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  Mon, August 9, 2004


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Tosca not the one to blame
Let's not forget Ricciardi's role, says Bob Elliott
By BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

Let's say for a second that Carlos Tosca was a bad manager.

Which he wasn't.

But let's assume for sake of argument he was.

Who hired him anyway?

General manager J.P. Ricciardi sacked Tosca last night in New York after the Yankees won three in a row over the Blue Jays by a combined score of 25-6.

Hmmm ... was that the first time all season the Yankees had won three in a row against a visiting team?

If Tosca was a bad manager, which he wasn't, how could the Jays have won 86 games in 2003? Luck? Wearing the same sweat-stained hats all season? Playoff beards?

Oh, that's right, the Jays have not been in the post-season since 1993 -- and the manager with the most wins since those back-to-back World Series championships remains Tim Johnson.

DISCUSSIONS

People complained about Tosca using his bullpen too much last season, going too much by the left-right match-ups.

While we don't think for a second that Ricciardi was phoning downstairs during a game with orders, we believe there were discussions the night before or the afternoon of the game:

"Look, in the eighth, if this left-handed hitter is up, we're going with our lefty, but if this guy comes up we're going with our second righty."

And it wasn't Tosca doing the talking. He was strictly listening.

If you read Moneyball then you understand that Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane and the like look at managers as those who perform mere perfunctory roles. They rank on the Moneyball scale as somewhere above the senior member of the grounds crew.

The days of Whitey Herzog and Sparky Anderson and Dick Williams expounding in-game philosophies are over. A manager is not allowed to have a philosophy, whether you are Art Howe or Ken Macha working under Beane or Buck Martinez or Tosca under Ricciardi.

We know that the boss is the boss is the boss. Perhaps Ricciardi should suit up again and run the team and see exactly how easy it is. It's not easy.

Not easy when Roy Halladay, who won the American League Cy Young award in 2003, has made only 18 starts because of pain in his right shoulder.

It doesn't get any easier when first baseman Carlos Delgado, who finished second in the race for the AL MVP award last season, has missed 33 games because of a rib-cage injury.

And it's not easy when Vernon Wells, who finished eighth in MVP balloting, missed 24 games because of a torn calf.

We've had former minor-league managers tell us the Tosca they watch manage is not the same man they managed against in the minors. Tosca teams in the minors stole bases, played hit-and-run and squeezed in runs.

Tosca isn't the only manager in the Jays' system who can't run bases. The mandate says no stealing and no bunting in the minor-league system.

Recently, a coach on an American League contender said he wasn't surprised at the Jays' woeful record.

"Management believed that the career years of Wells and Halladay would be the same, that the bullpen was better and that this team would hit," said the coach. "And when that didn't happen, the manager has to handle his club differently.

"Believe me, there are only so many things you can say to today's players when they are going bad, but if you haven't played in the majors, and Tosca hasn't, they doubt you."

Ernie Whitt, manager of Canada's Olympic baseball team, walked to the hotel bar in Anzio, Italy, last night after Canada thumped Cuba 9-1.

The bartender said "I know what you want. Champagne after a win like that!"

Whitt ordered a beer.

"I'd like to think I'd be considered for the job," the Jays roving minor-league instructor said when told of the news.

"What would happen after, I'm not sure."

We're sure that the general manager will pull the strings, whether the next manager is current Athletics third-base coach Ron Washington, or whomever.