Kevin Towers getting fired is a surprise. This, not so much:
The Toronto Blue Jays have fired general manager J.P. Ricciardi. Interim CEO Paul Beeston announced the move on Saturday, saying he felt it was time for a change.
Ricciardi has been in charge of the team since Nov. 14, 2001, posting four winning seasons and four losing ones. It
was a controversial reign with poor free agent signings and off-field
missteps overshadowing some productive drafts and other good moves.
His greatest failing was an inability to find a way past the Yankees and Red Sox and into the postseason.
I’d argue that his second greatest failing was his utter inability to communicate with people, including the press and his underlings. When J.P. started, he had a good team of people around him, including Baseball Prospectus/ESPN’s Keith Law. Slowly but surely he began to alienate and drive away people like Law and others within the organization. In the past few years he has routinely thrown Jays’ players and personnel under the bus as the team came crashing down around him.
People will cite the Yankees and Red Sox as the Jays’ biggest hurdle, but the fact of the matter is that the Jays are worse off in 2009 on their own terms than they were in 2001 when Ricciardi was hired.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉