Maybe the Blue Jays Should Trade Roy Halladay

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Maybe the Blue Jays Should Trade Roy Halladay
(Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

The sentiment expressed in the headline is a far departure from the position that I held even two short weeks ago. Why the change in opinion?

First, I’ll begin with why I initially believed, before the July 31 trade deadline, that Roy Halladay should not be traded, even if it meant that he walked after the 2010 season. Then I’ll discuss what has changed.

 

Trading Halladay: The Best Case Scenario

Many sportswriters and fans have cited the best case scenario for a Halladay trade to be what Cleveland and Baltimore did in their deals for their ace pitchers.

But, J.P. Ricciardi was not the general manager of either of those clubs when they got good players for their aces, so it’s far from guaranteed that Ricciardi could pull something like that off. It’s not a sure thing that Ricciardi trading Halladay for prospects, that might be good in two to three years, would be best for the future of the franchise.

If it was guaranteed to be the best thing for future of the franchise, then absolutely, the deal should be made. But, such a trade would have no such guarantee.

Especially in baseball, prospects are hit and miss.

Just take a look at David Purcey, Ricciardi’s first round draft pick (16th overall) in 2004.  Purcey had excellent AAA numbers last season, but then he fell upon hard times in the majors this season and subsequently got demoted early on in the season. Who knew?

I think that Ricciardi might be able to get some prospects with good minor league numbers, but how (or even if) they actually perform in the majors is anyone’s guess. I don’t like the idea of trading as close as there is to a sure thing in baseball for question marks.

Furthermore, let’s take a closer look at this “best case scenario”. Cleveland’s currently second last in their division and Baltimore’s in last place. Another franchise that Ricciardi likes to model his club after is Oakland, who is also in last place in their division.

Personally, if I’m choosing to model myself after someone I’d rather choose someone like Warren Buffett, rather than a homeless guy.

Trading Halladay: The Worst Case Scenario

What’s the worst case scenario?

What about Boston trading Babe Ruth to New York, for money? After that trade, the Yankees were one of the most successful franchises in baseball and it took the Red Sox 86 years to win a World Series.

Ricciardi got nothing in return for players like Reed Johnson, Frank Thomas, B.J. Ryan and now Alex Rios too, not even money. In fact, Ricciardi made ownership pay large sums of money (in remaining contract money) to release the first three.

What’s another example in history of trading a franchise player going badly awry?  Montreal trading Pedro Martinez was arguably the beginning of the end for that franchise. That’s a horrific worst case scenario.

What would be worth taking that kind of risk?

In my opinion, in order to adequately account for such a huge risk, I would want Mark Teixeira and C.C. Sabathia in return for Halladay. Not prospects that might be like those two. Really. I believe that Halladay means that much to the organization.

Obviously, there’s little to no chance that anybody would be willing to give up that much, so the Blue Jays shouldn’t trade Halladay. If Halladay asked for a trade, then that would be different. But, he hasn’t asked for a trade, so the Blue Jays shouldn’t trade him. Simple.

 

Not Trading Halladay: The Worst Case Scenario

What’s the worst case scenario if the Blue Jays don’t trade Roy Halladay? Halladay walks after the 2010 season. And then, the Blue Jays would get the following benefits:

* Two high draft picks

* A better chance at signing good free agents this offseason

* A better shot at signing the Jays #1 draft pick this year (and other picks who idolize Halladay)

Also, the following benefits (and more) would continue to exist for more than another season (two months after the trade deadline + next season):

* Having Halladay to influence/teach the pitchers (especially the rookies)

* Having Less disgruntled fans; i.e. ownership likely averts a big sales drop

* A more confident/upbeat clubhouse, likely leading to more wins, which should thereby lead to more revenue for ownership

* Children from the Hospital for Sick Children getting to sit in Halladay’s private box during games and meet their hero in person

* More people in need getting helped by the food drive and other community services, that Roy Halladay and his wife, Brandy, donate their time and money to

* A Cy Young Award winning pitcher to pitch every fifth game

Personally, I believe that Halladay influencing the pitchers for an extra season and a third, by itself, is worth the difference between getting prospects now and two draft picks in the future.

Why? The improvement of A.J. Burnett showed how great an influence Halladay can be on others.

For those who didn’t witness it, Burnett came in as an often-injured career .500 thrower but then, after spending some time with Halladay, he left as a healthy 18 game winning pitcher, who also led the league in strikeouts.

Is there a better mentor than the best pitcher in baseball, who has unparalleled work ethic, for the Blue Jays pitchers to both observe and learn from? Halladay’s presence is probably even more beneficial for the young pitchers, who are likely more impressionable.

So, when you add all the other positives that I listed in this worst case scenario, it doesn’t even become a real question—I’d without hesitation choose not to trade him, even if it means that he walks after 2010.

Not Trading Halladay: The Best Case Scenario

The best case scenario if the Blue Jays don’t trade Halladay is that they get more championship rings than Halladay has fingers to put them on, and also have him finish his career in Toronto.

I believe that Halladay could be the Blue Jays’ Cal Ripken Jr. (who played his entire career for a single team), if management straightens up and rewards him for his efforts and loyalty.

I think that dreams like those are a big part of the reason why the Blue Jays haven’t lost even more fans.

 

Ripe For the Picking

Now, Toronto is the fourth largest city in North America (U.S. + Canada, excluding Mexico); only New York, L.A and Chicago have larger populations than Toronto.  Furthermore, the Toronto Blue Jays are the only baseball team in Canada and thus one could consider their home market of having 33 Million+ potential customers.

Next, let’s compare the desire of the average Torontonian to watch baseball, compared with the average New Yorker.

To do that, let’s choose time periods where both cities had franchises that were in similar states. The 1980’s for New York, and from 1997 until present for Toronto, are time periods where the respective franchises had little to no chance of making the playoffs.

During those time periods, New York had a minimum average attendance of 22,492 and a maximum of 32,717, while Toronto had a minimum of 20,209 (2002, the first season of Ricciardi’s reign) and a maximum of 31,967.

Let’s not forget that New York has about three times the population of Toronto and, in spite of that population disparity, the attendance figures are very close to being the same.

New York is largely known as one of the baseball hotspots in the world, yet on a per capita basis, the numbers indicate that they have about three times less people interested in baseball than Toronto.

The Blue Jays drew that many fans, in spite of Ricciardi doing things like repeatedly publicly insulting the fans, etc. How many less fans would have attended Yankees games in the 1980’s, if their general manager showed such animosity towards his team’s fans, or had as terrible a track record as Ricciardi?

So, the population is there in Toronto, as is the passion for baseball. All that’s missing is a contending team.

What would happen if the Blue Jays fielded a contender? We don’t have to guess, it’s happened before. In the early 1990’s the Toronto Blue Jays set new major league attendance records.

Reason for Hope

Before the July 31st trade deadline, I agreed with Halladay when he said that he thought that the Blue Jays were not far off from being contenders. Here’s why:

Both times that Cito Gaston was hired as the manager of the Blue Jays, the team made remarkable turnarounds, largely due to the positive influence that he had on the clubhouse atmosphere.

More details about Gaston’s positive influence were discussed in my previous article.

Thus, I believed that bringing in a good general manager who would also be a positive influence, in itself, could dramatically improve the play of the entire team.

More reasons for my belief that replacing Ricciardi with someone good, could improve the play of the entire team, without the good general manager even making a single move, are discussed in this article.

Then, I thought that with the improved play of the entire team, combined with the return of Marcum and McGowan next season and possibly the acquisition of a superstar free agent, the Blue Jays may have enough to contend next season, even in the AL East.

Thus, I believed that doing something as simple as hiring a good general manager and then providing him with enough money for another player, might be enough to field a contending team soon.

 

Win-Win-Win

So, a large market appeared to be eager to be tapped, all that was lacking was a contending team. But then the missing piece of the puzzle, a contending team, appeared to be a couple of key transactions (a good G.M. + a good free agent) away from becoming a reality.

Looking back to the early 1990’s, reveals how such a formula could greatly benefit everyone involved with the Blue Jays.

The players win because they get to play in the playoffs, the fans win because they get to watch and cheer for a playoff team and ownership wins because it would make a lot of money, due to the extreme fan interest generated by fielding a contending team.

 

Opportunity Lost?

But then Ricciardi was twice allowed to further downgrade his team (trading Rolen and dumping Rios), and that changed the appearance of three realities for me.

First, a new general manager would now likely have to do a lot more than just signing a single superstar free agent to build a contender quickly; building a contender soon does not appear to be as easy as it once did.

Next, Ricciardi dumping two of his biggest contracts is clearly a salary dump, regardless of what he wants to call it (and even though ownership has to pay some of Rolen’s remaining salary). Salary dumps show that Ricciardi wants to start rebuilding, once again regardless of what he wants to call it. Ricciardi’s first rebuilding plan is in its eighth year and now he wants to start over again?

Lastly, the fact that ownership recently allowed Ricciardi to do two big transactions (the type of transaction that he has a horrible track record of doing), indicates that they are not intending to replace him.

The Blind Leading the Blind?

I used to believe that ownership (Rogers Communications Inc.) was not at fault for allowing J.P. Ricciardi to stay on as the Blue Jays general manager, because I realized that they likely didn’t know much about baseball.

But, after yet another transaction where Ricciardi turned something into literally nothing (dumping Rios), I’ve changed my tune. I started thinking, “They can’t be that blind, could they?”

Even if Rogers’ leadership knows little to nothing about baseball, they should at the very least know something about good business practices.

What if a man who was the leader of a different Rogers business unit, say Rogers Wireless, had the following track record:

* To date, he has failed miserably in all but one of his biggest investments

* He has given away valuable company assets, say cell phone infrastructure, to  competitors for nothing in return, citing “financial flexibility” as the reason

* He paid off a huge debt on a high-demand product, say iPhones, then he gave all the inventory of iPhones to his competitors, and then he replaced the iPhones with a low-demand product

* He has publicly insulted the company’s most valuable employees, causing most of them to leave and work for competitors

* He has repeatedly publicly insulted both paying customers and potential paying customers alike 

For those of you who don’t see the similarities between the above example and J.P. Ricciardi, then please read this article.

Even a child with only an elementary school education, should be able to quickly tell that a leader with such a horrible track record, is not the best candidate for the job.

So why doesn’t current Rogers President & CEO, Nadir Mohamed, realize this?  Considering his job title, shouldn’t he know at least as much as a child?

Surely Mr. Mohamed must see that Ricciardi has been a nightmare of a public representative for Rogers Communications Inc.; surely he must see that Ricciardi is marring the name of Rogers.

Surely Mr. Mohamed must see the golden opportunity to make a lot more money, especially considering that he’s already tapped into the Canadian market to make much money. It wouldn’t even be that much of a risk, since the path has already been proven; the Blue Jays were the highest-drawing franchise in major league baseball in the past, so why can’t they be again?

Surely Mr. Mohamed must see that keeping terrible leaders is not the best way to make more money. 

Surely Mr. Mohamed must see that keeping a bad leader, with such a terrible track record for so long, could cause shareholders to question his own competency as President & CEO of Rogers.

But if Mr. Mohamed does realize all this, then why hasn’t he forced someone to make a positive change?

If Mr. Mohamed does not know that Ricciardi is a bad leader, then he should know it, since the overall wellbeing of the company rests on the President’s shoulders. Thus, I now realize that if he’s not part of the solution, then he’s part of the problem.

A Fitting End?

What does all this have to do with the Toronto Blue Jays trading Roy Halladay?

Well, I want Halladay to play for a contending team soon and I also want him to work for a good general manager; if Ricciardi’s not going to be replaced, then that would appear to be impossible to accomplish with the Blue Jays.

Not only that, but if Ricciardi is not going to be replaced, then I’d prefer that all of the current players be traded, for their sakes. Moreover, I wouldn’t want to have any new players to have to work for Ricciardi as a boss.

All the emotions that I had, as recently as two weeks ago, when I considered the worst case scenario of Ricciardi causing the end of the Blue Jays franchise, are now somewhat replaced with apathy.

If Ricciardi’s not going to be replaced, then destroying the franchise would be the only way that I can currently see, to make it such that all the current/future players don’t have to work for such a bad boss.

Moreover, Ricciardi causing the end of the Blue Jays franchise would likely cement his status in the history books as being one of the worst general managers ever, if not the worst ever. That would almost guarantee that the truth, concerning how bad a general manager Ricciardi has been, will be widely known.

Furthermore, if Rogers was the company that allowed Ricciardi to destroy the franchise, then many of the fans across Canada would likely feel so much animosity towards Rogers, that they would switch to its competitors’ products and services.

If Ricciardi is making the bed and Rogers continues to let him, then why shouldn’t they sleep in it? Perhaps that would be a very fitting end for them, if they don’t smarten up.

Of course, this story doesn’t have to have such a tragic conclusion. Simply replacing Ricciardi with someone good should create a fairy tale ending.

But, are the decision makers in Blue Jays ownership bright enough to see the overwhelming facts, that all point to same conclusion? If you think that they are, then why is J.P. Ricciardi still sitting in the general manager’s chair, after almost eight years of continued mismanagement?

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