Ricciardi lasted longer than anyone expected
J.P. Ricciardi probably lasted longer in the job than anyone, including himself, figured he would.
His eight-year tenure as general manager of the Blue Jays came to the not unexpected conclusion a likely majority of fans was aching for when Paul Beeston and Tony Viner, president and CEO of Rogers Media, flew to Baltimore this morning and gave him the official news. Ricciardi knew it was coming.
This wasn't Beeston's only dirty job on the day; later on, he listened to the complaints from six of his ball players about manager Cito Gaston -- the same manager that Ricciardi, and everyone up to and including Beeston, always insisted that Ricciardi had hired back more than a season ago.
It was the Jays' reasonably inspired play under Gaston in the latter half of the 2008 season -- the team went 51-37 -- that actually preserved Ricciardi's job an extra season, because he, like then-president Paul Godfrey, had been scheduled to walk the plank if a playoff berth was not secured. Ricciardi survived, although Godfrey didn't, and he actually survived an extra day because of the kerfuffle with the news breaking of the player uprising against Gaston.
Beeston had gone to the Rogers board in the middle of the week for the okay to fire Ricciardi -- he has a year's worth of money still owing -- and Friday was devoted to fighting that fire, not to lighting another one, even if it was one everybody knew was coming.
Alex Anthopolous takes over on, officially, a permanent basis and the Jays, which means Beeston at this point until his own successor arrives imminently, really like him. They would love to let this smart, young, albeit inexperienced guy run with the job -- it worked for Theo Epstein in Boston -- and perhaps bring in someone like Pat Gillick to be a senior advisor. But there's a new president arriving within weeks, if not days, and he is entitled to bring in his own GM. Anthopolous knows this, and knows he carries a strong recommendation from Beeston, who forms the search committee to find his sown successor.
Other chroniclers will detail the good and bad that Ricciardi both brought and left behind better than I will. Nobody in this very inexact science ever goes without making mistakes and he made his share, certainly.
Like Gord Ash before him, he left some solid players in the system for his successor, but also spent unwisely when the rubber band came off the bankroll. Ricciardi complained incessantly about the contract for Carlos Delgado -- something like $18 million a season -- and how it hamstrung him going forward. But Delgado kept hitting 30 homers and driving in 100 runs; by comparison, look at the $105 million headache Ricciardi left behind for the next regime in Vernon Wells.
There's some young pitching, though, and a couple of good young hitters. The next man, like Ricciardi, will forever be looking up at the money mountains in Boston and New York and wonderiing how to scale them, but Tampa Bay did it once, so there must be a path.
There are parts in place, though. That's the good news. Beeston has spent an entire year trying to clean up the business side of the operation and it should be pointed out that Ted Rogers, whose company still owns the team, probably was the second-richest owner in North American professional sports (his personal estate left him second to Paul Allen, the Microsoft guy, if you're counting.)
There should be no case of the shorts for the next president to deal with and that's a good thing. The way things are going for the Jays these days, there is plenty of other stuff to handle.