Nowhere in North America is baseball treated with as much reverence as it is in St. Louis. Before the game Tuesday night, baseball clearly demonstrated what it means to the fabric of America with an emotional ceremony honouring 30 ordinary all-stars -- men and women who volunteer their lives to help others. The ceremony was accompanied by a moving video narrated by the five living presidents. The ceremony ended with the baseball all-stars from both teams mingling with the ordinary all-stars for the singing of the National Anthems.
“No matter what one thinks politically, right or left or whatever, this is a big thing,” Commissioner Bud Selig had said earlier in the day. He was right.
For the first pitch, a smiling Obama trotted onto the field in a White Sox jacket, waving to the crowd, before lobbing a left-handed changeup to hometown hero Albert Pujols. There were boos among the cheers, but more for the choice of attire by the president. Obama is a former senator from Illinois and life-long Sox fan.
It was a great night for Aaron Hill.
Now, on to the mailbag.
Q: Hi Richard, I have just one question: Whatever the hell happened to “we're one year away”??!!
David McCabe, Ottawa
A: The worst thing that happened to the Jays in the J.P. Ricciardi years is the mirage of 86 wins in 2003, his second season at the helm. It was good for the fans but promised too much, too soon. All of a sudden, that blip of a season changed his thought process and made him and the organization believe “the future is now”. It made him look like a genius for installing Carlos Tosca as manager and for competing with the big boys on a budget after just two seasons. “Just a couple of more pieces and we can win it all,” was the mantra. Instead of patience and building through the farm, they went for it and won a mere 67 games in 2004. Back to square one. Don’t forget, in ’03, Halladay won 22 games and the Cy Young, while Carlos Delgado and Vernon Wells made like Ruth and Gehrig with a combined 75 home runs and 262 RBIs. Don’t forget Josh Towers at 8-1. After the smoke of ’03 cleared and the mirrors fogged up, the first “one-year plan” became a long-term rebuilding with John Gibbons at the wheel. There was an original plan to win by 2006, don’t let anyone try and rewrite history. We know, after that, there was a plan to win in 2008, but now they’re just so two-thousand-and-late. Then A.J. left and injuries happened and Doc is on his way out the door, so there’s no longer any plan at all.
It’s really disingenious of you to say that the timing of this Doc stuff is "thoughtless". You’re the one who was pushing all winter for the Jays to trade him. If I recall correctly, you mentioned that they "owed" it to him to trade him to a contender. I don't want them to trade him unless he wants it but we aren't privy to any behind the scenes discussions between Doc and JP and if Doc okayed the idea of him being shopped, then all JP's done by going public this week is to create a market which is the smart thing to do. Enough of trying to get your pound of flesh from JP. This week has been disheartening enough for Jays’ fans, your silliness just makes it all the more depressing.
Jays Fan, Toronto
A: The meaning of “thoughtless” in this case was to say that having the info leaked from the organization at that moment in early July just as Halladay was about to be named to the All-Star Game as the starting pitcher took away from his personal moment and put all the focus of the three days in St. Louis on his possibly being traded instead of his being allowed to celebrate the culmination of Doc being Doc. The organization was being thoughtless and selfish. As for pushing all winter for him to be traded to a contender, yes I did. But once again, the Jays needed his presence to sell tickets so they held onto him until they fell out of the race and now they act surprised that they are in this position with huge back-end loaded contracts staring them in the face down the immediate road. Now that’s disingenuous. After convincing their players and their fansd they could contend in 2009 and after a jackrabbit start out of the gate, finally coming back down to earth when the schedule got tougher, they pin it on Doc and say, “Hey we can’t win with him, so let’s rebuild.” That is manipulating the facts.
Q: I am the biggest Roy Halladay fan in the city. I have a signed jersey of his hanging above my desk at work. However, I have to say that the time is now to trade him, as much as I'd hate to see him go. The Jays need to take a page from the Marlins and D-Rays, and accept the fact that the fans will be upset, but have the bigger picture in mind.
The team has made it clear that they will not contend this year, and there's no reason to think they'll contend next year. They are not "one free agent signing" away. They need to stockpile youth, like they are doing now. Trading Halladay will get a stud young pitcher, a legitimate everyday player and more prospects. It is the right thing to do - with the young arms they have, and talented prospects, they will really build a solid nucleus for years to come. Ignore the fan’s reaction and do the right thing.
Jeff G, Toronto
A: I am a Roy Halladay fan too, but the real time to trade him for his sake was last winter, although the Jays’ brass may have looked and seen the strong crop of free agent pitchers out there in CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Derek Lowe, etc. and realized that the richest teams, the same ones that would be after Halladay, were busy trying to spend their money on free agents. So they could make the deal for Doc now or wait until the end of the season, when this year’s free-agent starter crop is thinner. In listening to Halladay speak for the past week, it seems he is resigned to the fact of leaving and if such is the case, then it indeed may be the right thing for Roy. But it only becomes the right thing for the fans if the person making the deal is on top of his game. Of that we’re not sure.
Q: Hi Richard It appears that this is a watershed time for the Jays -- new ownership, interim president, lame duck GM and an ace and face of the franchise possibly on the move. Do you think Beeston becoming the permanent president or the naming of a new president (maybe Stan Kasten) could stabilize this franchise?
Kevin Layman, St. John's
A: The next president will be Canadian and Kasten is not. I doubt sincerely that Beeston will stay on past the end of the World Series. He already knows who he wants to replace him but this is also a bad time for a transition at the top as the team spirals downward through the standings. The franchise will be stabilized when Ricciardi asks for an extension and is denied and whenever the Halladay deal is completed, now or in the off-season, and when the new president comes in and lowers payroll. Stability, thy name if mediocrity.
Q: Hi Richard, I'm just wondering where Paul Beeston stands in this mess I'm calling 'The Roy Halladay Situation'. I'm all for scapegoating our uncultured and idiotic general manager, but isn't Beeston running the ship - at least temporarily - over there? Shouldn't he be taking interview requests, as opposed to ducking them?
Marc Losier, Toronto
A: Beeston is in the business of just handing out more rope to his GM. He has already proven that he is intent on hanging himself. When Beeston approved Ricciardi’s request to field offers for Halladay he didn’t intend for it to become a public circus. So, now there is no reason for him to step in and ratchet the situation down. He has already told Ricciardi to quit talking about it and Halladay said after the ASG that he is not going to talk about it for a while. There are those that believe itr was all a shrewd, well-planned ploy on the part of Ricciardi. Let the info leak and go public, forcing other GMs to feel pressure from their fan-base to get the best pitcher in the game. They believe that if all contending teams know they need to make their best offer that the package the Jays receive will be at its strongest. All of that could have been done through the GM grapevine without any of the public hoopla that has forced Halladay into an uncomfortable situation of dealing with Jays fans who are speculating on whether the pitcher himself asked for the deal. They didn’t need to do it this way.
Q: It's been 16 years since this team made the playoffs. I'm tired of rebuilding. I won't stand for it. If this team is aiming for 2010 to compete, why trade your pitching ace? I'll look for something else to do. When will Paul Beeston take control here? The fans deserve better than this.
Sean Murphy, Bowmanville
A: Beeston was not around when B.J. Ryan was signed and now released or when Vernon Wells was signed and now untradeable or when Corey Koskie was jettisoned to Milwaukee and the Jays paid his salary or when A.J. was given an easy opt-out after three years and left without a counter-offer from the Jays. This team was aiming for 2007, then 2004, then 2008 then 2010. All of those bets are off. Something has always happened to change the five-year plan into something else. They claim they never set dates but they did. At the beginning of this year, they were talking about how strong they would be when Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan return healthy in 2010 to join Halladay and Jesse Litsch. Now that Ricky Romero has stepped up, they said that would be a competitive rotation. Add the emergence of Hill and Adam Lind and Travis Snider re-finding his stroke and Scott Rolen and Lyle Overbay and Rios still under contract and that has all the makings of a contender. Roll the dice, guys. Instead, they have already given up on 2010, going with talented youth and are willing to count on Ricciardi being able to do something he has never done well – trade an established star for future stars. Never has he done that well. Never.
Q: I'm a Blue Jay fan living here in Ohio. I have followed the club for the entire 33-year existence. Needless to say, the news of a possible trade of Roy Halladay was not enthusiastically received on my part. I remember a few years back word got out here in my neck of the woods that the Cincinnati Reds were on the cusp of trading Ken Griffey Jr. for Phil Nevin. This news was met with profound apathy from the Reds fan base. I have long thought the Reds may have accidentally-on-purpose leaked the news of a possible Griffey trade to gauge the public reaction had any transaction involving Griffey actually been made. Do you suppose the Blue Jays had a similar motivation in letting the news out that they were listening to offers for Halladay? After all, had there been zero fan reaction, it is safe to say the club would be better serve to trade him than to attempt to re-sign him. One thing is for sure, if Halladay is traded, then the Blue Jays are officially in a Montreal Expos type of situation.
Jim Branscome, Newark, Ohio
A: I don’t discount that possibility of a purposeful leak. But when Ricciardi went on radio in New York and told one of his favoured big-market media friends on air that this Halladay thing would only cause a “stir” in markets that care, like New York, Philadelphia and Boston, he was basically saying that the strategy you suggest was not part of his thought process. I do believe that a lot of GMs do leak info like that to gauge public reaction. The Jays are not officially in an Expos type situation, because the difference is the Jays painted themselves into a financial corner with bad contracts, while the Expos never reached that point. They were always on a budget. What the Jays need is someone like former Expos’ personnel VP Bill Stoneman who never allowed his headstrong GMs, some of whom would have spent like drunken sailors, to do it.
Q: The release of BJ is not the first time the Jays have had to "swallow " a contract. Does anyone have a total of the number of dollars the Jays have lost thru decisions like this by the GM?? It must be massive!
Bruce Norris, Nanaimo
A: It’s not just inflated contracts like B.J., Frank Thomas and Koskie that Ricciardi has been forced to eat that are the issue. It’s the lucrative contracts he has liberally handed out to players that ended up not earning their keep. How about Royce Clayton, David Eckstein, Terry Adams and Shea Hillenbrand? Ricciardi was always at his best when trying to save money. He’s at his worst when trying to spend money.
Q: Hey Richard,
I saw Alex Anthopoulos saying a few words on TV the other day and he had a very uneasy, "deer In the headlights" kinda look about him. We fans don't really know much about this character. Do you feel he would be a strong candidate/presence as the future GM of this organization, or is he still a bit green? Is he even being considered, or will they go with an older established "Name"? Assuming JP's out that is.
Dave Kuzenko, Regina
A: Anthopoulos would be a good GM with a distinctly different personal style than the current one. He is not used to doing radio and TV work having always been a background guy. I know exactly the deer in the headlights look to which you are referring, but with more experience at doing media interviews he would get over it. The strengths of Anthopulos are the respect he has for Canadians, the fact that he would hire solid advisors and would listen to their advice in areas of their expertise and that he is a genuinely nice guy that came up in the Expos’ organization learning from some good ones. At this stage of his career he is no different than the GMs in Texas, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Houston, Pittsburgh and others. This game is going younger for its GMs. The Jays have another good candidate in Tony LaCava who also has the strength of listening to good advice.
I know you are a fan of the nuances of baseball rules, whether they make sense or not, so bear with me as this is a tad silly. Let me lay it out in a hypothetical scenario. National League game, we'll say the Expos are involved and at home. Pedro Martinez has just finished off the top of the 8th in a tie game. He is due to lead off the bottom. The Expos pinch hit for Pedro with Larry Walker. They go on to score a couple runs that inning, and John Wetteland comes in and gets the save in the 9th. Now... Pedro gets the win, as he was the pitcher of record when the winning run scored. BUT, technically, wasn't Larry Walker the pitcher at that point? I realize Larry Walker is not a pitcher, and that they will give the win to the most recent actual pitcher in that slot when the run scored. But, consider this: When doing a double-switch, you are effectively saying that a position player is the pitcher, and vice-versa. So position players CAN be pitchers sometimes, even if they don't pitch. By that logic, Larry Walker should get the win in the above example. I know this is kind of crazy, and largely pointless, but I just wanted to get your thoughts. I love the blog... keep up the fantastic work.
Tim Farrell, Toronto
A: A player is not considered a pitcher until he strides up the hill and steps to the rubber and is announced into the game. At that point, he does not even have to throw a pitch to be considered in the game as a pitcher. Teams only truly need a pitcher in their defensive innings. The Expos had pesky Ron Hunt as their leadoff man in the early ‘70s, he was like a human piñata, constantly getting plunked by pitches. He set the major-league record of 50 in one year. He was injured once, but Gene Mauch batted him leadoff on the road, listing him as the pitcher. He got hit then they pinch-ran for him and in the bottom of the first inserted the pitcher in the one-hole for the rest of the game. Hunt was never credited with a game as a pitcher. Baseball closed that loophole shortly thereafter.
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