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Athletics Nation Interview: J.P. Ricciardi

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Editor's Note: The following is the transcription of an in-person interview by Sligg, an Athletics Nation reader who had the privilege of sitting down with Toronto General Manager J.P. Ricciardi (and former A's assistant GM) this past weekend. Thank you, Andy. AN appreciates your hard work.

Sligg: What are some of the unique challenges of being a GM of a baseball team in Canada?

J.P. Ricciardi: I don't think Canada is any more challenging then anywhere else, I think the biggest challenge we face is the division that we play in. So that's the number one obstacle we have.

Sligg: What's the most challenging about the transition to General Manager? Are there any duties you wish you could pass off to Billy (Beane) or Paul (DePodesta)?

JPR: I was really fortunate because I worked with the best GM in the game, not only is he the best GM in the game, but he is one of my best friends. So, you know, Billy is really good at just getting thingsÂ...you know...cultivating ideas and seeing them come to fruition. What I realized is how lucky we were in Oakland with Billy, Paul, myself and some other people and I think I draw from a lot of those experiences to help me.

Sligg: With the Expos gone, Toronto can officially lay claim to being Canada's Team, with that comes more scrutiny from the entire nation (JP Chuckles). How much attention, if any, do you put into what is written about your work and the performance of the Jays?

JPR: I will say this, in the three years that I have been a GM, I read less and less about what people think of how I am doing and I think the main reason is that I respect the media and the job they have to do but I also know that they are not real close to the situation, and they can be...they have a tendency not to be objective and sometimes they have an agenda that they want to address. I can't get caught up with that, I have to stay focused on what I think we have to do.

Sligg: The Internet message board has become a medium that never existed in the past and puts the collective minds of your biggest critics, the fans, together and has garnered a lot of attention most notably with the Curt Schilling and the Sons of Sam Horn. I've seen youÂ've done interviews with a Blue Jays site, the Batter's Box, in the past. How much interest, if any, do you and your counterparts put into these?

JPR: I think it's like anything, you are starting to get fans that see the game maybe in a different light, and it's not to be able to find ways to, you know, get their opinion out there. I think when anybody is talking about the game it's not a bad thing. You know the one thing I will say is that I found a lot of these groups, they fail to realize sometimes there is some reality involved here and that you are actually talking about players, you are talking about money and it's not as easy as just typing up what your thoughts are and thinking that it's going to get done. But you know, if you are talking about the game I think it's an exciting thing.

Sligg: You've been away from the A's organization for several years now. What do you miss most about Oakland? Conversely, what don't you the least about Oakland?

JPR: Well, there is nothing I miss the least about Oakland. I think the thing I miss the most is, I talk to Billy all the time, but just knowing I was in the trenches with those guys trying to do something was probably something I missed the most and like I said earlier, you realize how lucky we were and fortunate we were to have a good group together and to be a part of an organization that was not good, won the World Series, was not good again and then built it up again was really, really exciting and that's all right because some day Billy and I will work together again.

Sligg: Give us A's fans a few names to look forward to in terms of up and comers in the A's Organizations prospects.

JPR: I think the A's fans know their prospects probably better then I do, I can say this they have done a real good job of restocking their farm system. They had a great draft last year, I think all the kids they took last year were high on our board. It's funny, the A's and the Jays are the two clubs to have over 400 wins in the minor leagues last year. We kind of watch each other closely and border each other in a lot of ways.

Sligg: Are there any of your A's draftees that really stand out as great finds in
your mind? Any choices you want back?

JPR: I'd like to think all of us worked together and we all contributed in different ways and the success comes from a lot of people and if we contributed in some small way that was great.

Sligg: How did the book Moneyball impact your relationship both with BB and also with other GMs?

JPR: All you have to do is look around and see Billy is still making deals. I think Moneyball has just become a term now. It's funny because we have become a society of buzzwords, in America was say "Al Qaeda" and people know what that means and we say "terrorism" and people have an idea but I don't really know if deep down we know if really know what that means, so when people say "Moneyball" I think it's just a buzzword for people to put their own spin on what they think it is.

Sligg: At the end of last season, several columnists started talking about defense being the next area of undervaluing (i.e. new stats that show teams failing to take full advantage of resources). What do you think is currently the most undervalued aspect of the game today?

JPR: That's a good question, I'm not really sure. I know we value everything but obviously on a limited budget. We can only get certain things...That's a tough question I don't really know if I can answer that.

Sligg: How much of a role do you have in the game-management part of things? Do you meet with the manager frequently to compare strategies and philosophies or do you prefer a more hands-off approach?

JPR: No, no, we are very involved, once the game starts we are not involved at all. But prior to a game or prior to a series or leading up to spring training, very, very involved in what our philosophy is and how we want to incorporate it, especially with the talent we have.

Sligg: Did the Kendall deal surprise you since it seems to go against the A's usual frugal philosophies?

JPR: You know what, I disagree with that in the sense that if you look at the next two years he traded two guys that were going to cost close to 8 million dollars for a guy that's making what 10? So it's two million dollars that Billy spent for the next two years to have that player and then it's the last year where it becomes expensive. But you also have to remember too that he had Jermaine Dye there that was an expensive player too. It's not that the A's or us or anybody else is not willing to pay money its just that you can't have a full team of those players and by the way, he just got a pretty good player.

Sligg: Oh yeah, we are quite excited about him. Couple quick hit questions to end things off. One Jays pitcher of the past who would it be?

JPR: In the past? I would probably take Dave Stewart.

Sligg: One Jays position player?

JPR: Over the past? Ricky Henderson

Sligg: You are Billy Beane and you have to lock up one of the big three...Who is it?

JPR: (Chuckling) No Comment

Sligg: Which players do you enjoy sitting back and watching the most?

JPR: You know, it's funny, from a fan's standpoint there is certain guys. I like Chavez. I love watching guys just play the game hard. I like Tejada. You gotta be a fan of Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz and what they do. Jeter, you know, the guys that play the game the right way. You can appreciate them all and the things they bring to the game. There is a certain common thread that runs through them and that's that they play hard.

Sligg: Now that you have been in Canada for a few years, what's your favorite Canadian beer?

JPR: Ahh...Blue Light (Sligg's Note: Gross)

Sligg: When will we see the Jays and the A's next in the ALCS?

JPR: (Chuckles) Ha, Ha...if that happens I am quitting.

Writer's Note: Special thanks to J.P. Ricciardi for taking the time to allow me to grill him. Also to John Muir of the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia as he allowed me the time and arranged for the interview to take place during J.P.'s speech at their conference. Also to Blez for allowing me to do this on behalf of Athletics Nation.