Monday, June 23, 2008

Is this the Blue Jay way?

I'll be moving to Toronto in January and I'm starting to be concerned for my health. Is there something specific I should watch out for? Will my career suddenly become mismanaged? Born and raised near Montreal, I've already lived through the painful loss of the beloved Expos. The recent managerial change in Blue Jays land leaves me with questions and a few worries about Canada's last Major League team.

After the '94 lockout I had lost interest in baseball. Expos players were constantly on sale; then the team was constantly up for sale - moving to Washington and becoming the Nationals at the end of '04, and A-Rod's ten year - $252 million dollar deal just soured me on the sport. For the last couple of years I've begun to kept an eye on the news of the day but I couldn't root for anyone.

This year was supposed to be different. The CBC has always referred to the Jays as "Canada's Team" (which may have contributed in the demise of the Expos), and it was time to root for my future home team. The American League East division is in a state of flux. Boston remains strong but the Yankees are very thin on pitching, the Rays are a young, up and coming group and Baltimore is sputtering along as usual. The opportunity for a wild card playoff position was there for Toronto to claim but under achieving and a power outage among the hitters claimed another manager as John Gibbons was fired on Friday.

Again this year the Jays roster looked good on paper but again they've sputtered out of the gate. In baseball everyone knows it is three strikes and you're out. So, isn't it time for General Manager J.P. Ricciardi - hired in 2001, to move on also? The firing of Gibbons was not a surprise and had been widely speculated upon in the baseball world. The firing of 1st base Coach Ernie Whitt and the fact that President and CEO Paul Godfrey didn't remove Ricciardi at the same time was a shock to me. Whitt is coach of Canada's Olympic baseball team and many felt he was the manager in waiting. He didn't seem to be in Ricciardi's plans however, being demoted from Bench Coach before the start of the season.

Buck Martinez (110 - 115), already manager, fired by J.P. in June of '02. Carlos Tosca (191 - 191) fired August 2004. With an equally mediocre record, John Gibbons (305 - 305), fired June 20th 2008. All are now gone and yet Ricciardi is still employed. Bringing in Cito Gaston, the man who took Toronto to World Series victories in 1992 and 1993 reeks of distraction tactics. Is the season already a bust and to keep the fans interested Jays management wants everyone to remember the good old days? Gaston by the way, hasn't worked as a Major League manager since his firing in 1997.

As in all sports, a manager is only as good as the roster provided him. The Blue Jays have consistently failed to put a home run hitting DH in the lineup. In the American League, the home run is king. To not have a legitimate power hitter is a recipe for disaster. This should be the topic of a separate blog but tainted record or not, wouldn't a few Barry Bonds home runs look good on a Blue Jays scoreboard?

The Jays are headed in to a very precarious future if they are not careful. The fan base is loyal but the usual third place finish is no longer satisfactory as the World Series wins slip further in to the past. This team needs to show forward progress. The Leafs will always be top dog in the Toronto sports world with the Raptors and Toronto FC gaining new fans every year. With the Buffalo Bills starting to come to town, how long until Rogers money goes from supporting a struggling Jays organization and goes towards a new or relocated NFL team? The Blue Jays could find themselves fifth on the sports depth chart in Toronto within a few years, playing in an empty, aging Rogers Center that will need to be replaced.

Much like the Blue Jays opponents have been doing to them, it's time for a clean sweep of management. Stop wasting Roy Halladay's career and get him some run support or find a GM that will.

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