Godfrey wins Cerutti award
In a vote by the Toronto Chapter of the BBWAA last Thursday, exiting club president Paul Godfrey was voted the 2008 winner of the John Cerutti Award for his off-the-field contributions to the cause of the Blue Jays. The award was named for the late Jays player and broadcaster John Cerutti one of the genuinely nice men I have met in sports. The award has nothing to do with the baseball product on the field. It has everything to do with the effort to make the product better off of the field in the community.
Before Godfrey announced his decision to resign in October, much was made by fans and some segments of the media of his responsibility for the failure on the field of his team to advance to the post season during his tenure at the top. The fact is that once he had hired a general manager with baseball expertise in November '01, the president's role in putting a 25-man roster on the field became marginal.
The problem with baseball as compared to hockey is that every Canadian who has ever been or been considered for the Leafs presidency feels they know how to help put a better team on the ice. They grew up with hockey. Godfrey, after his first few years of trying his hand at baseball personnel decisions -- getting in the way of then-GM Gord Ash, as with the inflated contracts offered to Carlos Delgado, Alex Gonzalez and Paul Quantrill -- realized he should just be the face of the Jays to the public and leave personnel decisions to his GM.
Godfrey's mistake was not in hiring J.P. Ricciardi, because in the GM's first three seasons he effectively accomplished what he had been hired to do, which is to cut the payroll down while keeping a competitive team on the field. But then, when Ricciardi moved back to Massachussetts, when he had a five-year plan drift into six and seven seasons without a winner, and when he was handed the keys to the vault with last year's $100 million payroll and still failed to reach the post-season, then that became Godfrey's Achilles Heel. He refused to admit that a new GM was necessary to move forward.
However, that weakness in vision did not diminish in any way Paul's enthusiasm for the job of prez, for the people of the city and his passion for improving the local sports scene (including getting this city its own NFL franchise, not just the rent-a-team deal with the Bills). Godfrey is certainly not through as a public figure in Toronto.
Godfrey being named the '08 Cerutti Award winner should not be interpreted as an endorsement of his decision-making in terms of Jays' personnel. His win is an acknowledgement of his passion for the city and trying to do the right thing for his team and his sport at all times. He remains the consummate politician -- not that there's anything wrong with that.