Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi has a tell when he's being dishonest about a ballplayer's health. His lips move.
Granted, there might have been strings moving J.P.'s mouth when the GM went on the radio (the Rogers-owned station which covers the Rogers-owned Jays) today. Ricciardi slagged Burnett for not being able to "realize the difference between being hurt and really being hurt." It gives off the whiff of someone higher up in the Rogers/Jays hierarchy (lookin' at you, Paul Godfrey), deciding the company line is that Burnett is back on the disabled list since he can't tell when he's really hurt.
Ya, right. No smart baseball man -- which Ricciardi is, sometimes -- should expect core Jays fans who try to know and understand baseball to buy such Grade-A bullflop. It is possible, though, that Ricciardi is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to cover the rear end of manager Goober Gibbons pointed Burnett toward the disabled list by asking him to handle a workload that he wouldn't dream of asking from Roy Halladay. If that's the case, he comes off pretty damn poorly.
Fans could accept that Burnett being a little bit hurt is like a woman being a lil' bit pregnant. There's no such thing with him. No one, even people in the game, knows what all goes into pitching and keeping a guy's arm healthy, so why shouldn't Burnett get benefit of the doubt if he says he's hurt, especially after the workload the Jays put on him a month ago?
The Jays have a poor track record with keeping pitchers healthy. Seen B.J. Ryan lately? Gibbons tempted fate by piling up the pitch counts for Burnett. A.J.'s problems started a month ago when he threw 372 pitches across three starts, which is unheard of in 2007 baseball.
That's 124 pitches on average. Halladay -- think of all the superlatives attached to Doc; competitor, winner, warrior -- has not thrown that many pitches in any single game since early 2004, when Gibbons was just a seen-and-not-heard first-base coach. The Jays treat one high-priced right-handed starter like fine China and treat the other like a Styrofoam plate.
It doesn't wash that the Jays are calling Burnett as a $55-million goldbricker, and so what if he ends up a No. 4 starter? The difference between being No. 4 and No. 2 is what, one start a season? Burnett doesn't have Halladay's rep, he seems to move to his own beat (it must be something about being a Capricorn born in the first week of 1977), but it's disappointing to hear Ricciardi play a blame game in order to cover his and the mothership's rear end.
Jays fans deserve a honest answer, not butt-covering. The ballclub had to know in the winter of 2005-06 that Burnett was high-risk, high-reward, but they felt they needed to do something headline-grabbing. They knew Toronto fans and media are a bit New Yorkish when it comes to not having time or patience for rebuilding programs. There would have been major eye-rolling if they said, "Wait until 2007, when Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan and Casey Janssen get here to form a supporting cast for Doc."
So why can't Ricciardi just come out and say that? It's all in how you endure this crisis, J.P., and lashing out at a player doesn't cut it.
Burnett a $55M fourth starter? (Sportsnet.ca)
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