Fans have Ricciardi on hot seat

Craig
Craig Babstock
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Never before have I seen Toronto Blue Jays fans turn against team management like they have this season. First J.P. Ricciardi cuts former closer B.J. Ryan, agreeing to pay the lefty $15-million through the end of next season. In an era when cash is tight, the G.M. decides releasing Ryan is better than sending him to the minors or using him for mop-up duty in an attempt to allow the pitcher to regain his form.

Then Ricciardi tries to trade Roy Halladay, the best pitcher who's ever played for the club. In the process he alienates Doc and angers Jays fans everywhere.

From the cheap seats -

Never before have I seen Toronto Blue Jays fans turn against team management like they have this season. First J.P. Ricciardi cuts former closer B.J. Ryan, agreeing to pay the lefty $15-million through the end of next season. In an era when cash is tight, the G.M. decides releasing Ryan is better than sending him to the minors or using him for mop-up duty in an attempt to allow the pitcher to regain his form.

Then Ricciardi tries to trade Roy Halladay, the best pitcher who's ever played for the club. In the process he alienates Doc and angers Jays fans everywhere.

Then he trades third baseman Scott Rolen, who has another full season left on his contract. Batting .320 for most of the year, Rolen was one of the few players Toronto could count on at the plate this year.

Then Ricciardi puts outfielder Alex Rios on waivers and allows the Chicago White Sox to claim him. The two-time all-star and the five years remaining on his contract disappear, with no players coming back, not even a draft pick.

Two years ago, the team almost got future Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum from San Francisco for Rios. A year and a half ago, Rios was so important to Toronto the team signed him to an eight-figure contract extension.

Then they let him walk without getting anything in return? It's maddening.

Rios was having an off year, but he was still closing in on 20 homers, 80 RBIs and 30 steals. He has the potential to do more, but that doesn't mean he wasn't worth keeping.

Ricciardi said it wasn't about dumping salary, which is a complete lie. He talked about salary flexibility moving forward and the need to fill holes at shortstop and catcher.

What about the new hole in right field? Is he going to fill that with Jose Bautista and Joe Inglett?

Travis Snider is a highly-touted prospect, but he hasn't proven he's ready for the majors yet.

With Doc likely traded before next year's deadline, why would any free agent sign with this team? It's drifting aimlessly and the general manager hasn't improved the club in eight seasons.

° If Claude Lemieux gets another chance, why shouldn't Theoren Fleury?

Fleury is 41, has been out of the NHL for six seasons and sober for four years. Now he wants to return to the NHL so he can finish his career on his own terms.

That's understandable, given the way Fleury left the game. He won a Stanley Cup in 1989 and an Olympic gold medal in 2002 and scored more than 1,000 points in his career.

But his final seasons in New York and Chicago were marred by erratic behaviour and suspensions for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Fleury is still under suspension and would have to be reinstated by the NHL, even if anyone wanted to sign him, which is a long shot.

Fleury was a great player and his descent was rapid. He was out of the league little more than a year after being part of the men's championship team at the Salt Lake City Olympics.

Lemieux returned to the NHL last season, after missing a similar amount of time, at age 43. He notched one assist in 18 games before hanging up the skates once and for all.

Hopefully Fleury will get the same chance. Someone should sign him to a minor league deal and let him get back into game shape in the minors so he's ready for a call-up.

Fleury had a brilliant NHL career and he deserves the chance to be remembered for more than the demons that drove him prematurely from the game.

babstock@rogers.com

Organizations: NHL, Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago White Sox

Geographic location: Toronto, New York, Chicago Salt Lake City Olympics

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