Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ricciardi fired by Blue Jays

J.P. Ricciardi's tumultuous tenure as the Toronto Blue Jays General Manager has mercilessly to a close after eight mediocre seasons produced exactly zero post season berths. Boasting upon his arrival that his "five year plan" would make the Blue Birds contenders in the ultra competitive American League East didn't quite turn out according to plan, as Toronto found itself with four seasons of winning ball and four campaigns below the .500 mark.

Ricciardi is most remembered for verbally attacking then Reds outfielder Adam Dunn, suggesting he didn't "love" the game and wasn't a team player, for his lies attempting to cover up closer B.J. Ryan's injuries and for his mockery at this past year's trading deadline that saw him dangle ace Roy Halladay as trade bait, only to pull out of a prospective deal. Ricciardi also hamstrung the team by giving out sizable contracts to the likes of Corey Koskie, B.J. Ryan, Frank Thomas, Alex Rios and Vernon Wells, players who were either past their prime or never quite lived up to the billing as a superstar.

Despite the few good moves engineered by the 50 year old Ricciardi, like drafting Aaron Hill, Adam Lind, Ricky Romero and Travis Snider, and the acquisition of Marco Scutaro, Jeremy Accardo and prospects Zack Stewart and Josh Roenicke via trade, there were too many holes to overcome the Yankees and Red Sox every season. There were a few factors out of his control, most notably lack of money to throw at upper echelon free agents, but there was also bad personnel evaluation, like selecting Russ Adams with his first pick as G.M. of the team in the 2002 draft.

Ultimately, J.P. left the Jays with pieces to build around (Hill, Lind, Snider, Romero and Brett Cecil), so the latter part of his tenure with the club has led to some positive results. Unfortunately for Ricciardi and his "five year plan", it took him far too long to develop young stars on a ball club that is starving to reach the level of success, or even to get remotely close, of the Jays '92 and '93 World Series teams.

Ricciardi was living on borrowed time in Toronto, and it was certainly long overdue that he was handed a pink slip. Alex Anthopoulos, Ricciardi's right hand man, will take over the team for now, but that could be short lived with rumours persisting that there will be a permanent team President and discussion that former Blue Jays G.M. Pat Gillick could be handed the keys to the franchise once again.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Jays players want Cito Gaston fired

With three games to go in a Blue Jays season that will result in the 16th straight year without making the playoffs, it's inevitable there will some bad blood and controversy that will surface as players and management attempt to shift the blame for another poor year onto someone else. However, news that iconic Manager Cito Gaston has lost the entire team and the players are preparing a mutiny in hopes he'll be fired certainly raises more eyebrows than the typical finger pointing for a bad season.

Indeed, Gaston, in his second go round with the team he guided to two World Series titles in the early 90's, has lost the respect of his players, leading to the players wanting him axed. Vernon Wells, the supposed "star" of the team has virtually confirmed that, saying "Obviously there are issues", the soft spoken Aaron Hill mentioned "I think everybody pretty much feels the same for the most part," and first basemen Lyle Overbay chimed in with "We've got to get it straightened out, either way."

The players apparently don't like Gaston's hands off approach to managing ball games, feel there is a lack of communication with their locker room and there are some veterans unhappy about playing time and constant criticism. Those players are likely Overbay, who saw a reduction in playing time that saw him platooning at first base with Kevin Millar earlier in the season, the underachieving Wells, who has drawn the ire of his manager and perhaps Jeremy Accardo, who has been effective, posting a very solid 2.38 ERA but has found himself bouncing up and down from AAA Las Vegas to the big club.

Regardless, if the successor to interim president Paul Beeston is named in the off-season, there might be a major shakeup that could see G.M. J.P. Ricciardi cut loose along with Gaston and several other members of the coaching staff. Despite the reports of clubhouse turmoil, Gaston will continue to dodge bullets from fans, as they continue to shower praise upon him (justified or not), because of the great times he had in his first stint with the team.

Adam Lind soars high for Jays

There have been few bright spots for the Blue Jays in their otherwise disappointing season, but Adam Lind is not one of them. The hitter the Jays envisioned would become a force in the middle of the batting order has arrived this season in a big way.

Lind has been rock solid, putting together a remarkably consistent season despite little protection behind him in the batting order. His RBI totals, broken down by month, show that he has been productive throughout the year, with 20, 18, 14, 18, 19, and to date in September 25 RBI's.

He's also had contests where he completely stood out as a dynamic offense force. He busted out of the gate quickly in the season opener, driving in 6 runs. In Texas last month he did two better, racking up 8 runs batted in, falling just 1 RBI shy of matching a franchise record for runs batted in for one game. The last series at the Rogers Centre this year against Seattle, Lind smoked the game tying homer in the 8th frame, and then in extra innings, cranked another blast for a walk off victory. And in his last contest, Lind went deep 3 times against Boston.

That gives Lind a .305 average, 35 home runs and 114 RBI on the campaign. Lind has arrived. Now if only the Jays could surround him (and Aaron Hill) with more talent the Blue Birds could be singing again.