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  Tue, June 29, 2004


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Cheap, cheap go the Jays
GM J.P. Ricciardi's low-budget route is leading to nowheresville
By MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

We are knee deep in J.P. Ricciardi's third season as general manager of the Blue Jays and perhaps you've noticed it's not going so well.

Nine more games lost than won, entering last night. Fifteen games behind the New York Yankees and we're not yet into July.

We are talking 70-75 wins this year, max.

There are plenty of factors, of course, that have little to do with Ricciardi, including injuries to sluggers Carlos Delgado and Vernon Wells and uncharacteristic struggles by pitcher Roy Halladay.

But this was supposed to be the breakthrough year for the Boy Genius. Instead, patrons have been treated to a team that can't hit, can't pitch and fields like an over-50 softball squad.

Only one deal stands out as a Ricciardi master stroke: His own contract extension struck in November 2002 after an encouraging first season when he trimmed the club's payroll by $20 million to $64 million US. It's true.Timing is everything.

Ricciardi has proved that if you're going to lose you might as well do it cheaply, but the idea, at least as I remember it, was that the Jays were supposed to win.

Now, some players were lousy in Toronto and much better elsewhere and I'm not sure that's the fault of the boss.

Take Esteban Loaiza, a grossly overpaid nine-game winner for the Jays in 2002 who delivered 21 wins for the Chicago White Sox last year and has accounted for eight more this season. To the person who saw Loaiza as a future 20-game winner I have this advice. Go directly to the race track.

That said, Ricciardi seemed to have entered the job with the assumption that if you were here when he breezed through the door, you were of no possible use.

Ricciardi couldn't sign right-hander Chris Carpenter, who was coming off shoulder problems that shut him down in 2002.

Carpenter has won eight games for the St. Louis Cardinals, lost only two and has done it for a piddling base salary of $500,000.

The Jays handed Los Angeles Cesar Izturis, the Dodgers' starting shortstop for the next decade. Izturis has one of the National League's best gloves. He's hitting .303. He makes $358,000.

Chris Woodward, nowhere near the player Izturis is, makes $775,000 and he in turn has been challenged by Frank Menechino.

The Jays traded Paul Quantrill to the Dodgers in the Izturis deal. Quantrill, a Canadian, was making $2.5 million and was bitterly disappointed when told he was leaving. Now he's a dependable setup man with the Yankees making, $3 million.

The Jays got Luke Prokopec and Chad Ricketts in return. Remember them?

For a guy who was supposed to be so much smarter than the pack, Ricciardi hasn't delivered a real find.

Ricciardi's only acquisition of mention, Eric Hinske, was rookie of the year in 2002 and then stopped developing.

The capable GM can parlay an asset that he needs to move into something that can do some good. But Ricciardi has managed only poor cheaper ball players for better, more expensive ones, be it Brian Cooper for Brad Fullmer or Bobby Kielty for Shannon Stewart.

Ricciardi has brought in an unending series of dud pitchers. Remember Tanyon Sturtze, Felix Heredia, Cliff Politte, Scott Wiggins and Aquilino Lopez. Soon to be added to the list, Mike Nakamura, Justin Speier and Pat Hentgen. The Blue Jays bullpen should endorse napalm.

None of this seems to stick to J.P. Ricciardi, one of the high priests of the Moneyball movement.

It's time it did.