J.P. Riccardi Buried the Hatchet, but Problem with Blue Jays Is Evident

Joe ReganCorrespondent IJune 24, 2008

Apparently there is a direct correlation between batting average and passion for the game. At least, that's what Blue Jays general manager J.P. Riccardi thinks, according to his statements about Adam Dunn. When a fan brought up the value a power bat like Dunn's would have for a team like Toronto, Riccardi responded with this gem:

"He's a lifetime .230-.240 hitter that strikes out a ton and hits home runs. Did you know the guy doesn't really like baseball that much? Did 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...We've done our homework on guys like Adam Dunn and there's a reason why we don't want Adam Dunn."

Yep, everyone, batting average: the ultimate metric to define a hitter. Career .256-hitter Harmon Killebrew must have been a failure who played less games in MLB than Crash Davis. Wait, he's a Hall of Famer?

For all the readers who'd rather see numbers provided then do their own research, here are some career batting averages, along with career OPS+:

Harmon Killebrew: .256, 143 OPS+

Royce Clayton: .258, 77 OPS+

Neifi Perez: .267, 64 OPS+

So, obviously, batting average means a lot to these Blue Jays. Until you look at some league statistics. The team batting average of Toronto is a paltry .257, or 10th out of 14 AL ballclubs. The real nightmare, however, is the .376 team slugging percentage of Toronto, a nice 13th of 14 in the AL.

The only team behind the Jays? The Seattle Mariners (you know, the ones who thought Richie Sexson was worth a massive contract, and that Erik Bedard was worth a top-flight prospect and a very good reliever, that Jeremy Reed and Willie Bloomquist belong in the majors and not some random independent league in Western Canada, etc.). Yet Adam Dunn is not a passionate ballplayer because he "strikes out a lot" and "hits for a bad average."

Now, let's look at some other statistics about Adam Dunn:

OBP: .384

SLG: .491

Yes, we know Dunn strikes out a lot, but can someone tell me the difference between a strikeout and a weak grounder to the second baseman? Me neither.

How about the difference between a walk and a single? In retrospect, not very much.

However, the Blue Jays cling to their old-fashioned batting metrics. They trade Troy Glaus (120 OPS+ in 2007) for Scott Rolen (89 OPS+ in 2007) straight up (and yes, I am aware that Rolen has played well in Toronto, but coming into this season, this looked like a one-way deal). They let Frank Thomas walk (OPS-ing .933 with Oakland this season) while having guys like Shannon Stewart (.628 OPS) and Brad Wilkerson (.680 OPS) platoon left field, rather then put Stairs in left and Thomas as the designated hitter.

And now, despite having stockpiles of pitching talent, they refuse to address the very reason why they are cellar-dwellers of the AL East.

I am not sitting here saying that Dunn will turn the Blue Jays into postseason contenders overnight, but there is no doubt that having him in the No. 4 hole (hear that Dusty? No. 4 hole, with Phillips batting behind him) would improve the Blue Jays offense, with decent on-base guys like Eckstein and Rolen batting ahead of him.

However, now that the Blue Jays are in a division with four teams that know how to put a baseball club together better than they do, they could be doomed to mediocrity for years, unless they update their thought process and learn the value of the slugger in modern baseball.