Monday, July 27, 2009
Life Vests Float, Kids Don't
With all the trade bullshit coming to a head and the seemingly unanimous sentiment that JP Ricciardi's days are numbered in Toronto I find it interesting that the Jays are pulling into Seattle. The Seattle Mariners and the Toronto Blue Jays have many things in common, the least of which being their simultaneous entry to the American League. The Mariners overachieved with a poorly conceived roster only to historically fall to Earth in 2008 as the only $100 million dollar team to lose 100 games. The Jays always seem to underachieve both their optical expectations (the ifs ands & buts) as well as their numerical expectations (will you look at that, they're doing it again!)
The single most important difference between these two teams right now is at General Manager. The Mariners made a move to bring in a new man this year (though it almost wasn't a man), Jack Zduriencik, and he quickly made an impression. Jack Z's moves continue to trim incredible amounts of fat from the M's roster. A few bold trades, a vital fleecing of the Royals and the Mariners are headed in the right direction. They're by no means there, but they seem to have a plan. Which brings me back to JP.
To believe that any one man or organization has a master plan, takes an incredibly wide view of move A begets move B begets move C begets PLAYOFFS! is, in my mind, a little naive. Equally naivete is required to look at the Jays on field product, farm system and draft record and deny this team, this organization has a distinct PHILOSOPHY of what they feel Blue Jays baseball is and how much it will cost. I'll get into that a little deeper in the future if the powers-that-be find it in their infinite wisdom to allow it.
While touristy columnists love to take shots at JP's lack of a plan, I don't think it's true, on a macro scale anyway. The true failings of JP Ricciardi are the microplans; the individual pieces here and there that added up to missed opportunity or stubborn refusal to cut bait. We all love to point to Tampa's minor league contract successes as ways JP fails. To paraphrase Mike Wilner; not all minor league deals are created equal. When Tampa invites Carlos Pena to camp it is the promise of a full time job that gets him there. If JP pledges a starting role to Travis Snider, he can't offer any veteran bat of substance any guarantees beyond "we'll call you if we need you." It isn't an inability to find adequate diamonds in the rough, it's shoving Snider out there without any sort of contingency plan. JP, Arnsberg, and the lot do an exception job of this within the pitching ranks, creating a constant state of competition for 5 precious rotation spots. If health isn't a factor, there could well be 10 pitchers (Marcum, Listch, Cecil, Mills, Purcey, McGowan, Rzepczynski, Romero, Ray, Janssen) competing for 4 starting slots next year. We all know where the other one is going.
PS. Any more "make Cecil the closer" talk and I'll probably lose my mind. Stop it. Just stop. I don't care who you are, you sound like an idiot. You don't turn a big tall lefty with a four pitch mix into a closer unless you are burning money. If you don't think League can do it fine, but don't send good money after bad by wasting Cecil.
I pay pretty close attention to the Mariners; there is no better way to do so than by reading U.S.S Mariner. One tidbit I gleaned from their site earlier this season was this: all players have limitations. Putting players into situations you know they can't succeed in isn't their fault, it's yours. Part of having a "plan" is making use of all 25 spots to craft a successful team. In an ideal world you'd have a team full of 5 tool studs without handedness splits, but that doesn't happen. Not on a budget, not with all the money in the world.
If you have a weakness, be it a player's inability to hit same handed pitching, put together a decent enough hot streak to hide his inadequacies, or field one position well, you'd better have a complimentary or off-setting piece ready to plug in that instance. Jose Bautista's ability to play numerous positions coupled with his ability to stand at the plate and hope for a walk is something, Kevin Millar's ability to run into a fastball a month is nothing. Teams like the Red Sox do this exceptionally well because they can afford to and because players will take less to play there. How many teams would Rocco start for (health aside)? He's just an example of their ability to get the most out of all their pieces, both in his contributions and the ability for he and JD Drew to spare each others brittle bones.
Last year we saw the inability to acknowledge Mencherson's obvious failings hurt the team in the long run. We learned that cutting Frank Thomas lose was a fair bit of business and an understandable move. If you don't see the value in this move and are willing to criticize it, please stop. The deal Thomas signed was very team-friendly and was executed exactly to plan. But the refusal of Blue Jays management and their inability to move on past "their guys" is a hindrance. Make no mistake, whether JP drafted them or not, the moment they sign a new contract under him they become his guys. His choices, his problem.
What is all this about? Am I advocating replacing JP with someone that can make better decisions on a micro scale while building on the strong base provided? Maybe. A glorywhore like Pat Gillick could ride in, pull the trigger on one significant trade and be thought of as the white knight that saved baseball once again. But make no mistake, whoever is chosen as the replacement is set up for future success by the philosophy of the current regime. It is just too bad we're left to "suffer" the consequences of failing to sweat the small stuff.
Labels: jp is a fucking badass