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.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.