It was finally here. The regime that would erase the horrible memories of Gord Ash’s tenure. Sure there were winning seasons but they were still mediocre at best. There seemed to be no direction. So with the purse strings still held tight by ownership we decided on November 15, 2001 to give the reigns to a magic man from the Moneyball types in Oakland: The JP Ricciardi era had officially started to take shape.
A man who promised to keep the team competitive and winning on a tight budget. A budget that was not only the major league contracts but all of the minors and coaches as well. This would be a coup de gras for us if he could be the Billy Beane clone. Could he be and would his team be a new 21st century business model of the starving middle class franchise? Let’s see how the Home Opener went for our beloved Blue Jays and if it reflected our new status as the poooor Canadian team…
Date: April 4, 2002
Location: The SkyDome, Toronto, ON, Canada
Game: Minnesota Twins vs. YOUR Toronto Blue Jays
Weather: the kind that left you feeling all Domey inside…
24. That is the number of pitchers used by the Blue Jays in 2002. 24. Thank goodness there was one arm we could rely on because apparently there weren’t that many. Say hello to the man who has started to come into his own: Mr. Roy Halladay. Our Opening Day starter until further notice. the next generation’s Dave Stieb. Halladay took the mound to start of the Ricciardi era against soon to be forgotten Joe Mays. Mays was a flash in the pan in 2001 and was removed from the rotation half way through the season with some gawd awful numbers. This looks like the proverbial cake walk kids!
And a walk through cake it was with Halladay’s 8 innings of 5 hit, 1 earned run, no walks and 8 Ks. Tossed like the true Number 1 that he is. He would remain so for another decade or so. Joe Mays? 3.2 innings, 9 hits, 4 earned runs. Pretty mediocre numbers for a Number 1 starter. Our bats were alive and well, particularly bruising outfielder Raul Mondesi who went 4-5 with a dinger and 3 RBIs and eventual rookie of the year Eric Hinske who was 3-4 with 3 runs scored.
I began to really doubt Ricciardi after the average team he gave to Buck Martinez started out as 20-33 which led to the inevitable managerial firing. Carlos Tosca really didn’t fare much better but there was more stability and accountability which had been lacking for a few years. Ricciardi was almost literally selling fridges to eskimos just to ensure their food is kept fresh…even though they are surrounded by ice.
We had Halladay to watch, as well as Carlos Delgado. Josh Phelps 15 homered his way into our thoughts and there were glimpses of what Ricciardi was seeing. Was he the right person to navigate the team through this. Was this an experiment gone wrong? 2003 will let us know if it is a trend and nothing more…