Ricciardi fired as Blue Jays' general manager

The Toronto Blue Jays fired general manager J.P. Ricciardi on Saturday morning, saying it was time for a change.

J.P. Ricciardi came to Toronto billed as one of baseball's young magicians.

Instead, his eight years as general manager of the Blue Jays turned out to be all smoke and mirrors.

On Saturday the show came to an end when Ricciardi, as widely expected for months, was fired by interim president and CEO Paul Beeston.

"This was a tough decision and a difficult one for me personally, as I have enjoyed J.P.'s friendship and his perspective on the game," Beeston said in a statement released by the club in Baltimore.

"J.P. has put an incredible amount of effort into improving the team, and he has brought along a number of great young players."

Despite that, Beeston said, he felt it was time for a change.

The musings of J.P.

J.P. Ricciardi might not have been successful on the scoreboard as GM of the Toronto Blue Jays, but he left behind a long list of memorable quotes. Here's a few:

On then Reds outfielder Adam Dunn: "Do you know the guy doesn't really like baseball that much? Do you know the guy doesn't have a passion to play the game that much? ... I don't think you'd be very happy if we brought Adam Dunn here."

On making up a back injury story to cover pitcher B.J. Ryan's arm troubles: "It's not a lie if we know the truth."

On pitcher Gil Meche, who chose lowly Kansas City rather than sign with the Jays: "When a guy talks about coming to our place where he has a chance to win and compete against the Yankees and Red Sox, and then he goes to a place like Kansas City, that's an eye-opener."

Buddy Bell, the Royals' manager at the time, shot right back: "Every time I hear this guy talk, all he's doing is whining."

Montreal native Alex Anthopoulos, the assistant GM and vice-president of baseball operations, takes over for Ricciardi on an interim basis.

Ricciardi declined to comment in an email sent to The Canadian Press.

Toronto would go on to lose 6-3 to Baltimore on Saturday.

Beeston is expected to announce soon who will assume the full-time presidency of the team, putting that person in charge of both the baseball club and the Rogers Centre.

Next, the club will have to find a new GM, who in turn will have to decide the future of manager Cito Gaston.

Gaston brought an injury-riddled team home with a 75-85 record to this point and apparently has a fractious clubhouse. Multiple media sources said Friday that the veteran bench boss, who took the Jays to their two World Series titles in 1992 and 1993, has lost much of the dressing room.

Money Ball turned into big money

Ricciardi, a former minor league infielder, began his career as a baseball executive with the New York Mets, but it was when he moved to Oakland in 1986 that he starting to climb the ranks.

Ultimately, he took over as director of player personnel for the A's under GM Billy Beane, whose statistical approach to appraising talent spawned the bestselling book Money Ball.

When the Jays fired Gord Ash as GM at the end of 2001, they tabbed Ricciardi as their new boss.

He brought along Beane's belief in on-base percentage and slugging average as the key indicators for good offensive players, and the idea that college grads were better draft picks than high schoolers.

In his eight years at the helm, the Jays had four winning seasons (the best of them 87-75 in 2006) but never seriously challenged for a division title or a wild card spot.

His total mark was 642-651.

Signings turned out badly

Most of the criticism towards Ricciardi's regime has been aimed at the contracts he's signed.

They include:

  • Penning outfielder Vernon Wells to a $127-million US, seven-year deal, only to see his offensive output plummet.
  • Allowing pitcher A.J. Burnett an opt-out clause in an expensive contract that saw the right-hander take advantage of a strong 2007 season to sign a mega-deal with the New York Yankees.
  • Signing aged slugger Frank Thomas to a big-money deal and then having to cut him for not producing.
  • Giving closer B.J. Ryan a five-year, $47-million deal. Ryan's arm gave out, he missed a full season and was cut this year for not producing.
  • Giving a monster deal to outfielder Alex Rios, who was ultimately sent to the Chicago White Sox this season with nothing in return.

At this summer's deadline, Ricciardi made headlines everywhere for publicly putting star pitcher Roy Halladay's name out to any takers willing to meet his price.

No one did, and Halladay went into a funk that almost ruined his season.

There is a year left on Ricciardi's contract.

With files from The Canadian Press