Ricciardi's reign a real mess

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

A baseball fan from New York and his girlfriend walked along the 300 level of the SkyDome on the weekend.

Gazing at a large picture hanging on a wall they guessed players' names -- some correctly -- until stopping at a logo which read "1992-93 World Series champs."

"See," the woman said. "I told you this team had won before."

QUESTIONS

"Really?" the New Yawker asked someone trailing behind.

Told they had, he asked: "Ya think they'll win 26 times like my Yanks? Ya ever think d'ese bums will ever win again?"

Blue Jays fans ask the same question. Questions like that are common for a team that has finished a season with 67 wins. The 2004 win total was the franchise's puniest in a 162-game schedule since 1980, when the Jays also won 67 games.

Back then, John Mayberry led the fourth-year Jays with 30 homers and 82 RBIs. This year, on his way out of town, Carlos Delgado had 32 homers and 99 RBIs.

Jerry Garvin led those baby Jays with eight saves. This year, Jason Frasor had 17. Frasor lost his job.

Designated hitter Otto Velez led with a .269 average in 1980. Frank Catalanotto hit .293 this season.

"We took two steps forward last year and one step backward this season," team president Paul Godfrey said.

General manager J.P. Ricciardi didn't have a good year evaluating, outside of acquiring left-handed pitcher Ted Lilly for Bobby Kielty.

Opening-day catcher Kevin Cash lost his job.

Opening-day shortstop Chris Woodward lost his.

Ditto for DH Josh Phelps, claimed on waivers by the Cleveland Indians.

Reed Johnson lost his job, then was placed in a platoon situation, then won it back because of injury.

Right-handed starter Pat Hentgen, who everyone thought was a good signing at the time, lasted 16 starts before retiring.

The new and improved bullpen was only new.

We thought Frasor was a keeper as a closer. Management didn't.

Miguel Batista, signed to a three-year deal worth $13.5 million US as a starter, closed the final two weeks.

Meanwhile, Jayson Werth, sent west for Frasor, was an outfielder the Jays didn't like. He has 16 homers and 47 RBIs, playing on the same Dodgers team as ex-Jay shortstop Cesar Izturis.

The Jays passed on Trever Miller and signed Valerio de los Santos for $850,000 -- $350,000 more than Miller wanted. Miller pitched in 60 games (49 innings) for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, while the injury-prone de los Santos worked 11 2/3 innings.

Terry Adams. Gone. Kerry Ligtenberg, signed for next year, too, pitched this season with a bad hip, allowing 101 runners in 55 innings. Justin Speier allowed 81 runners in 69 innings.

Injuries are a common explanation for the win total.

Every team has injuries. We saw the Anaheim Angels, or what was left of them, in Baltimore in May. Redoubtables such as Chone Figgins hit second, Jeff DaVanon was in the No. 3 spot, Casey Kotchman -- a high school draft pick who would have been eligible for the 2004 June draft had he gone to college -- hit sixth and Shane Halter eighth.

The Yanks have been without Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown and Jason Giambi while Gary Sheffield has one good shoulder.

Both the Angels and the Yankees are in the playoffs.

The Angels survived despite losing Tim Salmon (shoulder, knee), while the likes of Darrin Erstad (right hamstring), Troy Glaus (torn labrum that required surgery), Garret Anderson (upper back), Adam Kennedy (knee) and Brendan Donnelly (arm) were unavailable for extended periods.

Plans change at One Blue Jay Way, whether it is Frasor or Batista, or DH Phelps leading the team at that time in RBIs when he was put on waivers.

Another example:

"I welcome the challenge of playing the Yankees and Red Sox, I'd love to stay in the AL East and win this. I think that shows your mettle right there." -- Ricciardi, Nov. 14, 2001.

"With a $50 million US payroll we may never bump off one of the top two teams, but I think in a couple of years, if everything goes right, we can knock at the door, maybe sneak in and win a wild card." -- Ricciardi, Sept. 29, 2004.

Buck Martinez managed the Jays for 215 games under Ricciardi while Carlos Tosca lasted 380 games.

John Gibbons has 50 games under his belt.

In other words, he is 247 games away from reaching the average shelf life of managing the Jays.


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