Sunday, August 08, 2004

SPORTS: Carlos Canned

The sound you hear is the crackling and breaking of JP Ricciardi's reputation. The Toronto Blue Jay GM tied the can today to Carlos Tosca as he gets an early start to his plan to de-Carlos the Toronto operation. He's days away from ending the Carlos Delgado era too.

Ricciardi's rep in town has never been lower. The loss of Josh Phelps for a prospect that most minor-league viewers has as a suspect, has been sharpening the focus on what has been a year of failure for the fair-haired GM (colloquially, not cosmetically). For the second year, Ricciardi has assembled a pitching staff that has failed. Batista and Lilly are probably better than their roles have indicated, but are still mediocre at best. Frasor was a nice pickup, but it cost the club Jayson Werth, who might have found regular playing time in a devastated Blue Jay outfield, rather than being a key part in the Los Angeles drive for a divisional championship. The vets brought into 'improve' on last year have uniformly been horrible.

What has become a bitter reality is that Ricciardi doesn't have the smarts and/or counsel to sign and/or trade for pitching. He's been wrong with just about every move. Even this year's Frasor acquisition feels a lot like last year's 'find,' Aquilino Lopez. Despite having Frasor on a roto team or two, let me tell you Frasor has an abnormally huge heaping of luck, as his hit rate is incredibly low. That means only one in five balls hit against him become hits, as adverse the league average of one in three, or thereabouts.

Ricciardi does have an eye for the fill-in scrub. He finds guys who can play a day or two a week and contribute. But where's the trade to steal a great starter (any position)? He's living off Hinske's rookie year, but doesn't that long contract Hinske signed last year look JUST as bad as any of his predecessor's excesses?

The Blue Jays play boring baseball at the command of its GM. The Jays were also playing uninspired baseball, and that was partially Tosca's fault. Tosca was always as clueless about handling pitchers as his boss was at procuring them. In many ways, Tosca had to go at the end of the season as he'd proved to be a good lieutenant, but not much of a manager. It's the timing that invites introspection.

Mr. Ricciardi. You've tied the can to this Carlos. You're going to usher the other Carlos out of town less than two months from now. Your cover will be gone. It's time to do something right. Starting with the new manager. He'll be your guy. Again. Think long and hard. If that decision goes south, it's back to Boston for you, too.

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