Monday, February 28, 2005

Ricciardi Interview

This interview with Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi deals with the question of how closely bloggers should scrutinize GMs.

Essentially, Ricciardi is angry because Batter's Box supported him when he was making intelligent decisions but has abandoned him now that he isn't anymore.

Still, some of Ricciardi's arguments are interesting, at least:

“Over the last year, you guys have lost perspective a little bit," he said. "You get more excited when we sign a minor-league free agent who has never played in the major leagues than when we sign Scott Schoeneweis, who we’re trying to make a reliever of – you guys rip it apart."

Well, that's because Schoeneweis is terrible. Still, he has a point - bloggers probably place too much emphasis on minor transactions, in part because we have to talk about them and in part because many of us know enough about the minor leagues to get pretty excited when our team signs a player (like Graham Koonce) who we always thought should get a shot. It's hard to criticize minor-league deals too much, anyway, because there's so little risk involved - I felt a little bit weird even rolling my eyes at the Pirates' recent Todd Ritchie signing. Ricciardi's right - while minor league deals certainly matter, they don't matter much, and they're the sorts of considerations that make people think that the Royals' Allard Baird is a good GM, even though he hasn't done much that has worked at the major league level.

JP is fully aware that numerous Bauxites have called numerous times for the acquisition of this or that player during the past few months. “We’re four steps ahead of you,” he said bluntly. The Blue Jays have already tried to trade for some of the players suggested by Bauxites – JP didn’t name specific players, but Brad Wilkerson, Austin Kearns and Nick Johnson were among the hitters most commonly suggested at Da Box...

JP went on to say that there are a number of aspects of deal-making that Bauxites simply would not know about – that a given player the Jays signed was maybe not their first choice, or that they gave a two-year contract to a player because another team was also willing to give it and the Jays either had to ante up or lose out. It’s a lot more complicated than it looks.

Again, a good point. GMs shouldn't be criticized too much for failing to acquire a specific player.

However, when a blogger says, "They really should have traded for Brad Wilkerson," or, in my case, "The Pirates really should have signed Corey Koskie," what they mean is actually something like this: "Acquiring Wilkerson or Koskie would have been a much better course of action than the one the team chose, which stunk."

Which brings us to this gem:

“The thing I like about Hillenbrand is that he’s a real aggressive guy, a real hard-nosed guy,” he said. “That’s the team we’re trying to be, and we’re going to be able to do that more now; he brings that toughness. With Koskie, with Hudson, and with some of the grinders we have, we have to be more of a grind-it-out team.”

Riiiggghht. "A grind-it-out team"? What does that mean? How does Shea Hillenbrand, a mediocre offensive player and a bad defensive player (despite his hilarious recent claims to the contrary), help the Jays? How does Schoeneweis help them? "The thing I like about Hillenbrand is that he's a real aggressive guy, a real hard-nosed guy" is GM-speak for "My acquisition of Hillenbrand was completely indefensible."

While bloggers' speculations aren't always completely fair, the broader criticisms they stand in for often are. A GM who just gave a multi-million dollar contract to Scott Schoeneweis has no business complaining that he's being criticized.


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