I haven’t written much about sports in a while, partially because lacrosse, hockey, and basketball are all over and not much is happening there. I missed a couple of weeks of baseball while on vacation, and returned to find (gasp) the Jays are pretty much out of the playoff picture. Not really surprising, and this just fuels the talk about whether J.P. Ricciardi should be fired as GM at the end of the season. I’ve been firmly in Ricciardi’s corner during most of his tenure as GM, but I think that experiment is over. We’re over 6½ years into Ricciardi’s “five year plan” that would see the Jays contending, and they have still yet to play a meaningful game in September (and it won’t happen this year). The pitching certainly isn’t the problem — AJ Burnett is finally healthy and pitching the way they hoped he would when they signed him (and it only took two and a half years to get there!), Halladay is Halladay, Litch, McGowan, and Marcum are pitching pretty well (when they’re not on the DL), and only four pitchers on the whole team have ERAs over 5.00, and none of those four has pitched more than 18 innings.
And then there are the hitters. Alex Rios is having a pretty bad year, and he’s leading the team in RBIs (49). Matt Stairs leads the team in homers with a measly 11. Nobody is hitting over .300. They are dead last in the AL in HRs, third last in RBIs, and fourth last in batting average. Compare that to the pitching stats: team ERA is second in the AL, they have the most complete games and the second-most strikeouts. They say good pitching will beat good hitting and I believe that, but to win a 1-0 game, you need to be able to score that one run. A team with good pitching and dismal hitting isn’t going anywhere in the post-season.
Is all of this Ricciardi’s fault? Is it his fault that half the team has spent time on the DL? Is it his fault that the hitters have forgotten how to hit? I suppose not, but he’s still responsible. He’s been running the team for almost seven years, and he’s got a far bigger budget than any of his predecessors, and the team hasn’t had a sniff of the playoffs the entire time.
I’m not sure what should be done with Cito. He came in mid-season and took over a team that wasn’t likely to make the playoffs, and led that team to probably their worst finish in four years. But if Cito had managed to fire up the hitters to the point where the Jays even hinted at contending this year, he deserved the coach of the year award. Just because he couldn’t do that doesn’t mean he’s no good — I’m not sure anyone could have. Given the team he had, I think Cito did OK. But if Ricciardi is fired, then whoever the new GM is will want to bring in his own guy, so Cito is likely to be fired too.
Over in the hockey world, Mats Sundin has still not decided what he’s doing next year. He’s an unrestricted free agent, and so he is under no obligation to anyone to decide quickly, but I’m kind of getting tired of the whole thing. The Leafs aren’t likely to do anything other than suck next season with or without Sundin, so I’m not sure why they are still pursuing him. They made him an offer, he hasn’t taken it, so just let him go. Thanks for all your contributions in the past, good luck wherever you go, buh-bye. He doesn’t owe the Leafs anything, and if he decides to sign with Montreal or Vancouver or New York or anyone else, best of luck to him. If he eventually calls up the Leafs and decides to take their offer, and they still have enough cap room left, great. I’m not against having Sundin back next year, but it’ll just make the team suck slightly less. It won’t make any difference in the long run.