The Fall of B.J. Ryan: What it Means for Toronto Blue Jays

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The Fall of B.J. Ryan: What it Means for Toronto Blue Jays
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

I spent tonight watching the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays slog through one of the most painful games in recent memory.

The excellent return of Roy Halladay aside, the Jays were unable to beat a team that's given them fits consistently. This wouldn't be so bad if it were still Interleague play; but the Jays squandered an opportunity to gain some ground in the Thunderdome that is the AL East.

Volumes could be written about the Toronto's current situation. That's a story for another day (SPOILER ALERT: It resembles The Shining, Jack Nicholson's wife is reading the paper in the typewriter about now).

While watching the game with my brother a strange phenomenon occurred. We had changed channels for a moment (Heat was on and you can't ignore De Niro vs. Pacino) and when we came back B.J. Ryan had taken the mound.

My brother and I both groaned.

What? Has it come to this? Does seeing B.J. Ryan take the mound merit a response equal to being stuck in traffic?

Apparently so.

I hate to badmouth players. It's something I feel I have no right to do and it makes me feel like Simon Cowell telling good singers they're not quite good enough. Meanwhile, we still wait for Mr. Cowell's debut album (I'm told it's a hybrid house/country record).

But has B.J. Ryan broken this soft-hearted writer's code of ethics?

Almost.

Ryan underwent the dreaded Tommy John surgery in 2007. He bounced back in 2008 by saving 32 games; but has now been demoted from closer, and has had his pitching placed under intense scrutiny.

The evidence is mounting against Ryan. The drop in velocity (he averages an 87.5 MPH fastball, down from a career 90.2 MPH) has been the most apparent change. Ryan can't attack a hitter the way he used to and it's hurt him.

His slider has lost some of it's sparkle as well. This has to be a result of losing some speed off his fastball. It's hard to change speeds when the speeds remain pretty much the same.

Ryan has no third pitch to diversify his arsenal either. He was born to be a closer and would have a hard time trying to develop something new now. Hitters can sit on either of his pitches and punish him for being predictable.

B.J. Ryan has two saves this season, which equals his number of blown saves.

The thing that's killer is his control. Because B.J. can't power past hitters he's trying to finesse the ball and is walking more than his fair share of batters.

Ryan has 15 walks in 20 innings of work, averaging 6.63 walks per nine innings. That's the worst number Ryan has ever posted. He's given up four homers, which is the same amount he gave up in 58 innings last year. His strikeouts per nine innings is 6.16, the lowest he's ever had.

Even crazier is that his flyball rate has jumped to 52.5 percent, much higher than his career 37.4 percent average. With the Dome heating up, this is begging for the long fly.

To be blunt he's having a rougher go of things than when Dorothy crashed into Oz. Unfortunately, the Tinman was unavailable for comment.

It looks like Ryan is being inserted into games because of the obligation Toronto owes to a man they pay $12 million a year. Anyone else would be demoted to Triple-A or DL'ed, but Ryan is given the chances to prove his worth that may not exist for others.

The possibility of moving him is almost nil. No team would take on a contract so large with the possibility of total collapse so near.

With a team like Toronto claiming to be strapped for cash, having such big money tied up in an enigma is poison. Ryan is signed through 2010, the same year Roy Halladay's contract also expires.

Who do you think is going to see an extension sent their way? 

I've been critical of J.P. Ricciardi in the past, but his signing of B.J. Ryan to such a luxurious deal may be the worst contract in baseball. Forget Vernon Wells for a moment, because this is money that doesn't even field a position everyday.

The tease of Ryan last season paralyzed the front office and left the Jays clutching at straws. A lot of those straws have panned out, but Toronto is spread so thin they may be Canada's Next Top Model.

Toronto doesn't owe Ryan anything right now.

Wait.

Toronto doesn't contractually owe Ryan anything besides $12 million right now.

When the Jays put Ryan in during tonight's game it was almost an admission of defeat. Sure, a thin bullpen is part of the problem, but his duties have become a joke to the Jays and especially to B.J. Ryan.

When you look at Ryan's eyes you see the same fire that's burned so many hitters in the past. He has so much pride and desire that if I could, I'd start spiking opponents Gatorade to give him a hand.

Being given garbage duties is below a man who once raced out of the bullpen and sent the Rogers Center into fits of excitement. Now the only people getting excited are in the outfield seats because they might have a chance to use their gloves.

If Ryan is healthy things should change. His ERA has dropped to 5.40, down from 8.03 at the beginning of June. This is good.

But he's still struggling to get things done. In his last 3.2 innings Ryan has walked six batters with one strikeout. He was bailed out last game when Carlos Pena did what Carlos Pena does and hit into the shift for a double play.

If Ryan isn't healthy he should be resting. Why rush a man who has proven in the past he can get things done? Trotting him out there just to make him earn his pay is asinine. Give him a chance to find his pitch without it being in a pressure situation.

Pride must be put aside for the sake of winning.

This whole season has been about just sending B.J. out there and hoping he'll work through his problems. That's the same train of thought Toronto has followed all year. It's had varying degrees of success and failure.

Managing can only do so much. Sometimes the team needs to take the hit and sit or demote guys who are undeserving or unready. Even spending a little money wouldn't be a terrible idea.

Hope is a dangerous thing in professional sports. To quote The Foundations, "Why do you build me up Buttercup, baby, just to let me down?"

Yet I hope to see B.J. Ryan dominating once more. I hope to see the Jays win every night. I hope that it will all work out in the end.

So build me up Buttercup, don't break my heart.

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