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Monday, September 14, 2009
Who's running the show in Toronto?

Sun Media's Bob Elliott writes about the state of the Blue Jays, and I suppose it's this passage that's getting most of the attention: I have no inside information about this. Six players seems like an awful lot, even for Halladay. On the other hand, nobody knows the failure rate of young pitchers better than the Red Sox. Not so much from experience, but from research. Try as they might -- and they do try, as hard as anyone -- to keep their young pitchers on a smooth and upwardly mobile development path, even the Red Sox can't rely on a pipeline of pitching talent from the farm system. The model just doesn't work well for a team that's supposed to be in the playoffs last year, as the Yankees found out so painfully just last year.

But the Blue Jays aren't supposed to be in the playoffs every year. They're supposed to be decent every year (or almost every year) and, every so often, take a swipe at the big boys. They've been decent for a long time, finishing better than .500 in seven of the last 11 seasons. But they've always topped out at 87 or 88 wins, hardly enough to put a scare into the Yankees or the Red Sox. To scare them, you have to win more than 90 games. Which they haven't done with Roy Halladay.

Which isn't to suggest they'd be better off without Halladay. But you have to take some chances when you're among the poorer, weaker sisters in the American League. And I'm not talking about the kind of chances that involve committing $126 million to Vernon Wells. I'm talking about the kind of chances that involve trading one proven superstar for five or six players who almost surely won't become superstars (but might). The Blue Jays just don't seem willing to change their business plan, which is odd considering how little that plan seems to have done for them over the years.

I'm just sure we can blame Ricciardi for it all. We tend to assume that general managers are generally allowed to do whatever they like, but in most organizations that just isn't true. And the bigger the stars and the money that's involved, the less true it becomes.

Ted Rogers, the Blue Jays' owner, died last December. Paul Beeston, the Blue Jays' CEO, has been serving on an interim basis for some time now. It's not clear who's making the decisions, or who will own the team a year from now. Which is why the talk about J.P. Ricciardi's future is premature. Failing to trade Halladay will probably look like a huge mistake, years (if not months) from now. He's just one player, though. And the disposition of one player will make little difference until the house is in order, starting at the very top.