Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Lightning 2.28.2010

  • J.P. Ricciardi as an analyst?

Yeah, J.P. Ricciardi as an analyst.

After his rocky seven year tenure as the GM of the Toronto Blue Jays, the response to ESPN's hiring of Ricciardi varied from laughter to bewilderment. Because of the endless controversies Ricciardi created on his own for no reason whatsoever as a GM, the implication is that his loose cannon tendencies will be a negative on the Baseball Tonight telecast, but it's his penchant for saying whatever's on his mind regardless of consequences that will make him a good analyst as long as he doesn't take criticism or upper management entreaties to heart and censor himself.

Ricciardi's downfall as a GM wasn't that he made overtly bad moves as Blue Jays GM. Obviously, his time there won't be seen as successful and I've been the first one to unload on him when he's deserved it; but on the whole he wasn't that bad; and his record would've looked better had his team not been trapped in the AL East with the Yankees and Red Sox. Being a middling team in the American League can get you a division title if you're in the West or Central; in the East, it gets you blamed and fired.

That said, he needed to be dismissed for the Blue Jays to move forward. The main issues with Ricciardi were never his personnel decisions; it was his repeated battles with players, coaches and media members that cemented his downfall. His personality is simply not suited to being the face of an organization. There are so many examples of his explosive temper that it's stunning he lasted as long as he did.

A successful GM has to be able to say something without saying anything; to answer the questions without answering the questions; and to let criticism pass without having to respond each...and....every....time.

Ricciardi could never control himself.

It was as if any and all slights were a perceived encroachment on his manhood that had to be answered immediately for fear of Ricciardi being seen as weak. He was a self-justification machine, always quick to attack and blame others when he should have looked into the mirror or swallowed it for the greater good.

The frequent battles with players (Adam Dunn, A.J. Burnett); and the media (he claimed an "agenda" was trying to get him fired when he lied about B.J. Ryan's elbow injury) were bad enough; but his difficulty reached a critical mass when he took Roy Halladay's quiet request to be traded and blew it up so that he: A) was unable to deal the pitcher; B) angered the quiet gunslinger to the point that he was going to demand to be moved after the season one way or the other and on his terms; and C) got himself fired.

All of this is known.

What's missed about Ricciardi is that his personality traits that got him into trouble as GM----his penchant for speaking his mind like an angry caller to a sports talk show----will make him a great addition to the Baseball Tonight broadcast if he's allowed to be himself and they don't try to rein him in with their usual brand of monotonous and repetitive banality.

There's no freedom on these "analysis" shows. It's not a give-and-take between the participants. It's scripted; plotted; safe. Even those that you'd think would be a wild and crazy and say something---John Kruk for example----without remorse or fear are whittled down to a shell of what they were as players by the parameters set by the format and that they don't want to alienate the players, managers or executives.

It's the same thing at the MLB Network; there's no honesty; no genuine passionate debate. It's fake; and you can see it. The personalities are just that, personalities whose private behaviors are sorely lacking from their public attempts at swagger. I know because I've seen the dichotomy in certain participants from public to private with an almost embarrassing submission to a knockdown----justified and discreet though it was.

The main culprit in Ricciardi's failure as Blue Jays GM was what can make him a great in-studio analyst----his mouth. Whenever he was a guest on any talk show as Blue Jays GM, I wanted to listen because I knew he wasn't going to spout corporate catchphrases while saying nothing; he was going to answer the questions honestly, like it or not.

Yes, he was paranoid; yes he made horrendous gaffes as GM; but at least he was interesting. If he's allowed to speak his mind at ESPN, he can be a great broadcaster with an insider's view of players and management. Will they let him loose? My guess is no, but Ricciardi isn't the type to respond well to constraint.

Let's hope they let him do his thing; the thing he was hired for----his unfiltered rants that got him fired as a GM. It's why he shouldn't be the head honcho in an organization but might also make him someone who you'd like to hear speak; someone who could be a big winner as a broadcaster. If they let him.

  • This isn't confidence; it's derangement:

Bill Madden wrote the following about Pirates club president Frank Coonelly in his column today:

Pirates president Frank Coonelly set off a firestorm in Pittsburgh last week with his declaration: "Don't let people tell you the Pirates don't have a great future. Today is our future and 2010 is the beginning of the next dynasty of the Pirates."

Stop laughing.


That's enough laughing.

It's not that funny.

Okay. It is that funny.

Not funny HA-HA; funny sad.

Is this man out of his mind? Does he look at what the Pirates are----in large part because of him----and still decide to say stuff like this? Since he's taken over the Pirates have gotten worse, not better; and he's not even trying to fix the organization.

Coonelly's main objective for the Pirates hasn't been to build a stable organization with delineated principles on how things will be run. No, his agenda has been to implement his "innovations" from working in the commissioner's office as the vice president and general counsel for labor relations. The slotting system to pay draft picks? That was Coonelly and he's going to stick to it no matter what.

He's a lawyer; he's not a baseball guy and it shows. You can say whatever you want about former Pirates GM Dave Littlefield and CEO Kevin McClatchy, but at least they tried. They were overmatched; but not delusional. They made gigantic mistakes in personnel, but it wasn't through a barely concealed intent to do absolutely nothing. Coonelly's statement is disturbingly out-of-touch bluster more fitting from the head of a collapsing dictatorial empire than the stable and sane executive charged with overseeing a rudderless, hapless organization like the Pirates.


I suppose you can call it a dynasty if you really want to...if the type of dynasty you'd like to build if it includes losing 90+ games in each of the last five years and not having a winning season since 1992----a dynasty for ineptitude and placing a stranglehold on last place.

The organization is a train wreck and it's not due to finances; it's due to the conductor and that's Frank Coonelly. Nice work.


If he believes this, there's no gentle way to put it: the man's a lunatic.

  • Viewer Mail 2.28.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Bobby Valentine:

Are you Bobby Valentine's agent/publicist? If so, you're doing a great job.

I'm more of his Don King-style promoter.

Honestly, I think Valentine is the perfect fit for the Rays----a talented team in need of strategy, discipline and control. He'd create a buzz in Tampa and baseball in general. I'm not interested in the vanilla type of manager who no one even realizes is there like Bob Geren; or a guy who screws up endlessly like Joe Maddon does because he's just not paying attention to what he's doing. If you combine Maddon's strategic gaffes with the way the Rays quit last year and I have no clue why he's still there aside from getting some leeway for the 2008 run.

There are things I can tolerate in a manager. If he's not all that strong strategically, but the players play for him and don't quit (Ron Washington with the Rangers for example), he gets points and gets to stay. If he's over the edge, but does the right things (Ozzie Guillen), okay. But if you combine strategic screw-ups with a lack of discipline and that the team quit? No chance.


Jeff said...

Frank Coonelly is funny. Funny like a clown.

Maybe I should pay him a visit...

She-Fan said...

I wonder what qualifications you need to be an ESPN analyst these days. Maybe just a pulse?

theBrooklynTrolleyBlogger said...

ESPN allowed Steve "man-slut" Phillips to step all over Joe Morgan on Sunday nights like gum on the sidewalk. I could see ESPN letting J.P. be free (as long as no sexual harrasment is involved). If he says anything at all, it would be twice as much as John Hart is offering on MLB Network. There is tact and linguistic skill GMs must have as you alluded to. With Hart you see his lips moving but I'm getting zero out of it. At least a good snow job I can appreciate.

Gabriel said...

Maybe we need to go to the Pirates' office and offer our services.