So, J.P. Ricciardi, huh?

Yesterday, the Mets announced that they hired J.P Ricciardi as a Special Assistant to GM Sandy Alderson.  It’s a reunion.  Ricciardi held the same post under Alderson in Oakland before becoming the Director of Player Personnel for Billy Beane and then later the GM of the Blue Jays in November 2001.

Ricciardi is one of Alderson’s guys.  He suggested to the media that he was leaning towards taking a job with Boston, until Alderson called him.  As quoted by Adam Rubin at ESPNNY, Ricciardi said of the Boston gig, “I was going to head that direction until Sandy got the job.”

Ricciardi lasted eight years with the Toronto Blue Jays when Rogers Communications owned the team.  The GM of the Blue Jays from the years 2001-2009 had to be one of the most toughest in sports because he was competing first with the Yankee Dynasty and then the mini Evil Empire Red Sox with a fraction of the budget.  Ricciardi did not have much success in the role.  However, he made his own life difficult with a string of bad contracts.

Something to like:
Ricciardi comes from a player development and scouting background.  Here’s his mini-bio from Wikipedia:

After the conclusion of his playing career, Ricciardi became a coach in the New York Yankees farm system in the early 1980s before joining the Oakland Athletics organization in 1986 as a minor league instructor and scout. By the early 1990s he had risen to the rank of East Coast Scouting Supervisor and later National Crosschecker. Ricciardi made his break into the front office in 1996, when he became special assistant to Athletics general manager Sandy Alderson. Under new general manager Billy Beane, who was hired in 1997 and had been Ricciardi’s former teammate with the Little Falls Mets,[2] his role became Director of Player Personnel.

Scary Things:
- Ricciardi gave out some terrible contracts in Toronto:

  • Alex Rios: 7 years, $69.835 million (with a $13.5 M club option in 2015 with a 1 M buyout)
    • Coming off consecutive All-Star appearances in 2006 and 2007, the team saved almost $3 M in 2008, in exchange for albatross payments of $12 M beginning in 2011.  Rios, a career .284/.334/.457 hitter, has never appeared in another All-Star game.  The Blue Jays simply put him on waivers in 2009.  I’m sure the White Sox, who claimed him, are stoked about the $50 million they owe him over the next four years for his age 30-33 seasons.
  • BJ Ryan – 5 years, $47 million
    • Ryan was tremendous in 2004 and 2005 in his age 28 and 29 seasons for Baltimore, so the Jays overpaid him in the winter of 2005.  He rewarded them with a dominant 2006 with a 1.37 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 72.1 innings.  Then his elbow fell apart.  He needed Tommy John surgery after five games in 2007.  He was solid in 2008 (2.95 ERA, 28 BB, 58 K in 58 IP) but terrible enough in 2009 to earn his release.  This time, no one rushed in to claim his contract, and the Jays were left paying him $10 million in 2010 to sit on the couch.
  • Vernon Wells – 7 years, $126 million
    • The worst contract in baseball?  Or does that insult Brian Sabean and Barry Zito?
    • That’s $23 mil in 2011, $21 mil in 2012, 13, and 2014 all for a guy who hit .273/.331/.515 this year with 31 homers, matching his age in 2010.  So, he’ll earn at least $21 mil in as a 32-35 year old.
  • AJ Burnett – 5 years, $55 million
    • The good news for Toronto was that Burnett opted out of this goofiness after 2008 to sign an even goofier 5 year/$82.5 million contract with the Yankees.
  • Lyle Overbay – 4 years, $24 million
    • Signed in January ’07 when Overbay was coming off a career year at .312/.372/.508 in his age 29 season.  It was the only time in his career his slugging percentage reached .500
  • Frank Thomas – 2 years, $18 million with a $10 million option for 2009
    • I love Frank Thomas.  I loved that he hit .270/.381/.545 for Oakland while earning $500K in 2006 at age 38.  I have no idea how committing $18 million to a player in his age 39 and 40 seasons, could have been construed as a good idea in the winter of 2006.  It wasn’t.  Thomas was released in the spring of 2008 so the Jays wouldn’t be tempted to play him and see his option, which was based on plate appearances vest.

Mets fans rightly were critical of Omar Minaya for the Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo contracts.  But Ricciardi’s record of overpayments is really amazin’.  Paying this much money for guys who were past their prime is really a spectacular misread of player value and the market.

The Lies
When you don’t tell the truth, it’s called lying.

  • Ricciardi initially told the media that B.J. Ryan was suffering from a back problem.  Instead, Ryan had an elbow problem that eventually needed Tommy John Surgery.  Busted, he dropped his infamous, “They’re not lies if we know the truth,” line that surely made George Orwell proud.
  • He ripped Adam Dunn for not liking baseball, and then claimed to apologize to Dunn, while Dunn claimed he’d never heard from Ricciardi.  Huh?
    • Here’s his quote about 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? How much do you know about the player? There’s a reason why you’re attracted to some players and there’s a reason why you’re not attracted to some players. I don’t think you’d be very happy if we brought Adam Dunn here …

Joe Posnanski wrote a great piece about Ricciardi last August.

There are parts of his record that are really scary.  On the other hand, now, Ricciardi won’t be running the show, just advising.

Maybe Ricciardi is better suited for whatever reason to be someone’s sidekick rather than the top guy.  Maybe this is the right situation for him as Alderson’s helper.  Maybe he’s learned from his big-budget mistakes.  Maybe now he’ll be honest with the media.
Maybe, maybe, maybe.