Who loves J.P. Ricciardi? Seems no one in the media is neutral about the embattled Blue Jays general manager. By the time Ricciardi dumped Alex Rios for $60-million in salary-cap space on Monday, the eight-year exec had become more toxic than Michael Vick for some in the media.
Prime Time Sports host Bob McCown says that Ricciardi ( "J.P. Numbskull" in McCown's words) is pain grillé come October 4. "The Blue Jays have started to wave the white flag," he said Monday. "Doesn't take a Houdini to figure this one out..."
"Stupid J.P. Ricciardi. Trading Scott Rolen? Keeping Halladay? Geezus, these guys can't even hold a fire sale properly," thundered Jeff Blair in these pages . "The Rios salary dump is just the latest repudiation of the Blue Jays' contract frenzy a few years ago," wrote Peter Schmuck in the Baltimore Star.
Fans calling into talk shows have largely tagged Ricciardi, not Rogers Communications, with responsibility for the mess. Vernon Wells' bloated contract, the abortive Halladay talks, the fragile pitching after A. J. Burnett's exit, , B.J. Ryan, not living full-time in Toronto... there are more grievances than a NAFTA tribunal. And chat sites like Fire J.P. Ricciardi Please speak for themselves.
He's apparently not Mr. Popular with his peers, either: It was widely felt Rios' confidential waiver claim was leaked to the media by someone within the game to embarrass him. Ricciardi must sense his fate; when asked about next offseason on Monday he replied, "I don't even want to comment on it."
But there are those who still defend him. "I think he has done a fine job," said Fan 960's Mike Wilner, albeit before the Rios deal. The host who fields the cranky callers on the team's postgame show, Wilner points out that Ricciardi's critics aren't even blaming him for the right issues.
So it was mildly surprising that much of the analysis - after the inevitable "Jays get nothing for Rios" headlines - was accepting of the move under the circumstances. McCown declared - after a few mild caveats - that "This is a brilliant move on behalf of the Toronto Blue Jays.... when Chicago bit, it was like Christmas." At ESPN, baseball writer Buster Olney (who called the Rios waiver claim "the largest pure salary dump in Major League Baseball history) wrote, "It was absolutely the right thing to do for the Jays."
Over on Rogers Sportsnet, the team's broadcaster, announcers Jamie Campbell and Pat Tabler were also humming Always Look On the Bright Side Of Life. "In two moves they have taken $21-million off the books for next year alone," said Tabler. Added Campbell: "They may need a catcher next year. (Rod) Barajas' contract comes to an end at the end of this season, Marco Scutaro becomes a free agent at the end of the season... so they'll need some players. So Losing Rios provides a little financial flexibility."
None of which is likely to save Ricciardi from his eventual fate when the team staggers to another woeful finish in October. And none of this says that the owners, Rogers Communications, will ever spend the Rios savings on more or better players. But the media will have to find someone new to blame for the Blue Jays bungles.
Blogs get Kaned: The question of whether independent bloggers should have equal status with mainstream media is a hot topic in the industry. But the alleged Patrick Kane robbery and battery of a cabby was not exactly a shining moment for the integrity of bloggers. The release of the police charges Monday morning brought an immediate torrent of abuse in the blogosphere for Kane, who was accused of beating a hapless Buffalo cabby for a 20-cent tip. Before Kane could explain his side, sites were saying "How could Kane be this stupid?...
Patrick Kane is a stuck-up, rich, spoiled, bratty punk... this punk kid needs a ass beating... The best possible light for Kane is that he is a mean drunk, a guy who is not above physically abusing a 62 year old man after a stupid prank went awry." You get the flavour.
Kane's mug shot was widely circulated. Then it emerged that the cabby - who has two DUIs and might have been driving without a license - locked Kane and his cousin in the back seat of the cab, thinking they were college kids punking him for a fare. The cabby's own lawyer said the incident was a tad overblown. Okay, way overblown. Kane's lawyer said it was the cousin, not Patrick, who got into any rough stuff. His client was being defamed. Suddenly it was a new story.
But the damage was already done to Kane, who is supposed to be on the cover of EA Sports NHL game. As we said, not a good day for the blogosphere.
Vick Vindication?: The rehabilitation of Michael Vick gets its road test this Sunday when he's interviewed by James Brown of CBS Sports on 60 Minutes. Teams thinking of signing the convicted dog-fighting mogul will be auditing the results, hoping that a credible performance from Vick gives them wiggle room to sign him. Even more intriguing is the question, why Brown for the interview? Roger Clemens had to face Mike Wallace. Last we looked, 60 Minutes has an announced staff longer than Andy Rooney's eyebrows. Will Brown - an African American - give Vick a more or less sympathetic hearing? Of course, Anderson Cooper got to interview David Beckham, so any explanation is plausible after to that.
Meanwhile, Erin Andrews - she of the peeping-tom case - returns to work Sept. 3 for a college game on ESPN. Larry King and the other members of TV's celebrity empathy industry are circling for exclusive rights to hear Andrews' side of the story. Nothing settled yet, but ABC - ESPN's sister network - should have the inner track. And only Barbara Walters can make her cry.
Standup Comedy: Why we love Vic Rauter. The veteran TSN announcer is doing a standup in front of Montreal's Uniprix Stadium before Tuesday's tennis action. "The lineup in front of the ticket window will tell you everything you need to know about who is playing tonight," Rauter says. Suddenly, a fellow settles in front of Rauter, intently staring at him. "Hello, sir, how are you?" says a startled Rauter, trying to get on with his standup. "I'm fine," says the onlooker, who remains squarely in front of Rauter's standup.
After several pithy thoughts on Roger Federer, Rauter realizes that Chauncey "I Like To Watch" Gardener is not going away. "Have you got tickets for tonight?" Vic asks the fellow. This seems to only encourage the bystander, who is now completely obscuring Rauter. Rauter dodges behind him, all the while continuing his standup. The bystander next walks straight into the camera as Rauter cranes his neck behind him, still going on about Federer. At last, the fellow grows bored of ruining a perfectly good take and wanders away. A bemused Rauter finishes his opening for the night, never once missing a beat. Ah, live TV. Vic is Usual Suspects' hero.