Blog Entry

Bad contracts catch up with Ricciardi

Posted on: October 3, 2009 6:24 pm

While San Diego's firing of general manager Kevin Towers elicited gasps throughout the industry this weekend, Toronto's sacking of J.P. Ricciardi only garnered a few yawns.

This one has been expected for weeks, once it became apparent that years of bad contracts and miscalculated decisions have left the Blue Jays in the same spot they were when he took control in 2001: Buried in the AL East.

Working within that powerhouse of a division is not a job for the meek, and from day one, that was something the Blue Jays never had to worry about with Ricciardi. He fired two managers during his first three seasons -- Buck Martinez and Carlos Tosca -- and it was off to the races from there.

The problem came when his job performance fell short of his confidence. In probably the pivotal point of his tenure, Ricciardi swung for the fences when he gambled on two free agent pitchers, starter A.J. Burnett and closer B.J. Ryan, following the 2005 season. It was a swing and, mostly, a miss.

Combined, the Jays spent $102 million on the duo. They wound up releasing Ryan, and Burnett took advantage of an ill-conceived opt-out clause in his contract. Vernon Wells, Frank Thomas, Corey Koskie ... the list of bad contracts awarded under Ricciardi is a long one, some (Wells and Alex Rios, since unloaded on the White Sox) worse than others.

Still, it was never dull with Ricciardi in charge and, to their credit, the Jays stood by him in the wake of several embarrassing moments.

Such as, when he ripped slugger Adam Dunn on the radio in response to a caller's criticism of Ricciardi ("Do you know the guy really doesn't like baseball that much?").

And when he trashed Gil Meche when the pitcher signed a free agent contract with Kansas City instead of Toronto before the 2006 season ("When a guy talks about coming to our place where he has a chance to win and compete against the Yankees and the Red Sox, and then he goes to a place like Kansas City, that's an eye-opener.")

Cross Kansas City off the list of Ricciardi's potential landing spots.

The beginning of the end came midsummer this year, when the Jays decided to see if they could deal ace Roy Halladay. There was a lot of sound, much fury ... and no deal. There Ricciardi and the Jays were, spinning their wheels again.

Eight years down the road, Ricciardi leaves, best known for those horrific contracts and public swipes.

Not exactly the stuff of long-term success.



Since: Jan 2, 2007
Posted on: October 4, 2009 11:23 am

It was more than just bad contracts

Show me a GM in MLB who hasn't had a bad deal or two go against him and I'll show you a man who hasn't been in his job that long.

We all understand that all GMs make a few bad deals or miss out on some winners that could cause monumental changes to a team over the long haul.  But to say that contracts caught up to J.P. Ricciardi is a bit of an understatement.  If you stop and look back, he's gone through quite a collection of bad deals.

signed OF Vernon Wells to contract after 2006 season through 2014 (8 yrs/$126 million)
signed OF Alex Rios to contract after 2007 season through 2014 (7 yrs/$69.8 million)
signed RP B.J. Ryan to contract after 2005 season (5 yrs/$47 million)
signed A.J. Burnett to contract after 2005 season (5 yrs/$55 million)
signed Frank Thomas to contract after 2006 season (2 yrs/$18 million with $9 million as a signing bonus)

Bigger mistakes for Ricciardi revolve around what he did with some of his players after they were already under contract.  Releasing Alex Rios outright instead of trying to work a deal in the offseason (not likely, but possible).  Denying extent of B.J. Ryan's injuries to the Toronto media.  Taking shots at Adam Dunn for being a less-than-stellar ballplayer who didn't fit with what Toronto was looking for on a radio call-in show.  Releasing Frank Thomas after his run-in with manager John Gibbons who had many issues with players besides Thomas.  Trading Shea Hillenbrand while playing at or near his peak because he also clashed with Gibbons.  The icing on the cake has to be the non-trade of Roy Halladay.  With teams ready to empty their prospects from the cupboard in exchange for Halladay, nothing happened.  Possibly the biggest non-trade in MLB history.  Ricciardi could have restocked his team in one swift move and maybe even unloaded the contract of Wells or Rios at the same time.

J.P. Ricciardi was just not meant to play with the big boys of the A.L. East, or most of the Majors, for that matter.

Since: Oct 11, 2007
Posted on: October 4, 2009 10:57 am

Bad contracts catch up with Ricciardi

In a sad twist of irony, I have to say the Jays remind me of the team I hate the most in sports (after the Red Sox), the Toronto Maple Leafs.  They continuously do good enough to avoid getting any really good draft picks, but never really threaten to make the playoffs.  This leads to mediocre season after mediocre season.  The only difference is that the Jays don't have the blind fan support that will allow them to continue in this manner for eternity.
Either blow it up or spend the big money; anything in between will only lead to 4th place again for the next 5 years.

Since: Aug 21, 2006
Posted on: October 4, 2009 2:57 am

Bad contracts catch up with Ricciardi

Let's be honest, the Jays aren't going to be competitive. They're too scared to take their shot and risk failing, so they end up failing without trying. The Jays' plan was to win in 2010. But they managed to throw away a winning hand. Now we're going to probably going to rebuild again and wait another four years before we blow it up again and repeat.
If our new GM has any balls, he'll go for broke this year. Screw it. We're not winning anyway if we don't.

Since: Oct 4, 2009
Posted on: October 4, 2009 12:31 am

Bad contracts catch up with Ricciardi

wells was not his doing.
the prior head honcho Paul Godfrey did not want wells walking away as delgado had done.
also, without the opt-out clause, burnett does not sign here.
His record was mediocre but in recent years budget cuts required him to be perfect, especially in that division.

Since: Aug 5, 2008
Posted on: October 3, 2009 11:59 pm

Bad contracts catch up with Ricciardi

He sure did talk about it an awful lot though Nova

Since: May 2, 2009
Posted on: October 3, 2009 10:21 pm

Bad contracts catch up with Ricciardi

Why? Its unlikely Halladay is resigning, and on the outside chance he does he will be on the downslope of his career if/when the Jays rebuild and can be competitive. Trading him this summer and reloading with some young studs would have been the only smart thing Ricciardi did during his tenure in Toronto, but he could not even get that done.

Since: Aug 21, 2006
Posted on: October 3, 2009 7:28 pm

Bad contracts catch up with Ricciardi

Not trading Halladay was about the only bright thing Ricciardi did. We never should have even considered trading him this year.

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