There was so much mail with regard to the ill-advised speculation by Jays’ GM J.P. Ricciardi regarding the future of Roy Halladay that we were compelled to do a second mailbag this week. Make no mistake, whatever happens with Halladay, his future is secure and his future Hall-of-Fame career will continue to unfold as one of the game’s best starting pitchers.
For some reason, I remember vividly the first question I ever asked Doc as journalist to player. He was brought along on a spring training trip to Sarasota in 1997 and had just thrown his first inning in a Blue Jays uniform, a meaningless Grapefruit League contest vs. the White Sox at the age of 19. He was shirtless in his baseball pants, sitting by himself on a bench in front of his locker as the rest of the game unfolded outside. I walked up and said, “Roy?” He looked up at this stranger. “How exciting was that for you? Are you going to call your parents when you get back to Dunedin?” He fixed me in those steely blue eyes, looking at me as if I was nuts. “I don’t think so,” he said. Clearly this 19-year-old had bigger things in mind. Now, 12 years later, I sometimes still get the same look when I ask what I think is a clever question. Clearly this 32-year-old still has bigger things in mind. If the current general manager has anything to say about it, they might not include the Jays.
Q: Hey Richard,
Could you tell J.P. Ricciardi for me that if he trades Roy Halladay, I will never attend another Blue Jays game? And no, I don't care if the package he gets includes Tim Lincecum, Ryan Braun, and Hanley Ramirez put together.
Robert Buckler, Oshawa
A: I think that’s part of what the Jays are forgetting about when they talk about listening to offers for Halladay at this point in time. I think they are forgetting that a team is the sum of its 25 parts and that the most important part to fans is the man who has shown the strongest work ethic, fan and city loyalty of any Toronto baseball player in a long, long time. Plus he is the most talented Jay and one of the few worth the price of admission. The timing of the announcement by Ricciardi is thoughtless.
With all the talk about Halladay, I have just one simple question. When is Toronto going to stand up and stop being a baseball backwater?
We are the fourth largest city in North America and three of the other cities in front of us share their markets with two teams. (Yanks/Mets, Angels/Dodgers, Cubs/Sox). Who on earth decided that we are a "mid-market" team? And even when we got off to the hot start this year, there were grumblings about the attendance. It's tough to be angry with the fans when it has been relentlessly drilled into our heads over and over again for the past eight years that “we can't compete” by our very own boy wonder GM. Well why not? What is stopping us? The fans will support a winner. It's just been too long for most to remember what that feels like. This town is crying out for a winner and with the death grip MLSE has over the sports franchises in this city, a winner isn't going to come from them.
The best value for sports in this town is a family of four sitting in the 500 Level in the Rogers Centre for $40 dollars and watching Halladay pitch. That price point doesn't even get you a single ticket in the last row of the Purples for the Leafs! Is it time for an attitude change in the front office? What will it take to convince the Rogers folks that this is Toronto and we deserve to play with the big boys in the league?
J. Walsh, North York
A: I agree and I’ve written in the past that to label Toronto a mid-market to small-market city is silly. There was no such designation when the Jays had baseball’s highest team payroll in 1992-93 and was luring free agents like Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor, Jack Morris and Dave Stewart. The Jays have a potential TV market of 33-million viewers and a drawing area of over 8-million people in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, which actually ranks sixth in North America among urban sprawls.
The key as you point out is that Toronto supports a winner in baseball in terms of in-stadium attendance. Recall that during the great strike of ’94, when baseball came up with the wacky idea of playing the ’05 season with replacement players, the Jays were going to play all of their home games in Dunedin and Cito Gaston had refused to manage. That’s when the fan-base erosion began and it’s hard to blame them. The Jays have not won since and here we sit as a mid-market excuse for management to say they can’t compete.
Q: Hi Richard,
With the inevitable talk of trading Halladay heating up, I'd like to get your opinion on a couple of questions.
1. Don't you think it would be wiser to hold on to Roy until next year to see if the starting rotation can rebound and we have a chance at contending? This segways into question 2. The trades of Johan Santana and CC Sabathia gained little in return for either the Twins or Indians and I can't see how JP could do any better. I'd suggest, hold onto Roy until after the all-star break next season, and if we are out of it by then trade him to one of the contenders (not the Yanks or Sox!) and give him the shot at the post-season that he deserves. Your thoughts?
George O'Hagan, Ayton, Ont.
A: I believed during the winter when the Jays were talking about rebuilding and at the winter meetings when Gaston said it would be a year of finding things out about personnel heading to 2010 that they should have traded Halladay at that point to a contender, as you said, to give him a chance to earn a World Series ring. Plus, they would have had a nice return in the form of major-league-ready players and prospects, with two years remaining on Halladay’s deal. They did not do that and as the season unfolded the Jays began with a flourish, giving hope that they were a year ahead of their stated goal. It ain’t happening but nothing has changed about this team from what Cito predicted at the winter meetings when he hoped to play .500 – which of course is what they are doing.
That was the time to trade Halladay.
Next off-season, after this schedule winds down, is the time to trade Halladay. Now is not the time to trade Halladay. Face it, any team that is willing to trade for Halladay come November is a team that wants to negotiate a long-term deal with him beyond the 2010 season for which he is already contracted for $15.75 million.
If Doc was traded to either the Yankees or Red Sox would make it an in-season slap in the face to fans telling them that because of their lack of support, their best player must be traded to one of their most hated rivals. I don’t care who they got back in return, the short and long-term PR damage cannot be discounted as, “Oh, they’ll get over it.”
Q: Mr. Griffin,
Just wondering what your take on Ricciardi coming out and saying that he would entertain trade possibilities for Doc. Is this a sign of desperation on his part? Had Doc gone to him quietly to say he's ready to move on? With his track record, I am worried about what Ricciardi's definition of "blow us away" would be and think it's a shame that perhaps the best Toronto sports figure could be on the move.
P. K., Guelph, Ont.
A: I believe that the issue unfolded because of Ricciardi’s addiction to U.S. national media attention. He’s a FOXaholic. When he was asked the question in New York regarding making a trade and who would be available, it was obviously in the back of his mind that he would listen to offers for Halladay at this point in time, although the last public musings he had made to local Jays media was that Doc was not available during the season, but since that time the Jays’ toboggan run through the standings had already begun.
When the story game out on CBS Sportsline that “Ricciardi would have to listen to offers on anyone if it was going to make his team better” it was picked up by others, like FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal who all have immediate access to Ricciardi. But instead of backtracking, J.P. chose to add detail and has created a monster that comes at exactly the wrong time for the low-key, intensely private Halladay to absorb. The All-Star Game press conference for Halladay will be a zoo as media from New York, Boston, Philly, Milwaukee, Chicago et al. will meet at Doc’s interview table in a feeding frenzy. He does not like it and privately must be cursing his GM’s lack of tact.
Q: Hi Richard, Ontario exile in the UK here, but I weekly read you religiously. The Doc thing reminds me a bit about Dave Stieb, remember him? He was an elite hurler for years, and griped a bit too - unlike Halladay - but stayed around long enough to see the club flourish and become champions. Maybe Roy is heading in the same direction...NO? Please don't go Doc - Man!
Kenny Moore, London, England
A: Comparing Halladay and Stieb is like comparing apples and limes. While Halladay is an all-American boy revered by his teammates, Stieb was prickly, cantankerous and disliked by many of his teammates. Halladay is more like Pat Hentgen. Whereas Stieb would glare at teammates after bad defensive plays, Halladay glares at himself for making the pitch that was hit to a position where a teammate couldn’t make a play. Legend has it that when Stieb designed a custom-made home in Tahoe after he retired that it was designed with no guest bedroom.
Q: Why not package Halladay and Wells? ...You may get a team that wants Halladay so badly it would swallow Wells' contract, hoping he males a comeback.
Chas Calz, Hamilton
A: The Marlins insisted that third baseman Mike Lowell’s contract be included in the Josh Beckett deal with the Red Sox. That worked out for Boston. Maybe you have a good thought there about attaching Wells to Halladay. But that’s a deal that would have to be done in the off-season. I like your thinking. But if the Jays were asked to eat a chunk of Vernon’s contract I don’t think it would happen.
Q: Hi Richard,
Easy question for you - as I see it J.P. is saying trading Halladay is a necessary evil of the lack of competitive balance in the AL East. To my mind it’s more due to the ridiculous contracts given to Wells, Rios and Ryan. Do you agree? If so - fire the bum!
Richard Williams, Redditch, England
A: Okay, so the AL East is the most competitive and the deepest division in baseball. Heading into Friday’s play the East was a combined 32 games above .500. So because you feel you can’t stand the heat, not only do you get out of the kitchen, but you’re going to fire the chef. The Jays feel that if they were in another division they could make it to the post-season. The fact is that to be in the post-season you just needed to have the best second-place record of any of the three divisions (it’s called the wild-card). So if they felt they could have won the other divisions, then logic says that all they have had to do in the past is beat out one of the Red Sox or Yankees. They didn’t do it and now the Rays have come along to done exactly what the Jays couldn’t. I don’t hear them whining.
First Paul Godfrey kept them in the East where the payrolls are too high to compete, then Ricciardi destroyed the team’s goodwill and made some terrible decisions on free agents and re-signing Wells and Rios that have handcuffed the team for years to come; Rogers has been terrible as the SkyDome with horrible quality food and drink (compare the street hotdogs for quality and price to the stadium ones), now they are going to trade away the only sure hall of fame player the organization has ever had.
Tell me, assuming that the Jays can stay in Toronto (I think they may be gone within five years), what hope if any is there for the fans and why should we watch? P.S. Don't say for the love of the sport, b/c for the love of the sport I can drive to Detroit, Boston or New York and watch games.
A: On the last homestand, I asked Halladay about any discussions for a contract extension with the Jays. He quietly stated that they had agreed to put any of that talk off until the off-season because it was a distraction. Now that Ricciardi has started the trade fires burning, it makes for a bigger distraction than Halladay ever wanted or imagined. But the GM believes that his declarations have not caused a stir in Toronto among fans, only in New York, Boston, Philly and the East Coast markets that really matter.
I don’t think blaming Godfrey for them staying in the East is quite right. There was never any discussion of moving divisions but he did say that he enjoyed being in the East every time the Red Sox and Yankees came to town and packed the Rogers Centre. Besides, high payrolls don’t always a division winner make.
It’s interesting to note that the winter before signing Wells, J.P. explored every trading option. When none worked out, the Jays signed him long-term. The winter before signing Rios, J.P. explored every trading option. When none worked out, the Jays signed him long-term. Should both those deals also go on his trade record? Maybe.
As for the Jays going somewhere, they’re here to stay. As for why fans should continue to watch? I would say that as a family outing with the kids or with friends, it’s still a damn good evening of entertainment for a reasonable price. But if it’s only about going to see a win, then, you’re right, “love of the game” means nothing.
Q: Hi Richard,
With the Jays free falling, shouldn't it be a perfect time to fire J.P.? When the Jays were so strong coming out of the gate, he did nothing in trying to improve when the Jays desperately need a solid starter, such as signing Pedro. I just heard the Jays are listening to offers for Doc. It's a shame! If Doc has to go, J.P. should go first.
Anthony Tam, Hong Kong
A: Put it this way. The ideal time for trading Halladay would have been in the period from October 31 to December 15, 2009 after having explored an extension with his agents and then realizing that Doc deserves and will earn more than you can afford. You would quietly get players back that can help you in 2010 and the other team quietly gets the final year for the best pitcher in the AL and can negotiate an extension.
The ideal time for firing Ricciardi would have been in the period from October 5 to November 5, 2009 prior to free-agent signing period, so that other teams and free agents and the Jays’ current players could know in which direction the Jays were heading. But with the firestorm created by the Halladay for sale signs that J.P. has hung out there now, all bets are off. Anything could happen at any time and we would not be surprised. Either Alex Anthopoulos or Tony LaCava could do a fine interim job with a chance for full-time.
Richard's mail bag usually appears every Wednesday in this space. Click here to send Richard a question, and he'll answer a selection. **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.**