Wrong One Leaving?

DENVER—If Blue Jays general manager J.P Ricciardi can’t figure out a way to make Roy Halladay fit into his long-term plans, then the best solution in Toronto would be to keep Halladay and get rid of Ricciardi.

The franchise would be in better shape.

And nobody should understand that better than acting Blue Jays president Paul Beeston, who knows what it takes to build a championship team in Toronto. That is something that has escaped Ricciardi in his eight seasons on the job.

It was, after all, Beeston who stepped in when it came time to make a managerial change last summer. Anyone who doesn’t see that Beeston’s fingerprints were all over the return of Cito Gaston, the man who managed the Jays to back-to-back World Series titles, ought to check out that oceanfront property in Arizona.

Ricciardi used to hide behind the excuse that it was tough to compete with the financial wherewithal of the Red Sox and Yankees. Then along came the Rays, who won the American League East last year with the lowest payroll in baseball. Tampa Bay finished ahead of the Red Sox and Yankees, as well as the fourth-place Blue Jays, and advanced to the World Series.

So now the talk is about next year being the year for the Jays. Even Gaston was singing that tune as long ago as spring training. Well, if the Jays think they’re close enough that next year is their year, it makes absolutely no sense to think they would benefit from trading the best pitcher in the game, a pitcher who has acclimated quite well to life in Canada.

So the budget is going to be tight next year if Halladay is still around? Just exactly who is the guy who oversaw the signing or acquisition of eight players who are guaranteed $81.668 million for 2010? And why would the best solution to that problem be getting rid of the best player on the team (who is far from the end of his career)? And if the decision is made to move Halladay, why would the man who has created the mess in the first place be deemed capable of extracting a quality package in return for the greatest player ever developed by the organization?

Heck, if it wasn’t for the $36.77 million in contracts the Jays have eaten in recent years—including $15 million paid to B.J. Ryan in July—the team might not be in this mess. Yet, the guy who handed out those contracts was suggesting that the solution to the franchise’s financial problems was to trade the contract of the one player who is worth every penny he is being paid.

Nats Need More Housecleaning

Nationals president Stan Kasten can’t waste any more time.

Kasten learned the baseball business in Atlanta, where strong leadership and stability earned the franchise a professional sports record 14 consecutive first-place finishes. So what’s up in Washington, where there is an interim general manager, an interim manager, and an organization with loyalties split three different ways?

Jim Bowden may have been fired as GM, but his confidants remain in key positions, with no loyalty to the Kasten faction. Bowden continues to spend time with the sons of owner Ted Lerner, pushing an agenda that has turned the Nationals into one of the most dysfunctional franchise in baseball history.

While interim GM Mike Rizzo was expected to get the job full time, word in the scouting world is that Kasten has interviewed as many as three candidates for the job. That group includes former Rays GM Chuck LaMar, who worked with Kasten in Atlanta and spent the 2008 season working in Washington, and former Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker, a special assistant in Tampa Bay.

Meanwhile, on the field, Jim Riggleman was being asked to come to the managerial rescue for the second year in a row. A year ago, he replaced John McLaren in Seattle; this time it’s Manny Acta in Washington. Riggleman, who guided the Mariners to a 36-54 record last year, presided over five straight losses after taking the Nats’ helm.

Can Riggleman hit the trifecta next year? Interestingly, it has already been done, by Jim Dykes, who was a midseason replacement for the Reds in 1958, the Tigers in 1959 and the Indians in 1960.

Dykes had some success in the role. He was 24-17 with the Reds, but was not rehired. He went 74-63 with the Tigers, and after a 44-52 start in 1960, he was involved in a managerial swap. Indians GM Frank Lane sent Joe Gordon to the Tigers for Dykes, who took over the Indians and managed them to a 26-36 record. He was replaced as the Indians’ manager after going 77-83 in 1961.