Long before Alex Anthopolous was handed the reigns to Canada’s Major League franchise, a different type of boss was at the helm.
On November 11th, 2001, J.P Ricciardi replaced former Ticket Agent, Gord Ash as the GM of the 80-82 ball club. A ball club that at the time was managed by none other than Buck Martinez.
Ricciardi had made a name of himself working under Moneyball whiz Billy Beane and was brought in to the Blue Jays organization in hopes of being able lower payroll while increasing the talent on the field similar to the work he had been involved with in Oakland.
During his tenure with Toronto, Ricciardi made his share of moves. Some worked out well for the club and some were questionable at best.
Questionable: Alex Rios.
During the off season of 2007, rumors surfaced regarding a proposed trade between the San Francisco Giants and the Toronto Blue Jays. They Giants were looking for a “Cornerstone” type of Outfielder that they could build around… If you don’t remember these rumors, here’s a refresher.
In April of 2008, Rios was inked to 7 year, $69,835,000 contract after hitting .297 with a career high 24 Home Runs and his 2nd straight All Star selection.
Perhaps the pressure of playing up to the massive contract got to the young Outfielder as his numbers would begin to decline following the deal. On June 4th 2009, Rios would go 0-5 in a 6-5 loss to LAA… All of his outs were recorded via the Strikeout. He was on waivers by August.
Maybe you remember hearing about this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mt9hRCthV8E
Other shaky decisions include the Albatross of a contract handed to Vernon Wells, the B.J Ryan fiasco, Russ Adams and who could forget how J.P let (arguably) the greatest Blue Jay to ever wear the Toronto uniform walk away following the 2004 season? Yes, I am still bitter about the way Carlos Delgado left Toronto.
It would be unfair to Riccairdi if I left out the positives he accomplished while running the club.
Under J.P, the Blue Jays drafted players such as Shaun Marcum, Marc Rzepcynski and Aaron Hill, who’s break out season in ’09 will go down as one of the best single season efforts by a Blue Jay 2nd Baseman in team history.
It ‘s worth mentioning how Ricciardi facilitated a trade that sent out power armed Billy Koch in return for future Rookie of the year, Eric Hinske. Koch would have a career year in 2002 but find himself out of baseball by ’05. Hinske would go on to hit 66 Home Runs during his 5 seasons with the Blue Jays.
A nucleus of J.P’s “Guys” still call Toronto home. Names such as Jesse Litsch, Eric Thames, Adam Lind, Travis Snider, J.P Arencibia and Casey Janssen have all found success at the big league level and are still with the club as of 2012.
August 13th, 2008 and July 31st, 2009. These dates were unquestionably the finest days of J.P’s career at the helm of the Blue Jays.
Following a demotion to AAA, a relatively untested 3rd Baseman / Outfielder was traded to Toronto for Catching prospect Robinzon Diaz. In Diaz the Pirates picked up a Catcher who had hit for average in the Minors while providing steady defense.
The 3rd Baseman / Outfielder picked up by the Blue Jays was Jose Bautista.
I don’t need to go in to the details about how Bautista has been the Blue Jays best player over the past 3 seasons… I’ll let his record setting 7,454,753 All Star votes do the talking.
In 2009, Riccairdi sent Scott Rolen to Cincinnati for Zack Stewart, Josh Roenicke and a raw power hitting 3rd Baseman by the name of Edwin Encarnacion.
Stewart would later be flipped to Chicago in the deal that brought Colby Rasmus to Toronto, Roenicke was put on waivers only to be picked up by Colorado and Encarnacion would stick with the team,
Despite his struggles with the glove, Encarnacion would show flashes of Ruthian like strength over the next couple of seasons. This strength parlayed itself into a 1 year contract with Toronto for the 2012 season.
As of Friday, Bautista and Encarnacion have combined for 48 Home Runs making them the most potent 1,2 punch in the American League. Not to be forgotten, Arencibia has hit 10 Round Trippers putting him in 4th place among AL Catchers in that category.
It’s a shame how Ricciardi never got to stick around and see some of his moves pay off for the club in the later years however Anthopolous is no slouch and is doing a great job of turning this team back in to a contender… While cleaning up some of J.P’s mess in the process.
Sure J.P had his ups and downs while with Tornoto. Sadly, in sport, fans tend to dwell on the negatives rather than search for the positives when it comes to remembering former GM’s and J.P Ricciardi is no exception when it comes to his time with the Jays.
Following his departure from Toronto, Ricciardi signed on with fellow Moneyballer Sandy Alderson down in New York.
How about those Mets this season?