Couldn't do more with less

BOB ELLIOTT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

Paul Godfrey was the man who brought J.P. Ricciardi to town.

Godfrey, the Blue Jays president, hired Ricciardi as the general manager after the 2001 season.

They worked together for seven seasons, longer than the combined tenure of Ricciardi's first three hires.

Scout Jack Gillies left one year into his two-year deal; scout Bill Livesey left with a year remaining on his three-year contract and stats expert Keith Law departed mid-contract for ESPN.com.

"Things started to change for J.P. when he had more money," Godfrey said. "J.P. performed less efficiently with more money than he did with less money."

Gord Ash had been fired in September of 2001. The Jays had a team payroll of $78 million US, $2 million over budget and if they brought back the same team back in '02, Rogers Communications was looking at a cost of $85-$87 million. That wasn't going to happen.

"I had to find a GM, basically, to follow the Oakland A's philosophy of competing with a club with payroll of about $50 million," Godfrey said.

"I interviewed J.P., knowing full well that Rogers wanted to lower the budget. I wanted a Billy Beane duplicate who could try to produce a winner as the team developed its farm system."

So, Ricciardi slashed payroll.

"He came in with a lot of promise," said Godfrey the day after his successor, interim CEO Paul Beeston, fired Ricciardi in Baltimore.

"I think in the first few years we followed the plan, between 2002-05, except for the catastrophic year we had in 2004 due to injuries," Godfrey said.

The Jays won 78 games Ricciardi's first year, and the GM was given a three-year extension. The next season, they won 86, but then they fell to 67-94 in 2004.

"In 2004, we lost Carlos Delgado, Vernon Wells and Roy Halladay," Godfrey said. "We were like the New York Mets this season."

In February of 2005, Rogers Communications bought the SkyDome and Ted Rogers pledged to spend $210 million over the next three years.

"Ted was concerned about buying the dome and not spending," Godfrey recalled.

All the free agents had signed by then.

The Jays jumped from $45 million to $71 million in 2006 as B.J. Ryan signed a five-year, $47-million and starter A.J. Burnett a five-year $55-million deal with an opt-out clause after three years.

"The opt-out was last minute, suggested by Burnett's agent," Godfrey said. "You find out after, but we were told St. Louis was offering five at $50 million. We didn't think we'd get him, so we bumped our offer."

Godfrey found out later from the Cards that they were offering only four years for $40 million.

"I never liked an opt-out. It's one-sided, allows the player to take a look at free agency," Godfrey said. "We didn't do another, except for Vernon Wells -- Vernon won't opt out."

Wells was given a seven-year, $126 million extension.

Godfrey begins to discuss the two-year $18-million contract given to Frank Thomas and then stops.

"J.P. was under pressure; he continually talked winning in five years," Godfrey said.

"He came as a disciple of Billy Beane but he proved not to be a disciple of Billy Beane."

Godfrey recalls the time he walked past the GM's office after a tough loss.

"He'd have his head in his hands, it was almost as if he was the one who blew the save," Godfrey said.

"In the last few years, he became extremely thin- skinned."

How does the man who brought Ricciardi to town, at least when the Jays were home, sum up the performance of Toronto's dismissed general manager?

"At first, he met expectations, got the team by with limited payroll," Godfrey said.

"As the payroll went up -- other than the Boston collapse when we finished second in 2006 -- he didn't do any better with more money, than he did with less."

BOB.ELLIOTT@SUNMEDIA.CA


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