My biggest complaint about the event was the food. For those of us training for a marathon, is it too much to ask for a veggie spread? OK, even for those of us not in my shoes, hot dogs, pizza, wings and fries were not what the doctor ordered. I know they were going for the whole ballpark feel, but I was at a fine hotel establishment, not in line for a slice of pizza at the Rogers Centre. But I digress…
There were plenty of softballs heaved at Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi and team prez Paul Godfrey, but there were also some interesting remarks made on Tuesday night. The most "heated" complaint from the fans (two grabbed the mic to bring it up and each got some claps from the crowd) was Ricciardi’s insistance on backing John Gibbons as the manager. To make his case, all Ricciardi had to do was point out Gibby’s career record and the fact that he’s fielded winning clubs in spite of injuries over the past two seasons. Touche.
"If you brought Connie Mack back, he wouldn’t get you 100 wins with those types of injuries," Ricciardi said.
Another item by Ricciardi raised some brows and it hardly flew over the heads of fans, especially some of the more well-known Jays bloggers out there. A fan asked why Ricciardi would even consider trading someone as talented as Alex Rios to the Giants for Tim Lincecum. Ricciardi responded with this mind-boggler:
"When we were presented with that, we thought long and hard. And obviously we value Rios more than we valued the other guy, and that’s why he’s still here."
Then what was all that talk at the Winter Meetings about the decision to pull the trigger being in the hands of Giants GM Brian Sabean? Ricciardi indicated back then that if the Giants agreed to the trade, it was a done deal. Then, when San Francisco signed Aaron Rowand, Sabean said the trade with the Jays was off. Ricciardi’s latest seems a little contradictory.
This isn’t to say that the Jays don’t value Rios a lot. Obviously, they do. They’re still talking to him about a long-term deal. It’s Ricciardi’s job to also entertain trade offers for players like Rios — "It’s always brought up, ‘Would you trade Rios? Would you trade Rios?’ As a general your manager, your response is , ‘Well, what are you willing to give us?’" — but saying now that the Jays put the kibosh on the proposed Giants deal doesn’t line up.
Some other items from the event to note:
–Ricciardi believes B.J. Ryan will be ready for Opening Day
–The Jays are still talking to Aaron Hill about a multiyear deal
–Jays are just under $1 million tix sold, higher than recent years
–Jays are only one of two teams to increase attendance over past five years
–Frank Thomas is going to head to camp earlier than usual
–Ricciardi said David Purcey could join the Jays as a reliever or starter this year
Ricciardi also reiterated that the Jays are done making moves, saying: "We don’t have any more money. We’re done. What we’ve got is what we’ve got. Someone would have to be really, really be looking for a job and would have to come to us on a Minor League deal. I don’t see that happening right now."
Godfrey chimed in multiple times as well, tackling issues like a salary cap, unbalanced schedules and how the Canadian dollar has helped payroll. In short, he would support a salary cap even though players wouldn’t, he’s fought with MLB about changing to a balanced schedule ("I think [Bud Selig has] other things on his mind these days.") and he claims the strength of the loonie is a reason why the Jays’ payroll has jumped from roughly $50 million to more than $90 million. That last one also didn’t completely compute, but Mike Wilner already did the math, so I’ll point you in his direction.
With that, I’ll leave you with this fine exchange between a fan and Ricciardi:
Fan No. 1: "One year after the fact, do you still see the Wells signing being worth the $17 million per year, or whatever the exact figure is? To me, he’s Xavier Nady with slightly better defense."
Ricciardi: "Yeah, we’re very happy with the Wells signing. I think when you look back at the end of that signing, when you see where salaries are going and the direction threy’re going for those types of players, we’ll end up having a good player and he’ll end up performing really well over those seven years. I don’t think he’s Xavier Nady. I think he’s a pretty good player."
Fan No. 2: "I just wanted to comment about that Xavier Nady comparison. Buddy, you don’t need to kick J.P. between the legs."
Now, back to those political races…