Blue Jays mail bag
When Scott Richmond was first called up to the Jays, my initial reaction was, "Isn't he supposed to be going to the Olympics?" I am amazed at the reaction all across the country of readers and sports fans that agree that even though this may have been a good thing for Richmond, it was not the right thing for the Jays or the country. Maybe one World Series ring is worth five Olympic rings, but now Scott is getting neither. A couple of letters in this week's mailbag encapsulate the best of the thoughtful and the emotional side of the issue. Plus, regrettably, there's more J.P. bashing from a former fandom and fiefdom now questioning the direction the directionless Jays franchise is taking.
What are your thoughts on J.P. (Ricciardi)'s ability (or lack thereof) to close a deal? Another trade deadline has passed and J.P. has done nothing. I expect his reasoning (as usual) will be that they couldn't find anyone willing to trade. But shouldn't he be making things happen. Heck, with the glut of middle-of-the-road players the Jays have (David Eckstein, Marco Scutaro, Joe Inglett, John McDonald, Matt Stairs, Kevin Mench, Brad Wilkerson, Gregg Zaun, etc.), couldn't he have done something, anything? I'm sick of his excuses and I look for the Jays to replace him with someone who at least has a plan that they can follow.
Scott MacPherson, Calgary
A-It's hard to be complimentary, when Ricciardi's best deals are all complementary. He is at his best when trying to sign or acquire players like Frank Catalanotto, Scutaro, Mike Bordick, Chris Gomez, Frank Menechino, John McDonald and Dave Berg. He is at his worst when trying to deal for rising or already star players -- Troy Glaus, Corey Koskie, Lyle Overbay, Frank Thomas. One of J.P.'s problems is that his motivation for dealing a player is rarely "how can this move help my team become a contender?" More often it's "my back is against the wall, this guy's trouble, he costs too much, he wants out, I don't like him, what's the best deal I can make for this guy?" In that latter category of dealing from dislike or necessity you can include Billy Koch, Alex Gonzalez, Paul Quantrill, Brad Fullmer, Pedro Borbon, Dan Plesac, Raul Mondesi, Felipe Lopez, Shannon Stewart, Shea Hillenbrand, Eric Hinske and, of course, Troy Glaus. Of that group, eight went on from here to play in the post-season somewhere else. The Jays are still waiting for their first post-season this century. Ricciardi is to World Series winning GMs like "long drive golf champions" are to "PGA Tour Players". He's impressive on the driving range, but is never asked to finish a round with the big boys.
This is a bit long. I may get into a rambling tirade. I know you're not a fan of J.P., and neither, for the most part, am I. I'm just wondering, do his comments about (Scott) Richmond's start pretty much sum up the disconnect b/w himself & reality? I saw him in the media scrum the other day when he was comparing pitching in the Olympics to making an MLB debut, like it was some kind of no-brainer. Yeah, it is a no-brainer...who in his right mind would choose to give up a chance to play IN THE FRIGGIN' OLYMPICS for a couple starts for a weak-hitting, go-nowhere bunch of losers? If this was really about the TEAM or RICHMOND, then why not call him up a month ago & get him a start or two, then send him down so he can still play for Canada (with the benefit of a little MLB experience). I see this as just a big ole f-you' to Canada & the Canadian media from JP on his way out the door...one last salvo to show what an arrogant a-hole he really is. Like another reader mentioned last week, I think I have a new favourite in the AL East, a team that still starts w/ 'T' & ends in 'ays,' but has a whole lot more, if not in the middle of the name, then in the middle of the lineup. Screw the Jays team, I'm tired of the arrogance & excuses at the top, the over-contentment with being a middling .500 club, a team scared of actually being competitive & who wilts at the slightest bit of pressure. I suppose they're going to head into the annual "play really well because there's no pressure, then start to choke in Sept. when we get within a few games of contending" phase. WooHoo!
Trev L., Halifax, N.S.
A-One can guarantee that As a Canadian, GM Gord Ash would never have called Scott Richmond up to be a fifth starter in an already mediocre season on the eve of his going to the Olympics for Team Canada. One would have to think that if the moment arrives when Richmond is watching TV and the Canadians are playing in a Final Four game against Japan, or Cuba or the U.S. later this month, his emotions will be more mixed about trading back his first half-dozen major-league starts for a chance to be representing his country in a medal round. If Ricciardi worked in the NBA it would have to be for the Cavaliers…because that is forever his attitude when it comes to responding to Jays fans concerns about team and country.
Q-Just a comment here instead of a question.
"Of course there is a legend that Mike Wilner, the third man in the Jays' booth can actually close his eyes and identify the pitch by sound. We kid you not."
I love reading your columns and the mailbag, and I've been amused by all kinds of comments (including anything involving "mis-remembering"), but the Wilner comment actually had me laughing out loud. Thought you should know.
Francesco Paonessa, Richmond Hill, ON
A-Thanks. I believe if I close my eyes I can actually identify a compliment.
Q-Hi Richard: Just a quick question: What do you think of MLB adopting the Olympic baseball tie-breaking procedure for the All Star Game? I think it might add a lot of excitement, besides shortening the length of the game.
Tim Hommel, Windsor
A-I think that nobody in his right mind should ever adopt the Olympic baseball tie-breaking rule…which of course means that MLB will probably do it for the All-Star Game. In a nutshell, in the 11th inning in Beijing, teams will now place runners on first and second and the team at bat can start their inning anywhere in their own batting order with nobody out and two on. (The Jays would not like that rule). If the game is tied after 11, you repeat the same scenario in the 12th. If the game is still tied after 18 inning, government tanks will come onto the field and roll over the catcher, thus ending the game. (Just a joke!) There have been very few All-Star Games with the need to do that and it's not baseball. The Olympics have dropped baseball in 2012 and beyond so the International Baseball Federation is trying to convince IOC officials that baseball can control its length of game with the tie-breaker so please don't hold that against us.
Q-Did you catch the interview with JP when he was asked about Scott Richmond's call-up to the bigs taking a pitcher from the Canadian Olympic Team roster? That interview epitomized JP's disrespect for anything but himself. I know that any pitcher would rather pitch in the big leagues, but to take a player off our Olympic team and blow it off like our Olympic team means nothing was a trash GM move especially for the GM of the only Canadian Team (probably lost his last two fans after that interview). It's not like Richmond is an up and coming prospect (no disrespect to Richmond) But he is a 28-year-old rookie. Could J.P. not find another spot starter until after the Olympics?
PS - have you noticed that Adam Dunn has been on fire since J.P.'s comments. No the Jays don't need a guy with 30 homers and 72 RBI's. That's how to hit with men in scoring position.
Jeff Iles, Minden
A-I'm like many other proud fans of all Canadian teams in the Olympics. Why J.P. why? In terms of Jays' spot starters, lefty John Parrish had been called up earlier and had been making those fifth starts, pitching 4-6 innings, throwing 80-100 pitches and keeping the Jays in games. He had a far superior record as a starter at AAA-Syracuse and was already on the team. He was still healthy and is now still in the pen. If it was about replacing Brian Tallet, then they had Brian Wolfe who was sent down earlier, but has ML experience and success as a reliever. Team Canada's GM Greg Hamilton was left in the lurch by the Richmond move at the 11th hour. Luckily the IOC and the Cincinnati Reds cooperated and Canada was able to replace Richmond with James Avery. It's funny that Ricciardi thinks so little of the impact on a country, because he was on the U.S. selection committee for the Sydney Games in 2000 where they won gold. But what if the Brewers had decided to bring U.S. staff ace Ben Sheets up in August of 2000 because they needed a spot starter instead of allowing him to go and bringing him up in '01? Ricciardi would like have been livid that a team would do that top their own country. Wisconsin might now be the 11th Canadian province.
Q-A question about Scott Richmond who now knows what it feels like to be Roy Halladay: Hold one of the best teams in baseball to three runs... and lose! Who makes the decision to bring a player up from the Minor Leagues? Is it J.P. or does Cito Gaston ask for another arm or bat? I realize this call-up was to replace tapped-toe Tallet, but who decides and how do they decide who to get? Thanks for the Mail Bag, Richard.
Douglas Lalonde, Calgary
A-Most good GMs will know what their team needs through daily conversation with their field manager. I don't know how it works with the Jays. (Just a joke!) No, no, in fact there are conversations all the time, but the decisions are all J.P. because as Cito Gaston admits, he has been away from the daily workings of the organization and does not know the personnel that well. It was the same under John Gibbons, because Gibby didn't pay much attention to the rest of the organization other than the guys inside his clubhouse. But the reason for the mediocre Richmond being called up in August of '08 at 28 years of age with the Olympics less than a month away is a mystery. It does however reflect poorly on the Jays' farm system.
With all the buzz about A.J. Burnett's opt-out clause, and the will-he-or-won't-he opt out or be traded saga that's ongoing, it suddenly occurred to me that the other player who signed as a free agent in 2005, B.J. Ryan, has -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- the very same opt-out clause that A.J. has. Obviously he isn't going to be traded now, but things have been pretty quiet about B.J.'s opt-out clause. He seems very happy and comfortable here in Toronto, but they said the same thing about Elton Brand with the LA Clippers, and he ended up opting out to take more money from another team (I know it's two different sports but the parallels are there). Does the lack of discussion about it mean he's not opting out, or is there still a chance he could? That would be a bigger loss for the Jays than A.J. in my opinion.
Simon Sharkey-Gotlieb, Toronto
A-There is no B.J. Ryan opt out clause. In fact, Burnett's agents are quite proud that A.J.'s opt-out clause is the only one of its kind in major-league baseball given to a pitcher
Love the blog! I have a lot of respect for your class and good humour when interacting with Toronto's *sometimes* delusional fans. Most Toronto columnists put too much importance in the sound of their own voice for my taste, but I've never gotten that impression from you. Anyways, my question is of the 101 variety. Why is it that coaches and managers wear team uniforms? Baseball is the only sport I can think of that has this tradition. I mean, how ridiculous would Ron Wilson look standing behind the bench in a Leafs jersey?
Eric L., Toronto
A-Wilson would look about as ridiculous as Aki Berg did standing in front of it. But seriously, thanks for the compliment. In fact I do love interacting with the fans in the mailbag, even the haters. I think there's room for more than one opinion on all of the major issues in the game and in terms of evaluating the performance and the worth to his team of any player. Mine is just another opinion and they all deserve to be listened to. As for coaches and managers in uniform, back in the day, before the turn of the century, when pro baseball was in its infancy, most managers were also players and therefore were in uniform. As the players got older and played less, they still managed. Finally, when their playing careers were over and they still wanted to stay on as managers, they continued to wear the unis. Basically the tradition comes from the early preponderance of player-managers, although maybe it's finally time to change…but it won't.
How does a team like the Florida Marlins, who seemingly blow up their roster after every World Series win, return to contention in 3-5 years, while the Jays have been in the wilderness for more than a decade? Is it management? Luck? Solid drafting? A combination of all the above?
Ray Y., Toronto
A-It's the baseball opposite of the "vicious circle". The Marlins under Dave Dombrowski in the first five years of their existence developed a farms system of studs, while signing and trading for solid veterans. When the initial World Series cycle reached fruition in '97, the Marlins promptly traded all of their veterans for more young studs from other farm systems. After losing painfully for several more years, the acquired studs and the home grown studs finally produced enough at the same time for a second World Series win in 2003. The more veteran of those studs were traded for additional younger studs and the cycle began again. The Marlins, if you follow the patterns of the franchise, are due to win another World Series in 2009…which if you are paying attention, looks quite possible. It is management, solid drafting and a willingness to take chances by dumping fan favourites and taking your lumps. There is no luck involved. They run just another successful Florida stud farm.
Click here to send Richard a question, and he'll answer a selection in his mailbag Wednesdays in this space. *Note: please follow the link above to send a question to Richard. Questions posted in the comments section may not make it to the mailbag. Thanks.**