Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Ground Beneath His Feet ; More On Bavasi; My Thoughts On The DH; Schilling's HOF Prospects

  • The last vestige of J.P. Ricciardi?
Some were dubious of the timing of John Gibbons's firing by Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi considering it came directly after still another personal back and forth between Ricciardi and a
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player. It's a bit suspicious, but Ricciardi, as I said in an earlier blog, is like a baseball cockroach in that he has survived everything that's come his way throughout his tenure as Jays GM. Given the way the Blue Jays are playing, the firing may be the last vestige of a desperate man.
Cito Gaston has deserved another chance to manage since he was fired by the Blue Jays in 1997, but barring a sudden turnaround, this isn't going to end in a romantic, dramatic way; it looks more like a way
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for Ricciardi to take one last desperate shot to save himself by ingratiating himself (however briefly) with fans who fondly remember Gaston's successful tenure, complete with two championships.
Ricciardi's other moves this year just haven't worked. Scott Rolen has been called a "gamer" and a "hard-nosed leader" among other things, but that doesn't change the fact that in over 200 plate appearances, he has three homers. Alex Rios had a career year last year and has done essentially nothing this year; Vernon Wells is starting to look like he
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may go down as having the worst contract this side of Barry Zito; and Ricciardi's impulsive and anger-induced release of Frank Thomas left the team without any power at all. With their starting pitching and deep bullpen, they should be better than 35-40.
Amid all the controversy he's attracted and the continued, unnecessary and high-profile disagreements he's had with players, writers and whomever else dared cross him, Ricciardi's time may be coming to a merciful close. He's been on the job since late 2001 with very little to show for it other than a lot of bluster and a lot of newspaper coverage with much of it being negative for off-field issues. Unless Gaston can provide a miracle and get the Blue Jays to leap into contention within the next month, I would expect Ricciardi to be fired before the trading deadline. Desperation leads to ill-thought-out maneuvers and the Blue Jays don't need to let their loose cannon GM try to save himself with deals that are going to set the franchise even further back than it already is. Ricciardi has been paranoid, combative and self-pitying over the years and if the Blue Jays ever want to return to legitimate contention, they have to pull the plug on J.P. Ricciardi once and for all.
  • A note on Bill Bavasi:
While providing a lukewarm defense of Bill Bavasi the other day, I completely forgot about one of his most egregious deals in which he sent Rafael Soriano to the Braves for Horacio Ramirez. While many ripped the deal in which he acquired Jose Vidro as the prime example
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of Bavasi's ineptitude, at least he didn't give up anything to get Vidro. Trading a hard-throwing reliever with closer potential for a bad, injury-prone left-handed starter is justification for a firing in and of itself. Soriano hasn't been great for the Braves----he's been injured and prone to giving up homers----but if Bavasi was going to trade him, he absolutely could have gotten better personnel than Ramirez. It was just a stupid thing to do.
  • The DH----to have or have not?
To the best of my recollection, I've never given my opinion about the DH other than when I suggested a dismantling of the American and National Leagues in favor of having teams like the Mets, Yankees, Red Sox; and Dodgers, Angels, Giants; etc. in the same divisions separated by time zones. While I disdain new "innovations" like pitch counts and overuse of
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specialists, I think that the DH should be uniform in major league baseball. I've heard people say that the DH actually increases the manager's strategic responsibility because he can't lean on the crutch of removing the pitcher because his turn at bat came around; he has to decide whether or not to leave the pitcher in based on his merits on the mound.
While I understand the thought that pitchers hitting increases the "inside baseball" techniques of bunting, taking the extra base and deciding whether or not to remove the pitcher; and that the prevalence of pitchers throwing at hitters is increased because they don't have to bat themselves, I think these are negligible aspects of the game. Pitchers who are
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continually throwing at opposing hitters and getting their own hitters drilled in retaliation aren't going to be very popular in their own clubhouse and that may be as much of a deterrent as the prospect of getting hit themselves. I'd much rather see a veteran hitter the ilk of Edgar Martinez or Paul Molitor get a chance to use his remaining skills at the plate than see John Maine strike out or watch Chien-Ming Wang run the bases and get hurt. The only time it's even remotely interesting when a pitcher bats is when he hits a home run or the opposing pitcher is throwing at him; other than that, who wants to see it? It's time to have the National League use the DH and, as Hank Steinbrenner says, join the 21st century.
  • Curt Schilling----Hall of Famer or not?
There's great debate on whether or not Curt Schilling is a Hall of Famer. At first glance and in comparison to similar pitchers, it looks like a no. This has nothing to do with his
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personality and big, flapping mouth because the nice things (charity and such) he's done throughout his career equal or outweigh the ridiculous things (ill-informed Republican rants;
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smashing QuesTec) he's said and done.
A great comparison that Orestes Destrade came up with regarding Schilling is Orel Hershiser. Their numbers in the regular season and post-season are amazingly close and Hershiser was well-liked during his career saying few things controversial other than an occasional cringe-inducing reference to Jesus. At the top of their respective games, I think Hershiser was a slightly better pitcher. Schilling's also been mentioned with Don Drysdale in comparison, but Drysdale's career ended at age 32 because of injuries; he would have won at least 60-80
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more games if he'd been healthy and would've been a no-brainer as a HOFer; Drysdale was probably a better pitcher than Curt Schilling as well.
I reserve the right to be convinced otherwise, but given Schilling's polarizing personality and the dicey nature of his candidacy, I don't think he's going to get in. He's undoubtedly going to blame his reputation and conflicts with writers for keeping him out, but even without that, the fact is that based on his numbers, he just doesn't cut it as a HOFer.

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