On September 22 2008, in their 156th game of the season, the Toronto Blue Jays were officially eliminated from post-season contention. Since J.P. Ricciardi took over as GM in 2001, the Blue Jays have been eliminated with an average of 13 games remaining in the season. To put that in perspective, from 1985 to 1993, the Blue Jays played a grand total of 12 meaningless games. I suppose it could be explained by the cyclical nature of the game. Every team has its ups and downs. But that doesn’t make it good. And that doesn’t mean the Jays have to settle for mediocrity for a certain period of time.
The problem is that the Blue Jays play in the AL East. As the brilliant Hank Steinbrenner noted the other day, no other division is as competitive as the AL East. But the Tampa Bay Rays, of all teams, have provided hope. They moved past both the Yankees and the Red Sox. This is not to say that their method – suck for ten years and build up a massive store of awesome players – is desirable or even feasible. No, the Jays need to steal the parts they can use: smart spending, emphasize reliable pitching, and create depth. And hopefully they avoid sucking for 10 years.
The Jays can start with the removal of J.P. Ricciardi as general manager. In seven years, he’s made a couple of good trades and a lot of bad trades. His free agent signings have been hit and miss. Ted Rogers has authorize the Jays to spend over $100 million on the payroll; it really shouldn’t be that hard to put together a really good team for $100 million or just over. I understand some of the signings – Vernon Wells couldn’t be allowed to leave even though he’s wildly overpaid now and Ricciardi took a gamble on A.J. Burnett that I fully supported and continue to support – but it was the small things that hurt him in the end: poor choices for manager, inability to put the team over the top with a key trade, inability to find a reasonably decent shortstop, and, finally, releasing Reed Johnson for no apparent reason. If I squint, I can probably blame him for those appalling uniforms.
Ricciardi has to go. He’s had enough time to prove his worth. If Paul Godfrey stays on, he needs to pick a new GM. He has Cito Gaston (a criminally underrated manager) in charge for two more years so the GM will have to work with Gaston while grooming a successor (chosen in consultation with Gaston, of course). And, for the love of all that is good and pure, get rid of those awful uniforms.