Joe Posnanski, in a Sports Illustrated article, questioned, “Here’s my thing about J.P. Ricciardi, the thing that really baffles the heck out of me: How can someone keep giving out contracts THIS BAD and keep his job and reputation? How? I’m serious. How?”
The bewilderment that some people exhibit over Ricciardi’s job status seems to rival how confused some people have been about Stonehenge over the ages.
I believe that I know the answer to Posnanski’s question.
But, before I get into that, I want to first summarize some of the reasons why J.P. Ricciardi’s job status with the Toronto Blue Jays has perplexed so many people for so long.
Let’s Make a (Bad) Deal
Ricciardi’s track record in his biggest transactions has been horrendous, as discussed in my previous J.P. Ricciardi article.
Moreover, Richard Griffin wrote the following in a Toronto Star article:
“Besides, the GM's track record at trading established players for prospects stinks. Really it does...Here's the clinching stat. Over eight years, just three of the 20 players he received in return are still in the organization—Scott Rolen, Jeremy Accardo, and Brian Wolfe.”
Also, Joe Posnanski, in his aforementioned article, comically summarized Ricciardi’s failures in giving out contracts by using Vernon Wells’ contract as an example:
“This deal, to be honest, is not the sort of thing that leads to a general manager getting fired. It's the sort of thing that leads to entire villages getting pillaged. And that's what I mean about Ricciardi.
"I mean, this contract alone should be enough to put him in the Bad Contract Hall of Fame. But when you look over the whole body of work...he IS the Bad Contract Hall of Fame.
"In fact, really, we should just start referring to bad baseball contracts as ‘Ricciardis’.”
Furthermore, in his latest big transaction, Ricciardi got nothing in return for Alex Rios. Surely a good general manager could have gotten something in return for a two-time All Star and potential five-tool player.
I discussed several ways that the loss of Alex Rios could hurt the Blue Jays in my Alex Rios article, that I wrote shortly before Ricciardi gave him away for nothing. Judging by the play of the Blue Jays after Rios was dumped until now, it appears that I was right.
So, to date, only one out of nine of Ricciardi’s dealings with his biggest money and/or name players has worked out favourably for the Blue Jays; keeping Roy Halladay years ago was a favourable big transaction for Ricciardi.
But, Ricciardi wanted to trade Halladay this season. The alarming potential for disaster of trading Halladay was discussed in my Roy Halladay article.
If Ricciardi wanted to trade Halladay during the season, when there was so much potential for negatively affecting the play of his team, then how much more so do you think that he’ll want to trade Halladay in the offseason?
Considering Ricciardi’s atrocious track record with big transactions, should he be trusted to make what would most likely be the biggest trade in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays franchise?
If your financial adviser failed so miserably in eight of nine of your biggest investments, would you trust him to go for a perfect zero for nine, by taking his advice for making the biggest investment of your life?
Penny Foolish and Pound Foolish
If J.P. Ricciardi has so terrible a track record with trades and signings, then it must be his financial genius that has kept him on board with the Blue Jays for so long, right? Wrong.
I discussed several ways that Ricciardi has been bad for team revenue on page two of my previous J.P. Ricciardi article.
Hall of Fame baseball writer, Tracy Ringolsby, said the following about Ricciardi’s financial track record, in a Fox Sports article:
“...if the decision is made to move Halladay, why would the man who has created the mess be deemed capable of extracting a quality package in return for the greatest player ever developed in that organization?
"Heck, if it wasn't for the $36.77 million in contracts the Jays have eaten in recent years—including $15 million earlier this month for B.J. Ryan, which incorporates $10 million of the money guaranteed for 2010—the guy who handed out those contracts wouldn't be suggesting that to eliminate the financial pain he has created, the Jays should be eliminating the contract of the one guy under contract who is worth every penny he is being paid.”
If that wasn’t bad enough, the potential for financial disaster greatly increases the longer that Ricciardi remains as the Blue Jays general manager, as discussed on page five of my 2009 Blue Jays Draft article.
I believe that the main reason that Ricciardi’s financial track record doesn’t appear to be even worse, is because he’s the general manager of a team that resides in a city that is hungry for baseball.
On a per capita basis, the numbers indicate that Toronto has about three times more baseball fans than New York, when times are tough. More details about this can be found on page three of my Roy Halladay article.
In fact, we don’t have to guess how Blue Jays fans would react if a good general manager was in place. In the early 1990s, when Pat Gillick was the Blue Jays general manager, they set major league baseball attendance records.
That’s how much money a good general manager can make for the Toronto Blue Jays organization.
In fact, the Blue Jays’ success in the early 1990s likely isn’t the ceiling, since the population has increased since then and, with the demise of the Montreal Expos, there is now no competition for Canadian major league baseball fans.
So, Ricciardi has a dreadful track record with trades, signings, and money. Then, he must have kept his job for so long because he’s been the best in baseball in drafting players, right? Wrong.
While Ricciardi’s overall history of drafting players has been hit and miss, it appears that he’s getting worse as more time passes.
In this year’s draft, Ricciardi failed to sign three of his top four draft picks. I believe that Ricciardi’s presence on the Blue Jays was the main reason for the Blue Jays’ failures in signing draft picks this year, as discussed in my 2009 Blue Jays Draft Article.
Furthermore, Ricciardi’s actions speak volumes about what he thinks about the prospects in his farm system.
If Ricciardi wants to trade arguably the best player in baseball, Roy Halladay, for prospects to restock his farm system, then one would think Ricciardi must believe that his farm system is horrible.
Should He Stay or Should He Go?
Okay, Ricciardi’s track record has been horrible with trades, signings, money and now drafting too.
Then, surely he must be the best in the business at making smaller transactions, like moving players back and forth between the major league team and the minor league teams. That’s how he kept his job for so long, right? Wrong.
Barry Davis, in a Sportsnet.ca article, said the following about Ricciardi’s handling of Jeremy Accardo this season:
“One has to think this is personal. If it's based on numbers it doesn't make sense. If it's based on experience, it also makes no sense.
Accardo is a guy who actually likes being in Toronto and would love to be a part of the future, but as Jim Balsillie can attest to, if someone with "power" doesn't like you, you don't stand a chance.”
That was certainly not the first time that Ricciardi made a move that reeked of a personal vendetta against a player. Another example was discussed in Phil Rogers’ Chicago Tribune article:
“In the spring of 2002, Toronto second baseman Orlando Hudson made a crack about the style of Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi, saying he dressed like a pimp. He quickly found himself in the minor leagues...”
Furthermore, I believe that Ricciardi’s mishandling of players like Casey Janssen and Ricky Romero greatly increases the chances of his players getting seriously injured, as discussed on page four of my previous J.P. Ricciardi article.
How to Get the Worst Out of Your Team
Well, Ricciardi’s track record has been horrific with trades, signings, money, drafting and smaller transactions.
Then, Ricciardi must be incredible with inspiring his players to get the best out of them. It’s because there’s no better motivator in baseball that Ricciardi has kept his job for so long, right? Wrong.
I discussed several examples of the Blue Jays playing worse after Ricciardi did or said something demoralizing, on page five of my previous J.P. Ricciardi article.
Since the events discussed in that article, Ricciardi hasn’t stopped demoralizing his players. The lacklustre play of the Blue Jays after Ricciardi dumped the salaries of Scott Rolen and Alex Rios (signalling that he wants to start re-building again), are the latest examples of Ricciardi demoralizing his team.
Only Trust Him as Far as You Can Throw Him
So, Ricciardi’s track record has been awful with trades, signings, money, drafting, smaller transactions, and he has often demoralized his players.
Then Ricciardi must be extremely trustworthy. It’s because Ricciardi’s word is better than a contract signed in blood that he’s kept his job for so long, right? Wrong.
Ricciardi has a long and storied history of lying. I discussed examples of Ricciardi publicly lying on page three of my previous J.P. Ricciardi article.
It’s become so bad that if Ricciardi says something like, “Water is wet,” then I’d still consider looking for two or three credible witnesses to testify that he’s not lying.
How to: Turn Former World Champions into Laughingstocks
Okay, Ricciardi has a miserable track record with trades, signings, money, drafting, smaller transactions, motivating his players, and he’s extremely untrustworthy.
Then Ricciardi must’ve kept his job for so long because he’s been a remarkable public representative for the Toronto Blue Jays organization and ownership, Rogers Communications Inc. Ricciardi must demand extraordinary respect and thus fans must be attracted to Blue Jays just because of him, right? Wrong.
J.P. Ricciardi has a long history of being a public relations disaster.
J.P. Ricciardi has made it a habit of publicly insulting Blue Jays fans. How do most Blue Jays fans feel about Ricciardi?
In order to gauge the feeling of Blue Jays fans, one only needs to glance at the constant barrage of “FIRE JP” comments that flood the internet, signs at the Rogers Centre saying similar things or the constant chatter on radio call-in shows voicing a similar sentiment.
J.P. Ricciardi is arguably the most hated general manager in the history of Toronto sports and thus his continued presence on the team, in itself, serves as a great barrier for keeping fans and attracting new fans.
Moreover, J.P. Ricciardi has also made it a habit of publicly insulting Blue Jays players. Some examples of this were discussed on page six of my previous J.P. Ricciardi article.
Furthermore, Ricciardi has even publicly insulted other team’s players. As an example, when Ricciardi was asked about Adam Dunn last season, he responded:
“Do you know the guy doesn’t really like baseball that much? Do you know the guy doesn’t have a passion to play the game that much?...I don’t think you’d be very happy if we brought Adam Dunn here.”
Ricciardi’s comments sparked a media circus that turned both Ricciardi and the Toronto Blue Jays organization into laughingstocks.
If that wasn’t bad enough, even from purely a baseball perspective, it appears that Ricciardi has failed miserably once again.
Adam Dunn has hit 40 or more home runs in five consecutive seasons and he has good chance of reaching that mark again this season. Adam Dunn currently has 35 home runs, 91 RBI’s and a .280 average in 131 games so far this season.
Dunn’s home run total last season doubled the Blue Jays’ leader (Vernon Wells, with 20) and his current stats this season would place him first in home runs, first in RBI’s and in the top five in batting average, if he was a member of the Blue Jays.
“I don’t think you’d be very happy if we brought Adam Dunn here” indeed.
In short, J.P. Ricciardi has constantly found new and creative ways of embarrassing both himself and the Toronto Blue Jays organization. Ricciardi has been a public relations nightmare.
Gravity-Defying Flammable Snow
In summary, J.P. Ricciardi has a ridiculously bad track record with trades, signings, money, drafting, smaller transactions, motivating his players, trustworthiness and has been a public relations nightmare.
That is, everything that a general manager should be good at, J.P. Ricciardi has been dreadful at.
And, that’s just based on some of the information about J.P. Ricciardi that’s available to the public.
If Ricciardi has consistently behaved so badly with the public eye on him, I don’t think that I’d want to know what he’s said and done behind closed doors.
That’s why so many people, who know something about Ricciardi’s horrible track record, are so perplexed about his job status with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Judging by the look of bewilderment on some people’s faces, when they’re asked to explain Ricciardi’s longevity, you’d think that they were staring at a burning snowflake suspended in mid air.
It’s because Ricciardi’s track record has been historically bad that even people who only considered a small subset of Ricciardi’s failures, like what Joe Posnanski did with Ricciardi’s bad contracts, are still utterly confused about Ricciardi’s job status with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Clues for solving this mystery lie not only in what J.P. Ricciardi has publicly said, but also in what he has not said when media members were recording his every word.
Ricciardi has publicly insulted his own players, other team’s players and his team’s fans.
But, there is one notable group of people absent from that list: I can’t recall a single quote from Ricciardi where he insulted someone who has the power to fire him.
Have you ever worked with a normally nasty guy who treats everyone like dirt, except for his boss? If so, did his boss love him, because he treated his boss like a god, while everyone else hated him?
Or perhaps you’ve run into a salesman, who makes money off of commission, who one minute treats someone dressed in expensive clothing like a king, while the next minute he treats another person dressed in cheap clothing horribly.
If you don’t have firsthand experience with either of those situations, then try to think of a guy who pretends to be good to people, when he believes that he can selfishly gain from them, but treats everyone else like garbage.
Based upon what Ricciardi has and has not said in front of members of the media, he appears to be one of those guys.
Thus, it appears that Ricciardi has used his skills at deception to take full advantage of an ownership group (Rogers Communications Inc.) that likely knows little to nothing about baseball.
That’s the only logical explanation that I can currently see, that explains how such a ridiculously bad general manager is closing in on a decade of service with the Toronto Blue Jays.
If that’s the case, and J.P. Ricciardi has for many years fully exploited the weaknesses of others to try to achieve his own self-centered agenda, then if Ricciardi’s nearby, I’d suggest that parents should guard their babies’ candy.