For J.P. Ricciardi, one bad moves seems to deserve another

STEVE SIMMONS

, Last Updated: 11:54 AM ET

J.P. Ricciardi is impossible to understand.

Almost every move he makes as general manager of the Blue Jays seems to contradict something he has done earlier.

He lets Reed Johnson go before the baseball season began because he didn't want a backup outfielder earning $3 million US a year. And then he pays Frank Thomas $7 million in walk-away money because the Big Hurt wouldn't sit on the bench. Go figure.

And both contracts, neither of which made much sense from the beginning, were his doing.

The Thomas contract -- with the inevitability of a clause kicking in for a third-year -- ultimately blew up in Ricciardi's face. Yes, the Jays needed Thomas' power. But no, they couldn't afford to provide him with the plate appearances to come through without putting their future in peril.

Why Ricciardi agreed to the kind of clause that would inevitably come down to counting at-bats put his team and his manager, John Gibbons, in a bind.

In the end, Ricciardi misplayed his hand again, costing the Jays a heart-and-soul outfielder and a powerful bat on a team without power. And either way, Jays fans end up paying for the mismanagement.

THIS AND THAT

Ricciardi may still be fooling the odd team president around here, but he isn't fooling them anywhere else. Wrote Bruce Jenkins in the San Francisco Chronicle: The Blue Jays are a "team run by the highly unimpressive J.P. Ricciardi and hot-headed manager John Gibbons, both of whom should be out of a job at any time." ... If NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was in any way involved with the Maple Leafs' failed attempt to pry Brian Burke out of Anaheim, is he not in a position of conflict of interest? In the background, Bettman has been pushing league VP Colin Campbell for the Leafs. It doesn't look good for the commissioner to be pushing and pulling at the same time ... Richard Peddie opened his mouth this week and announced that it is the Leafs' goal to have a general manager in place by September. Which is another indication of how clueless the man is when it comes to hockey. If the Leafs wait until September, they won't have the right coach in place for next season, won't have attacked free agency with any vision and will, ostensibly, have written off next season ... Interim GM Cliff Fletcher is fond of saying: "Managers manage and coaches coach," which is an easy way of passing the buck. But the notion of Justin Pogge, backup minor-league goalie, is a case of a manager refusing to manage an asset properly ... Pinball Clemons is a wonderful man, but his inability to complete a sentence without saying 341-ARGO is making him sound like he is one of those sales people on PBS. After a while you realize that life is not a telethon.

HEAR AND THERE

Being a quality GM also means being lucky: Bob Gainey tried to sign Daniel Briere and Brian Rafalski in the summer and ended up settling for Roman Hamrlik, Tom Kostopoulous and Bryan Smolinski and was vilified for it in Montreal. Now, he is pure genius ... We knew Shannon Stewart couldn't throw. We thought he could still hit ... May 25th was supposed to be Frank Thomas Bobblehead night. Maybe the Jays can travel with the Bobbleheads. They play at Oakland on May 27 ... Day-to-day for the rest of his career: Peter Forsberg ... He won't admit it for public consumption, but Burke wanted the Leafs job. He hates the travel involved with the Anaheim position ... Jim Rutherford's name is always listed when potential candidates are named for the Leafs job. Which is strange considering he has missed the playoffs four of the past five years. The Stanley Cup he won in between -- and the many media friends he has -- keeps his name active. Better candidates include Doug Wilson in San Jose and former Ranger Neil Smith.

SCENE AND HEARD

Worth inquiring about: Steve Nash will be out of the NBA playoffs any minute now, so does the two months off give him enough rest to enable him to play for Canada at Olympic qualifying tournament in late July? ... Hate to admit it publicly, but I missed the Jim Veltman era. Never saw him play a game ... Is it just me, or when Matt Stairs meets Jays coach Ernie Whitt at first base, doesn't it look like father greeting son? ... Miguel Tejada is being congratulated for the leadership he is displaying with the Houston Astros. Must be his newfound age ... 'Tis the season for liars and game players: In other words, minor hockey tryout season has begun again ... After the noise and excitement of the past two Raptors games at the Air Canada Centre, one question comes to mind: What city are we in? ... On his way out? Our old pal Carlos Delgado, hitting a buck 90 for the New York Mets ... Has anybody checked Rance Mulliniks' won-lost record doing Jays' games on television? Maybe he is the problem ... Sam Mitchell should do one favour for rival coach, Stan Van Gundy: Give him the name of his tailor.

AND ANOTHER THING

I've crossed paths with thousands of sporting people over three decades of doing this, but few left the impression late Ed Chynoweth did. No one cared more about hockey than the former CHL boss, no one was more fun to be around, share a drink, argue or have a laugh with. Rest in peace, old friend ... Condolences to MLSEL chairman Larry Tanenbaum on the passing of his mother ... Just when you begin to believe Bettman knows something about hockey, along comes a radio interview where he confuses Ace Bailey, the scout who died in the 9/11 tragedy with Ace Bailey, the legendary Leaf, whose career ended in 1934 ... Which reminds me of the time Rogie Vachon, when running the Los Angeles Kings, was all excited to have claimed U.S. Olympic goalie Marc Behrend on waivers. Problem was, the goalie he claimed happened to be Marco Baron ... In case you were wondering, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are on the clock ... Quick comment about Fabian Brunnstrom, the Swedish free agent everybody in hockey is drooling over. Last time there was this much excitement over a free agent, the player's name was Ray Staszak ... And hey whatever became of Eric Nesterenko?


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