TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays fired general manager J.P. Ricciardi on Saturday, ending an eight-year tenure marked by an inability to get past the Yankees and Red Sox and into the playoffs.
“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,” said Paul Beeston, Toronto’s acting president and CEO.
“J.P. has put an incredible amount of effort into improving the team and he has brought along a number of great young players,” Beeston said. “However, I feel that it is time for a change and accordingly we have decided to move on.”
Ricciardi, who joined the Jays in 2001, had one year left on his contract. The Blue Jays (75-85) are finishing off a mediocre season in Baltimore, with the team embroiled in locker-room unrest with manager Cito Gaston.
The Blue Jays said assistant general manager Alexander Anthopoulos will assume Ricciardi’s duties until a permanent replacement is found.
Ricciardi declined to comment in an email sent to The Canadian Press. Calls seeking comment from Anthopoulos were not immediately returned.
Calls seeking comment from Anthopoulos and Ricciardi were not immediately returned.
Ricciardi’s firing was widely expected. He had been criticized for poor free agent signings and off-field missteps.
The team posted four winning seasons and four losing ones under Ricciardi, never making the playoffs in an AL East dominated by New York and Boston. Toronto last made the playoffs in 1993, when the team won its second straight World Series.
The best finish by one of Ricciardi’s clubs came in 2006, when the Blue Jays went 87-75 to finish second in the AL East.
The 2009 campaign was a microcosm of Ricciardi’s tenure as GM. There was a hopeful start, a sudden collapse, a lack of resources to turn things around, a spate of injuries, some painful decisions related to bad contracts and ultimately, pessimism for the future.
Adding to the Blue Jays woes this season were the clumsily handled Roy Halladay trade talks. Ricciardi essentially took every media call he could for a month in a bid to create pressure on other teams to overpay for the ace, but in the end he couldn’t get a deal done.
Other missteps included allowing A.J. Burnett an opt-out clause in his contract, giving Frank Thomas an $18 million, two-year deal with a vesting option, and signing B.J. Ryan to a $47 million, five-year deal.
Burnett left to become a free agent last fall, Thomas had to be cut in the second season at a cost of around $8 million, and Ryan was released in July with $15 million left on his contract.
Other bad contracts he signed included a $17 million, three-year deal for Canadian Corey Koskie and the monster deals for Vernon Wells and Alex Rios.
Wells has five years remaining on his $127 million, seven-year deal, a contract that will handcuff the club for seasons to come. The team managed to escape the $60 million remaining on Rios’ deal when he was claimed off waivers by the White Sox, but the team got nothing in return.
The Blue Jays also had a spotty record in the draft under Ricciardi, who produced several decent major leaguers but very few elite players.