years while you do it.'

I guess I disagree with this because it wasn't all that hard for JP to do it. He found a taken for Mondesi which was a huge part of the equation. In 2003 he got a CY Young year from Halladay and an MVP like performance from Delgado to have a good season. 2004 was an absolute trainwreck, and 2005 is just another mediocre season long after the salary cutting was over.

Just because Kansas City and Tampa can't get out of their own way doesn't make it that difficult to win between 72-78 games with a low payroll.

The idea that the team could fold is a huge exaggeration. With revenue sharing, you can just lower the payroll further and still stay in business. I guess there is a chance the team could have moved, but Montreal had huge issues trying to move - so a second team moving at the same time would have found even more problems.

There are exactly zero teams who haven't won at least 70 games in one of the last three seasons. So not one team is even working on three seasons where they have lost 91 games. The next worst after Tampa is Detroit who won 72 games last year, Colorado after that won 74 games once in the past three seasons.

Mick Doherty - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 03:04 PM EDT (#128606) #
The more time that passes the more I think it's a long shot that Burnett will end up in Toronto just because of the number of teams that will be interested.

Burnett is going to look terrific in pinstripes. Yes, that's a prediction.

Gitz - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 03:14 PM EDT (#128608) #
Burnett a Yankee? Meh. He fits the profile of their recent signees, if he's a bit more talented than the likes of Wright, Pavano, et al. Burnett, though younger, is much like Kevin Brown when the Dodgers signed Brown to the 7/$105 million contract , which we all knew would look awfully bad in the fourth or fifth year. When Burnett gets 5/$65 million from the Yankees or the Red Sox, it's going to look like a bad deal earlier in the deal than when Brown's contract starting getting fetid. He's going to blow out his arm sooner rather than later, and the Jays would be wise to look elsewhere for starting pitching -- which they are teeming with already, especially if they return Batista to the rotation.

Mike Green - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 03:28 PM EDT (#128609) #
Jordan did not really address this in his fine piece, but JP has not really placed too much reliance on statistical evaluation in making decisions. He comes from a scouting background, and even if you did not know that, it would be fairly easy to tell.
Jacko - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 04:20 PM EDT (#128612) #
Burnett a Yankee? Meh. He fits the profile of their recent signees, if he's a bit more talented than the likes of Wright, Pavano, et al. Burnett, though younger, is much like Kevin Brown when the Dodgers signed Brown to the 7/$105 million contract , which we all knew would look awfully bad in the fourth or fifth year. When Burnett gets 5/$65 million from the Yankees or the Red Sox, it's going to look like a bad deal earlier in the deal than when Brown's contract starting getting fetid. He's going to blow out his arm sooner rather than later, and the Jays would be wise to look elsewhere for starting pitching -- which they are teeming with already, especially if they return Batista to the rotation.

Millwood would probably be a cheaper, more reliable option, but he's got a lower ceiling that Burnett (i.e. his stuff isn't quite as dominating).

Burnett might end up a little overpriced, but I don't think he's the second coming of Darren Dreifort or anything. Burnett has had years (2002, 2005) that Dreifort can only dream of.

Elijah - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 04:27 PM EDT (#128613) #
Nice work, Jordan.

I'm not confident that he will get a big bat - and that's not necessarily entirely his fault. In terms of trading for a young slugger, I doubt that will happen without the Blue Jays coughing up a Wells or Halladay since the Blue Jays don't have that big name impact minor leaguer. Trading Wells for a slugger may not be a net positive and Ricciardi has stated on the record that Doc is not going anywhere.

The list of FA sluggers is rather underwhelming. Brian Giles, Hideki Matsui, Paul Konerko, Frank Thomas, Dmitri Young would all conceivably fit. They could also look at Ramon Hernandez as a catcher and Mike Piazza as a DH. Nomar and Furcal are also available but are unlikely to be pursued. And other teams like the Yankees and Red Sox will have funds available to go after more players though both will probably explore pitching more than offense. Matsui will probably return to the Yankees and I think Giles will likely stay on the West Coast.

In terms of pitching, there is a chance that aside from Burnett, there may be several Japanese starters posted. But the Jays are going to use that budget to acquire the rights to guys like Matsuzaka and Kuroda (obviously, the former much better than the latter and neither may even get posted). And I don't see the Jays doing that.

There are going to be a lot of suitors for Burnett and while I think the Jays have a chance to sign him, it may take a premium to get him compared to what teams like the Yankees or the Red Sox may offer. Clemens is probably Houston or nothing. Millwood will have lots of suitors. The other top starters are Morris, Weaver and Moyer. Relievers include Ryan, Farnsworth, Dempster and Mota and I would hope that Ricciardi considers singing at least one of those guys.

So I'm not expecting the world because I think the odds are still against Ricciardi to outdo the so-called big boys. He will have to overspend. If he's willing to do it, I'm sure he will acquire someone of note. If he isn't, then, I'm afraid we'll get more of the likes of Carl Everett or Shea Hillenbrand.
Gitz - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 04:55 PM EDT (#128615) #
The "likes" of Carl Everett is about right, because J.P. will not go after a person of ill repute like Everett or Milton Bradley, no matter what they offer as baseball players. Character, whatever we may think of it, matters to J.P., and that will be reflected in the players he signs in the off-season.
timpinder - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 05:17 PM EDT (#128616) #
I think the only big FREE-AGENT Riccardi is going to go after is Burnett. JP's said before he doesn't believe in spending big money on single tooled, one dimensional firstbasemen (ie. Konerko). Towers, Bush, Lilly, Batista, Hudson, Catalanotto, Rios or Gross, Hinske, Hillenbrand, any of the relief staff, and a ton of minor league pitching prospects are all trade options. Why try to outbid the Yankees, Red Sox etc... for Konerko, when you can TRADE redundant parts for an established bat playing a more important position (e.g. Dunn in left field)? Or even a lower cost tradeable commodity from another organization (e.g. Ryan Howard)

I think JP's money would be better spent shedding some of the excess in the infield, or some of the pitching prospects, to get a star to fill a particular role or need.

Just my opinion, but I don't want to see JP in a bidding war for a downgraded "Delgado" at first base. It would be a step backwards.
Nigel - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 05:25 PM EDT (#128617) #
The problem with trades of course is that most of the time you need to give up real value to get real value. The list of valuable assets that JP has to deal is pretty short (McGowan, Purcey and one of Adams/Hill/Hudson). There are many other expendable assets but they're likely to return F-Cat/ Hinske type players.
timpinder - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 05:42 PM EDT (#128618) #
I agree with you. However, the hottest commodity is always pitching, and a lot of teams would LOVE to have a lefty in their rotation, such as Lilly or Chacin. There's also a lot of teams that would like a guy like Towers who they can throw out there every five days to gobble up innings and give the team a chance to win. We may have to trade away a pitcher or two to get a power bat, but I think the Jays organization's pitching depth at this point is strong enough to absorb the loss. If they traded, say, Lilly, Chulk and a minor league prospect for Ryan Howard, or Adam Dunn, I would be very happy.
Named For Hank - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 05:53 PM EDT (#128619) #
Paul Godfrey is coming up on the Fan 590, apparently to answer a letter written to him by a Jays fan.
rtcaino - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 06:19 PM EDT (#128620) #
Great thread. Very Lively Discussion.

““I believe the Cardinals hold an option on Walker and I don't know if they're inclined to pick it up. Anybody?””

I don’t think they have an option, based on the speculation of his retirement when the Cards were in Toronto earlier this year. If they do have an option, I doubt they will take it. At his age he is a defensive liability, and would be mainly valuable to an American league team. He does have a .853 OPS, getting on base with more regularity than any current Blue Jay.

““-He was willing to sign Halladay to a big extension not significantly below market rate when the payroll was still low
- He was not willing to offer Delgado anywhere near his market value
- He was willing to overpay Matt Clement, again despite the low payroll at the time. Clement may or may not be a star, but he was being offered a lot of money.””

JP has always made it clear that his priority is pitching. This has been a success of his regime, which is reflected in our team ERA.

“The problem with trades of course is that most of the time you need to give up real value to get real value. The list of valuable assets that JP has to deal is pretty short (McGowan, Purcey and one of Adams/Hill/Hudson). There are many other expendable assets but they're likely to return F-Cat/ Hinske type players.”

League, Chacin and Romero I think would be valuable. With guys like Banks and Jackson at least able to fetch a Hillenbrand type. Pretty good hitters who are arb eligible and getting expensive… O ya, and better than Hinske.
Andrew K - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 06:55 PM EDT (#128622) #
Re: Godfrey on the fan.

Apparently a fan wrote an angry letter, dated Sept 16, ranting about lots of things. But they focus on the infamous playing of New York New York. Ho ho. Radio commentator agreed to some extent that it was out of order.

Godfrey's response: He has already written a reply to the fan. He agreed that the playing of the song was wrong and before he could even investigate the superior of the individual responsible for playing it had already disciplined said individual. Godfrey totally agreed that it was inappropriate to play the song. "A lot of us around here almost blew our top" when they heard it.

The letter had also raised the merchandise issue. Godfrey points out that other parks sell external merchandise, and that it raises money for the club. He doesn't apologise for this.

Radio commentator (I'm not familiar with the Fan presenters) points out that the merchandise question is about the selling of Yankees stuff being sold up-and-down the aisles, at the expense of Blue Jay stuff. Godfrey claims that more Blue Jays stuff was on sale in the aisles than other stuff.

Godfrey's response was pretty reasonable, I thought.
Ron - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 07:15 PM EDT (#128623) #
First off great work by Jordan. Excellent discussion going on in this thread from diehard Jays fans. I hope this thread can be placed near the top and not eventually pushed off the front page.

The thing I frequently hear is that if the Jays can't sign 2 big bats through FA then it could be aquired through trade. The question I have is do the Jays have the prospects that excite other teams? Are players like Josh Banks, Shawn Marcum, Adam Lind, David Purcey, Zack Jackson, etc.. considerd high ceiling prospects that could be come all-star/franchise players? I certainly don't see a team like the Red trading away Dunn for let's say 2 or 3 solid/average prospects.

While JP has done a good job of adding depth to the farm system, I would lean to the side that says the farm system lacks "sexy" potential "high impact" prospects. I firmly believe you don't win a WS or a division title with a roster almost exclusively made up withsolid/average players. From the sounds of it, JP is in the market for another Hillenbrand player or 2 in the off-season. Here's a question for all of you. If you were presented with the choice of Delgado or Hillenbrand and Koskie which choice would you select? I'd personally take Delgado. The lack of solid players isn't holding the Jays back, it's the true impact players that are.

I feel like it's good to look at the big picture of the JP regime, but the majority of fans (probably not in here though) aka Joe Average looks at wins and losses. They could care less how the Fisher-Cats are doing or the mandate that has been given by Godfrey. The bottom line is that in 4 seasons JP has yet to field a team that has competed for a playoff spot. Heck the Jays haven't even played meaningful games in August during his regime (meaningful could be up for debate this season but I believe the Jays were out at the end of July because of the number of teams ahead of them despite only being about 4-5 games back of the Wild Card).

One thing that hasn't been mentioned is that JP said before last season was over that he finally had significant money to work with. He mentioned he was handcuffed before with large contracts and he finally had the ability to do what he wanted. We all know Delgado wasn't retained (... The Jays brass actually had the balls to offer Delgado a 2yr/12 mil offer and defend that offer by saying it was market value)and with the financial flexability JP added Koch, Hillenbramd, and Koskie. I don't think that's really an upgrade. Now we enter this off-season and JP even has more money to play with. Judging by his track record, I doubt he will be successful in taking the Jays to contender status.

The one thing I do agree with everybody else is that next season is "the year". It's Year 5 of the JP era and he has had plently of time to draft and develop his prospects, make trades, and bring in his coaches/scouts. The Jays are probably going to have the biggest bump in payroll out of any club next season. This is clearly JP's team. Next season is the time to execute. I don't want to hear any excuses (unless all 5 of the top players on the team get injured and miss the whole season). Show me a team that contends for a playoff spot in the middle of September.

I would give JP a grade of C+ for his performance thus far.

On a positive note, I commend JP for taking phone calls from the fans every Wednesday. I don't know of any other GM that does that on a weekly basis.
Nigel - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 07:17 PM EDT (#128624) #
Romero - I do not believe he can be traded until one year after the draft (assuming you mean R. Romero and not D. Romero);

League - as good as his fastball is and as young as he is - major league set-up men will not derive huge value in trades;

Chacin - I agree and should have added him to the list (although I do think a lot of baseball people question whether he's going to be able to sustain something better than league average performance with his peripherals). Obviously, he does have pretty significant value none the less.
mtamada - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 07:31 PM EDT (#128625) #
But it seems to me that when a batted ball actually hits the fielder and he doesn't make the play, it's an error. [...] But Hernandez remained in command till the 8th, when Aaron Hill hit a ball so hard it ripped Hernandez's glove off for an infield single.

I didn't see the plays in question, but it sounds as though Aaron Hill's ball "actually hit the fielder". So according to you, that should've been scored as an error and not a hit?

Maybe there are some balls which hit the fielder, but which nonetheless are almost impossible to field ... and which therefore should be scored as hits, not errors.

Jordan - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 07:37 PM EDT (#128626) #
Actually, this same question came up in the Primer discussion of this article. Here's what I said there:

Had Hernandez not gotten his glove in the way, it could quite likely have been a double play, because it was headed right to Santiago, the second baseman. But you can't fault a pitcher for his split-second reflexive grab for a batted ball, and had he made the play, it would have been pretty spectacular. Usually, when a pitcher instinctively tries to snag a batted ball, only to see it ricochet off him and dribble onto the infield, it's ruled an infield single. I would have done the same on this play.

The difference between Hernandez's grab and Betancourt's play is that Betancourt had more than a split-second, he misread the ball, he mistimed his jump, and he saw it bang off his wrist and into left field. I know the official scorer's rule is supposed to be that if a player has to leap or jump for a ball, no error will be charged even if he muffs the play. I actually think that rule needs to be updated to take into account the different style of play and much higher degree of athleticism of today's players, but there you go.

All of which to say, I saw the first play as an error and the second as an infield hit.
Willy - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 09:00 PM EDT (#128628) #
An excellent analysis, Jordan. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I also think that, all things considered, JP has done a damned good job.
slitheringslider - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 09:10 PM EDT (#128630) #
I firmly believe you don't win a WS or a division title with a roster almost exclusively made up withsolid/average players.

Obviously it is much rarer that a WS or division winner have multiple stars in there lineup, but it is not unheard of that a WS winner is almost entirely made up of solid/average players.

Look at the late 90's Yankees. There aren't anybody in their lineup that would strike a fear into my heart, but everybody produces at a average/above-average level. They have a few star level players such as Martinez, O'Neill, Williams, but we have players that are definitely capable of replicating those numbers. None of those are annual all-stars or sure fire hall-of-famers. Vernon Wells definitely have the capability to put up .280/30/100 annually, and if our youngins continually develop and fulfill their potentials, we could definitely come up with a similarly built teams. Given that prospect fulfilling potential is a big-if.

Those Yankees were built with an emphasis on pitching. But even then not every year did they have a bonafide ace. Andy Pettite had a few great years but I would take Roy Halladay over any late 90's Yankees Dynasty era pitchers.

I guess my point after all this blabbering is that it is possible to win with a team filled mostly with solid/average major leaguers. This comparison I'm making maybe a little extreme, but I do believe there is some merit behind it. I guess for us the most important thing is just hope our prospect turns out the way we hope. Our luck with these prospect got to turn around at some point.
Wildrose - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 09:34 PM EDT (#128631) #
Just a few points of clarification;

Dimitri Young unfortunately ( just look at his 3 year road splits) is not a free agent. His contracted vested with cummulative P.A. just recently for $ 8 million in 2006.

Larry Walker has a 15 million 2006 option with a $1 million dollar buy out for 2006. Safe to say he will be bought out and can perhaps be talked out of retirement.
Thomas - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 09:39 PM EDT (#128632) #
Jordan, excellent piece, as has been said before and should be said again. One of the best pieces of writing I've read all month.

Most of the comments I have for the article have already been made. I think you're a bit over-generous on the grades, but I'd still rate Ricciardi roughly the same. There's no point quibbling over whether he's a B+ or B-. JP's done what he's been asked to do and he's done an above-average job.
Dave Till - Thursday, September 22 2005 @ 10:17 PM EDT (#128635) #
Great article, Jordan!

I pretty much agree with Jordan's assessment of J.P. My own $.02:

- I think he should have drafted at least some hitting as well as stockpiling pitching. Though it is easier to trade pitching for hitting than the other way around.

- I also wonder whether J.P. can shift gears and start spending on stars. It's what the Jays need right now, but he might not be comfortable doing that. Once you've spent three years eating at Harvey's, it feels strange to dine at Chateau Du Ritzy.

- I find it hard to evaluate a GM because so much of what they do goes on in secret. What options are available to him? For example, what players refuse to play in Canada?

I agree that, overall, there is hope in Toronto, even if it is faint hope at times. Compare the Jays' situation to that of the Baltimore Orioles - which team, and farm system, would you rather have right now?
brent - Friday, September 23 2005 @ 05:01 AM EDT (#128645) #
Please wait until this point in 2006 before judging JP as he may make some unorthodox choices in the offseason. We will have to wait and see what he thinks the market is under-valuing and go for it. My hope is for a Griffey or Giles. I think waiting until mid-season with a lot of money may be wise and try to take someone else's high priced players when they want to deal them. Then you are in a position of strength, without compromising yourself too early in the season on a bloated contract.
leisl - Friday, September 23 2005 @ 09:45 AM EDT (#128652) #
Delgado was let go because the Jays would have been stuck with his arbitration numbers, at least 15 mil. Thats quite a bit more than what he is actually making this year with the Marlins.
Gitz - Friday, September 23 2005 @ 01:26 PM EDT (#128685) #
I don't know of any other GM that does that on a weekly basis. I know that Brian Sabean has a weekly gig on Bay Area radio (I don't recall phone calls, though I seem to remember a few), and you won't find a more candid GM. I don't agree with most of his personnel decisions, and he's not looking for my approval, but he's always a joy to listen to -- think Charles Barkley without the manifestly large ego.
Jordan - Friday, September 23 2005 @ 01:46 PM EDT (#128688) #
think Charles Barkley without the manifestly large ego.

Isn't that like imagining the Great Pyramid of Giza without stones?

Gerry - Friday, September 23 2005 @ 02:25 PM EDT (#128693) #
Great piece Jordan, it was a fun, enjoyable read.
rtcaino - Friday, September 23 2005 @ 03:08 PM EDT (#128703) #
""League - as good as his fastball is and as young as he is - major league set-up men will not derive huge value in trades;""

I could not possibly disagree more. I'd say he is one of our more valueable assets. Why? Because how good his fastball is, how young he is, and in the next couple years could be one hell of a set up man.
Twilight - Saturday, September 24 2005 @ 04:07 AM EDT (#128758) #
Yes, League definitely has value as a setup man, or maybe even a closer candidate if he can consistently do what he's been doing of late.

I too am disappointed at his apparent unwillingness to spend big bucks on big hitters, but he has to have been watching them play recently and understand why they've been losing despite strong performances from pitchers. The problem with a team of singles-hitters is the RISP data and that's always been their problem. To get a run home you need 3 singles, and the third has to be sufficiently deep. That's three successful at-bats. If you're slugging, you just need one. Three hits can get you 3 runs. Plus, people at the ballpark really like to see them. It's exciting.

Now as far as stockpiling pitching goes... Ricciardi is a genius for that. Pitchers are always in high demand, anything from bullpen to starters (though starters always moreso). Look at the rocky bullpen the Red Sox have as an example.

I think some of the risks we can capitalize on depends on how much we trust our young talent. Brandon League has settled down and Shaun Marcum has given up hits but nobody can seem to take him deep.

Think about this... if the Jays signed Burnett, they'd have 7 possible starting pitchers in Doc, AJ, Chacin, Lilly, Downs, Bush and Towers. This would definitely allow some flexibility, especially for an experienced starter like Towers or Lilly if we trust their counterparts in Chacin and Bush to get it done for us. Or the bullpen... if a club is in dire need of a solid reliever even perhaps as a closer, perhaps we could suffer the loss of a Chulk, Batista or Speier... if League, McGowan or Marcum could fill those shoes. So I think the Jays definitely have players to deal with who would be in high demand, if they are willing to trust the youngsters.

Not guaranteeing any of that will pay off, but it certainly might. And say for example a contending club with no pitching loses out on Burnett, Millwood and Washburn and end up with nothing. I think the idea of getting a Towers or Lilly might excite them a bit.
Twilight - Saturday, September 24 2005 @ 04:14 AM EDT (#128759) #
And a final comment about Burnett: Yes he will be pursued by many clubs. The Yankees though, I just can't see it. Notice how conservative looking they are...they're all clean cut with short hair. I believe it was Jamie Campbell that was discussing that a few nights ago...when you become a Yankee you sort of adopt the personality and lifestyle.

Anyway, I'm sure Yankee management loves AJ's elaborate ink jobs and piercings. :) I can see Burnett in a Bosox uniform, but Yankees, naw.
VBF - Saturday, September 24 2005 @ 11:40 AM EDT (#128767) #
Actually I think we need some wild personalities. How bout a John Kruk, or a Vinny Castilla.
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