It seems the Jays GM just cant leave well enough alone. The season was going along just fine, all things considered, with Roy Halladay coming back off injury and heading to the All-Star Game. Doc was focused on the task at hand of turning this Jays ship around. All year, whenever local media asked J.P. about trading Doc the GM would just say no. Contract extension? Talks would start after the season. Simple. The focus through three months was on baseball. That’s where it should be. But, of course, what Ricciardi tells the Toronto media is not necessarily what he tells the national U.S. media because, after all, those are the guys that count and can make him a baseball legend, albeit one without a post-season appearance.
Remember when Ricciardi first got to Toronto in late-2001 his stated goal was to school local fans and local media about baseball? He said that. So now, at a time when Doc should be focused on getting the Jays turned around, on winning the Cy Young and on the honour of representing the Jays at the All-Star Game, now, instead he must look forward to three days of trade questions in St. Louis and a distracting circus heading to the July 31 deadline. There are other ways of letting 29 other GMs know that a certain player is available rather than through your favourite sports reporters. That’s either selfish or dumb on the part of Jays management. You decide. On to the mail bag:
Please see that the discussion of trading Halladay has been around for along time. With J.P. Ricciardi mentioning yesterday to Fox Sports that he would listen to offers for Halladay, is he that slow in realizing that the reality of the Halladay situation has been at the forefront of everyone outside of the Jays organization for an extended period of time now? It seems that Ricciardi is not connected with reality and the Jays organization’s first move before trading Halladay would be to get rid of Ricciardi, because everyone knows that Ricciardi does not have the best trading record. What are your thoughts?
Scott Cochrane, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.
A: A lot of the thoughts expressed in your letter are the same ones in my Wednesday column on the subject of Halladay and Ricciardi. The question becomes who is more valuable to the franchise moving forward? Halladay. Who would you rather give a five-year extension to? Halladay. Why would you allow a less valuable part of your organization to get rid of a more valuable part of your organization? You wouldn’t. Ricciardi’s contract expires after the 2010 season. He will not enter the next off-season without an extension. No opposing team wants to deal with a lame-duck GM. No free agent wants to negotiate with a lame-duck GM. So he will ask for an extension before the end of this season. If the Jays are smart, they will not offer one. Eight years of mediocrity is enough. Time to move on.
Q: Richard: Any ideas why Vernon Wells hits nearly .330 on the road and only .172 at home?
Bill Brasnett, Edmonton
A: I believe that it’s a matter of Wells being too sensitive and at the same time trying to be too cool about the booing he is receiving at the Rogers Centre. Consider that for his career, heading into this season, Wells has hit better (.281 .291) at home than on the road (.276). So why, this year, are those numbers reversed? Wells hears the boos. He knows he’s supposed to be the leader. He’s sensitive to a lot of things. In New York, when he homered and got two hits against A.J. Burnett, Wells was the one that pointed out to writers after the game that he got two hits in the game but was hitless in two ABs with runners in scoring position. Cito Gaston wants his players to treat all their at-bats just the same. But if Wells recognizes the difference between nobody on base and RISP then he also recognizes the difference between at-bats at home where he’s being booed and at-bats on the road with indifference. He obviously prefers indifference.
Q: Hi Richard,
Ricky Romero won his 7th game on Monday, despite the bullpen's best attempts to blow it. Nevertheless, Romero seems to be an unexpected surprise, the same way another certain left-hander was in 2005. My question is: How does Romero continue to be good-to-excellent and avoid falling into the Gustavo Chacin black hole? I doubt Ricky will get his own cologne.
I couldn't help but notice while researching this question that Gustavo is pitching for the Phillies AAA team, although his stats are quite average. How does someone go from garnering two first-place Rookie of the Year votes to playing for Iron Pigs?
Nik Jones, Port St. Lucie, FL
A: Romero has clearly moved into the No. 2 starter’s role for the Jays. Ricky don’t lose that number. By the way, Ricky’s handlers are working on a fragrance Romaire Eau de Ricky. It’s a little fresher than that Chacin cologne, with more lasting power. I believe that the difference between Romero and Chacin is that Romero had to spend more time in the minors. His rise allowed more time to mature and he had more talent to begin with. Ricky’s minor league emotional problems delaying his arrival included the fact that, as the late Warren Zevon might describe it, “He’s just an excitable boy”. Romero describes how in the first inning of games he often had trouble staying within himself. In addition, the defence he is getting behind him at the major-league level far exceeds anything he got in the minors and he uses his defence, not being an overpowering lefty.
As for the current Iron Pig, Chacin, as an introverted Venezuelan kid, really had no guidance within the Jays’ clubhouse. After Miguel Batista left, he was left lockering next to Alex Rios. Hmm. When he was stopped by the police for impaired driving in the wee hours, the day before a spring training start, he immediately went to the back of the line in terms of the Jays organization’ s esteem. He never bounced back.
Q: Hi Richard, What has happened to the Blue Jays as a team? They were a loose and competent bunch much like Tampa Bay is now - they just seem lifeless and indifferent. I know that they have done well without most of their regular pitchers without management even trying to get them some help. Ricciardi appears to be indifferent to the wants and needs of the team. From first to last, what a darn shame.
Tony D'Souza, Toronto
A: All winter they talked about a rotation with Halladay, Jesse Litsch and Dave Purcey holding the fort until Dustin McGowan could get back in late May or early June. Then if they could find just one more competent starter at spring training, they would be in business. On Tuesday, the Jays were forced to use lefty Marc Rz-something-something who was not even on page one of the depth chart when the season opened. It’s tough for the Jays to be loose and competent when the starting lineup on Tuesday is meeting their starting pitcher for the first time ever just four hours before the game begins. The Jays have used 12 starting pitchers in 85 games, six rookies, five of them making their major-league debut.
On field, among their leaders Vernon Wells is phlegmatic, Alex Rios is vacant, Scott Rolen burns like an ember and Kevin Millar’s heart is still in Boston. As for management not trying to get some help, I cannot understand it. There’s help out there, but obviously management believes that this was never going to be a contending year and their inaction is making it a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Q: Hi Rich,
So the Jays are falling apart at the seams. These days it's pitching, other days it's hitting...there's always something that can go wrong if the need arises. All things being equal, it's been a pretty decent season so far, considering the state of the pitching staff, which was predictably weak and was due for a downturn in production (heck, you had an article about it). But the Jays didn't do anything to shore up their pitching before the water came in, so it would seem they never intended to (or didn't see it coming?!?).
With that in mind, the team on the field was supposed to win or lose without any more money spent and that means we are left to focus on the three players who have been the most disappointing. BJ "Juice Box" Ryan, "Furious (swinging)” Vernon Wells, and Alex "Dazed and Confused" Rios. What are your career projections for these three men, what should the Jays do with them and what will they actually do?
Thanks a lot,
Love the Expos stories!
James Emondo, Fort Simpson
A: It actually has been an interesting season for the Jays and one in which in many ways they have done better than expected given the injuries and disappointments on the pitching staff. What to do with those three guys? Ryan can’t be traded in season. If he is serious about re-inventing himself, he should accept a trip to AA-New Hampshire and work things out in the quiet of New England. Then he should ask to go to Florida Instructional League after the season. Then the Jays in the off-season could evaluate the final year of his contract and either keep him or trade him. That could mean taking him to spring training and having other teams see him against major-league hitters.
As for Wells, he is untradable. The contract has $108 million for the final five years and why would the Jays eat a significant portion just to get rid of him. Baseball has certain rules about how much you can actually eat anyway. As for Rios, he is very tradable. Always has been. The guy has tremendous talent, but probably needs a change of scenery. If they want Travis Snider to have a position next year and if Adam Lind is too young to be a full-time DH, then they could look for an off-season Rios deal. They could even throw B.J. into the pot. Just kidding.
Q: There was an article on Tuesday on ESPN.com about Vernon Wells and how it's easier to struggle in a place like Toronto than on the US East Coast. While I agree with the general premise of this, there was a quote by Kevin Millar that didn't exactly add up: “I'm not saying any struggle is easy, because Vernon is definitely trying to cure his thing and get out of it. But you're definitely fortunate that you're in another country and you're playing for the Blue Jays and you've got three beat writers instead of 40.” I find this a bit misleading, since there are more than three writers that follow the Jays, and because if you read this mailbag each week, you can see that the fans are very frustrated with Vernon's performance. Do you feel that the Blue Jay players find it easier to play in Toronto than more cities in the US, aside from the US East coast where scrutiny is intense? Wouldn't this help to attract more players to Toronto then?
Jason Sinnarajah, Sydney, Australia
A: Kevin Millar is full of spit. Ask David Wells about how easy it is to struggle in Toronto and how being out of the country takes some of the heat off and how with only three beat writers it’s a breeze. Maybe if Millar actually was doing something to contribute he might notice there are more than three Jays beat writers, but nobody ever feels the need to talk to him. Millar is clearly still living in the past at Fenway Park where it only looked like there were 40 beat writers because the home clubhouse is like 25 guys dressing in a walk-in closet.
Q: Hey Richard, love the blog. Do the Jays employ a sports psychologist? I think players, especially Wells, could benefit from one, helping him play well under the pressure of his contract. I know there's a stigma surrounding a psychologist, but do any current Major League teams employ a psychologist? Have the Jays ever employed one?
Thanks for answering the questions.
A: Actually since the mid-‘80s there has been a terrific Employee Assistance Program available for major-league players. It includes financial, marital, off-field security and psychological help. The Jays used to have a travelling EAP guy but lately have traveled just the avuncular Director, Team Safety, Ron Sandelli a former Toronto cop who the players trust and who can refer them to the right EAP people. It works but, as for Wells, if it was that easy to create .300 hitters with 30-30 seasons, then you could do the same with struggling pitchers and you’d be back to square one.
How did it come to be that there are four teams in the AL West and six in the NL Central (with five in each of the other divisions)? It doesn't really make any sense. Has there ever been discussion about changing this?
A: There are 30 major-league teams. Baseball did not want the most logical solution of 15 AL and 15 NL because since baseball is an everyday affair it would mean one inter-league series going on all the time. I don’t know why they couldn’t do that - it makes sense - but they don’t. So that leaves 14 AL (5 East-5 Central-4 West) and 16 NL (5 East-6Central-5 West). The reason for the specific division numbers has as much to do with geography as anything else. Expansion is not an option. Neither is contraction.
Q: The Blue Jays remind of Britney Spears... inconsistent, prone to major mental breakdowns, and nothing but a tease.
A: Apparently many of the Jays are big fans of Ms. Spears. Here are some Jays and their top Britney songs:
Alex Rios: Oops, I Did it Again
J.P. Ricciardi: Circus or his second fave Chaotic
Roy Halladay: Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know
B.J. Ryan: Outrageous
Vernon Wells: Overprotected or his second fave (You Drive Me) Crazy.
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