It was the right time for NFL jerseys Blue Jays CEO Paul Beeston to make the move and relieve general manager J.P. Ricciardi of his duties. With two games left in the 2009 season and one day after the story broke that manager Cito Gaston had lost the clubhouse, it needed to happen.
The best season under his watch was 2006 when they finished in second with an 87-75 mark, the worst being 2004 when they finished in the basement with a horrible 69-94 mark. And in the eight seasons, four different field managers worked under Ricciardi, half hand-picked, the other half forced upon him.
Now, for those of you expecting some kind of personal attack on Ricciardi, you won't get it from me. I only had a handful of personal conversations with the man over the years, usually about something that I wrote that he didn't agree with which was his perogative. And I never got the feeling that he liked any of us on the TV side, hearing from third parties that he wished that we were more like NESN (the New England Sports Network that carries his hometown Red Sox). That would have happened if the organization actually wanted to have a relationship with us, something that none of us ever felt.
With public opinion at an all-time low, and the franchise teetering on laughing-stock status, drastic measures were needed; and taken. The epitaph on the Ricciardi era in Toronto will read as so: Almost eight full seasons, a 642-651 record (.497), combined to finish 150 games behind the leaders of the ultra-competitive American League East where the top two teams usually play into October.
There were lots of things that went down during his tenure that I didn't agree with, but the only ones that really stuck in my craw was the treatment that long-time Blue Jays Buck Martinez and Ernie Whitt received when they were shown the door as manager and coach, respectively. The treatment those two gentlemen faced when they were fired, who gave the majority of their professional lives to the Blue Jays and the city of Toronto, will never sit well with me. Both men were kicked to the curb like they were Jim Fregosi or Tim Johnson, and that was plain wrong.
In the end, I like to look at the body of work as a whole, about draft picks missed and players traded that went on to bigger and better things. Yes, I know that Aaron Hill and Adam Lind, closing out two of the best seasons in franchise history, were drafted under Ricciardi's watch. That won't be denied. Ricky Romero, Marc Rzepczynski and Brett Cecil may also have very bright futures with the Jays. But missed during other drafts were the likes of Cole Hamels, Nick Swisher, Scott Kazmir, Matt Cain, Phil Hughes, Huston Street, Dustin Pedroia, Troy Tulowitzki, Jacoby Ellsbury and Matt Garza, true, what I like to call 'difference-makers'.
The familiar refrain that his team couldn't compete with the seemingly unlimited budgets of the Yankees and Red Sox started to ring hollow after eight seasons of sitting on the same branch as the Orioles. Why a team who play in a large market yet do not have a large market budget are questions to be asked to people higher up on the food chain.
Under Ricciardi the Toronto Blue Jays just weren't good enough. As a statistician I just look through the numbers and they aren't pretty; no matter what light you put them under. In the end, professional sports are a bottom-line business, both in the win-loss column and in the accounting ledgers (and all of this was having a terrible effect on the profit-loss margin).
Eight years of spinning wheels was enough for fans of the team and, most importantly, those who buy tickets. The beginning of the rebuild of the Blue Jays brand, once gold in Toronto, started when the Ricciardi news broke.
Then you have those players that got away like Orlando Hudson, Jayson Werth, Chris Carpenter or Cesar Izturis; all of whom went on to star in other cities. Every GM makes mistakes, but Ricciardi was sold to the public as some sort of player development wizard from his days with the Oakland Athletics, something that never manifested itself in Toronto. I know the old adage about hindsight and how it is always easy to cite what could have been, but the body of work after 2,879 days as the key decision maker for the Toronto Blue Jays prompted the change in direction. It was finally deemed to be over and it's time to move in a very different direction and, if need be, take the team back down to the wood and start over again.