With Bryan Colangelo running the Toronto Raptors and Brian Burke recently hired as the Toronto Maple Leafs President and General Manager, it seems that the two highprofile Toronto-based organizations are spoiled with leaders that hold a belt of experience, intelligence and a history in success.
Prior to Colangelos arrival in Toronto, he helped build the Phoenix Suns into a respectable and competitive team during his 11-year reign as their GM. Burke arrived here with a pretty impressive resume himself — a string of achievements which includes a Stanley cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2006.
Makes you wonder though when the Toronto Blue Jays will ever follow the trend and hire an experienced and successful general manager.
Since GM J.P. Ricciardis hiring in 2001, the Jays havent exactly been noted for success. Not only have they missed the playoffs every season since Ricciardis arrival, theyve also lacked stability and consistency. More significantly though, they have failed to even come close to keeping up with their division rivals, namely, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
During Ricciardis reign, the team has also gone through four head coaches in only seven years, and their best record was a mere 87-75 during the 2006 season. As for consistency, whenever they have a considerably successful season, they always seem to plummet to the bottom in the American League-East the season after. In 2003, after posting an 86-76 record, the Jays fell to a dismal 67-94 in 2004; the worst record the team has posted during the Ricciardi era.
Is this all down to bad luck or Ricciardis lack of managerial skills? You can only blame the players for so long before you have to stop and look at the individual responsible for assembling the team.
Ricciardis philosophy on building a successful team is questionable, placing little importance on speed, defense or bunting. The team has ranked near the bottom in stolen bases in most of Ricciardis seasons with the Blue Jays, relying too much on power and clutch hitting to manufacture runs. Rather than increasing your chances with scoring runs by stealing bases and bunting, the Jays have elected to swing their way through tough situations. Through this strategy, the team has hit into a high number of double plays, leaving runners in scoring position at the end of the inning in practically every game.
His bad drafting decisions are another woe to the Jays, as he prefers selecting collegians over high school players in the draft — Travis Snider in 2006 the only exception. Many successful Toronto Blue Jays draft picks prior to Ricciardis hiring, such as Carlos Delgado, Vernon Wells, Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter, were drafted out of high school and never played a game of college baseball. Why not continue something good? He has wasted first-round picks on players such as Russ Adams, Ricky Romero, and Zach Johnson, who have all failed to meet expectations and progress into proven MLB players. Over the last few years, the Jays havent been able to develop a core of young players to build a team around, and consequently, have had to rely too much on free agent signings.
Finally, the combination of Ricciardis poor fairing in the free agent market and his questionable trades has prevented the team from becoming championship contenders. Rather than sign high profile players at the prime of their careers, Ricciardi has opted instead to sign low-salary players that are aging, plagued with injuries, and are essentially players that no other team in the MLB were interested in signing.
Prior to the 2007 regular season, the Jays re-signed pitcher Ted Lilly and coveted free agent Gil Meche. Ricciardi then decided to take chances on has been players such as John Thompson, Tomo Okha, and Victor Zambrano to fill the holes in their pitching rotation. All three pitchers failed to impress during the 2007 season and were all subsequently released from the team before the season even ended. The only offseason Ricciardi really showed any drive was in 2005 when he signed pitchers AJ Burnett and BJ Ryan, and traded for powerful third basemen Troy Glaus. Burnett and Glaus however, are no longer with the team.
Some of the bad trades and decisions Ricciardi has made over the years include trading Paul Quantrill and Cesar Izturis to the Dodgers for Luke Prokopec and Chad Ricketts when the Dodgers were offering Eric Gagne. Gagne eventually went on to winning the Cy Young award in 2003. He also released Brandon Lyons with three years remaining on his contract, who went on to have many successful seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks as a mid reliever and closer.
His worst decisions were not resigning future Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter when all Carpenter wanted was the $300,000 minimum, and giving Eric Hinske a five-year $14.75-million deal after just one season of success. Hinske went on to bust and was eventually traded to the Boston Red Sox.
Defenders of Ricciardi have insisted that Ricciardis inability to create a competitive team is down to the payroll restrictions and limitations put forth by Rogers Communications, owners of Blue Jays. This argument however is easily refuted when you think about the 2003 Florida Marlins who won the World Series with a mere $54 million payroll — 21st in the league out of 30 teams.
The Blue Jays need to do something they should have done along time ago and fire J.P. Ricciardi. The Jays have not had a proven and successful GM installed since Pat Gillick, and if the organization wants to launch itself above mediocrity its time they pick up a few pointers from the other two sports teams in Toronto and hire somebody who not only knows how to manage, but knows how to win.