Blue Jays spend, think big

O's lean toward little ball

December 28, 2005|By PETER SCHMUCK

The Toronto Blue Jays have completed a deal to acquire power-hitting third baseman Troy Glaus from the Arizona Diamondbacks, leaving me with no alternative but to change my original assessment that Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi was out of his mind when he spent $102 million on pitchers B.J. Ryan and A.J. Burnett.

Ricciardi apparently is not mentally unstable. He may not even be slightly delusional. I'm starting to think that the Blue Jays decided a couple of months ago that they were going to do everything possible to re-establish themselves as one of the top teams in the American League, and they just may have succeeded.

It's been awhile, but the Jays were one of the dominant AL franchises in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They won back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and '93 before surrendering to Yankees hegemony for the past decade or so. Now, they've upgraded each of the three major components of the team - the starting rotation, the bullpen and the heart of the lineup - and appear to be strong enough to challenge the Yankees and Red Sox in 2006.

This has to come as great news to Orioles fans, who now know that it's possible for a team to undergo a complete facelift in one offseason, though they were kind of hoping that it would happen here instead of Toronto. The Orioles are expected to counter by giving a one-year contract to outfielder Jeromy Burnitz, which will shore up the outfield and add some pop to the batting order, but they are making a troublesome habit of being upstaged.

The Orioles have added reliever LaTroy Hawkins, free-agent catcher Ramon Hernandez and soon Burnitz - transactions that will cost a total of about $38 million. The Blue Jays have committed about $132 million to add Ryan, Burnett and Glaus to a team that already has Cy Young Award-winner Roy Halladay, All-Star outfielder Vernon Wells and some fine young talent. It is possible that Ricciardi is just way out over his cross-country skis and the Jays will end up handicapping themselves for the future because of his profligate spending, but if I'm an Orioles fan I'm starting to do the math in my head.

Yep, sure enough, the Blue Jays have spent almost $100 million more on talent this offseason than the Orioles, who just might be in the process of trying to trade their most popular and expensive player because he is unhappy that they haven't done enough to improve the team. That kind of thing is not believed to be good for ticket sales, but there are still seven weeks left before the Orioles open spring training in Fort Lauderdale.

I'm trying to keep an open mind, but it's fair to ask why the Orioles are always on the outside looking in when teams such as the Diamondbacks and Florida Marlins decide to dump all their high-priced players. The frugal fish sent Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to the Red Sox and slugger Carlos Delgado to the Mets, and the Diamondbacks traded starting pitcher Javier Vazquez to the defending world champion Chicago White Sox before dispatching Glaus to the great white north in exchange for Orlando Hudson and Miguel Batista.

I keep hearing how difficult it is to consummate deals involving top-name, big-money players, but big trades apparently do happen ... just not here.

The Orioles have been priced out of all the top free-agent pitchers this winter, but it's hard to be too critical of their unwillingness to overpay in a thin market when the Texas Rangers hand Kevin Millwood a deal that could be worth up to $60 million for five years. Is anyone still wondering why players flock to agent Scott Boras?

Mea culpa dept: In my Christmas poem "The Fortnight Before Christmas," I made reference to Orioles owner Peter Angelos firing Davey Johnson and Pat Gillick. Technically, neither was fired. Johnson resigned when it became apparent that he and Angelos could not get along, and Gillick's contract was not renewed.

That might be a distinction without a difference, but I always strive to represent the facts accurately, even when I'm trying to make them rhyme.

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