John Paul (J.P.) Ricciardi (born September 26, 1959 in Worcester, Massachusetts) is a former Major League Baseball executive who served as Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations and general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays from November 14, 2001 to October 3, 2009.
Early Life and Career
Ricciardi went to and played baseball for St. Peter's/St. Peter-Marian High School in Worcester, and then played for the Saint Leo University Lions from 1979 through 1980. He then spent two years as an infielder in the New York Mets minor league system, playing for the Mets' A-class league affiliates in Little Falls in 1980 and Shelby in 1981. He finished his playing career with a batting average below .200.
After the conclusion of his playing career, Ricciardi became a coach in the New York Yankees farm system in the early 1980s before joining the Oakland Athletics organization in 1986 as a minor league instructor and scout. By the early 1990s he had risen to the rank of East Coast Scouting Supervisor and later National Crosschecker. Ricciardi made his break into the front office in 1996, when he became special assistant to Athletics general manager Sandy Alderson. Under new general manager Billy Beane, who was hired in 1997 and had been Ricciardi's former teammate with the Little Falls Mets, his role became Director of Player Personnel.
General Manager of the Blue Jays
Impressed by the success Ricciardi and Beane were having with the low-budget Athletics, the Toronto Blue Jays, who sought to cut payroll while becoming more competitive after their acquisition by Canadian media giant Rogers Communications, sought Ricciardi's services after firing then-general manager Gord Ash. On November 14, 2001, Ricciardi was hired as general manager of the Blue Jays. He signed a five-year contract with Toronto after the 2002 season, which was extended to 2010 after the 2005 season.
After arriving in Toronto, one of Ricciardi's first deals was to send hard-throwing reliever Billy Koch to the Athletics for upcoming third baseman Eric Hinske and pitcher Justin Miller. Over the next few years, Ricciardi would develop a reputation for coziness with his former team, making deals with Oakland for starting pitcher Cory Lidle in November 2002 and another starting pitcher, Ted Lilly, in November 2003. After a surprising 2003 campaign, which saw the emergence of Roy Halladay and Vernon Wells, the team suffered its worst season since 1980 in 2004, mainly due to injuries to key players such as Wells and star slugger Carlos Delgado. Delgado became a free agent in the off-season, and for financial reasons the Blue Jays did not seriously pursue re-signing him; the Florida Marlins eventually inked him to a contract. During the 2004 season, Ricciardi hired former Shelby teammate John Gibbons as the Blue Jays' new manager. Gibbons remained as Blue Jays' manager until being fired on June 20, 2008.
Ricciardi's arrival in Toronto was greeted with great optimism and enthusiasm after the team had suffered through several disappointing seasons. The enthusiasm steadily waned, however, as the team repeatedly failed to qualify for the postseason.
Ricciardi was given more freedom to move after Blue Jays owner Ted Rogers expanded the team's payroll to $210 million over three years prior to the 2005 season. After that season (in which the Blue Jays posted an 80-82 record), Ricciardi began working to improve Toronto's pitching, signing free agent starter A.J. Burnett and closer B.J. Ryan. He also secured two big bats in first baseman Lyle Overbay and slugging third baseman Troy Glaus via the trading block, and signed Gold Glove-winning catcher Bengie Molina as well. The additions paid significant dividends for the team in 2006, as the Blue Jays finished second in the tough American League East with an 87-75 record. It was the first time Toronto had finished above third in the division since 1993.
Seeking to upgrade the everyday lineup as well, Ricciardi signed a two-year contract with experienced slugger and designated hitter Frank Thomas. However, due to his slow start in 2008, in which he batted just .167 with three home runs in his first 60 at-bats, Thomas was released in April of that year. Ricciardi also signed veteran shortstop Royce Clayton as a "stopgap" measure to shore up the middle infield for the 2007 season.
Despite the lack of hitting on his 2008 ball club, Ricciardi had assembled one of the more effective pitching staffs in Major League Baseball, bolstered by astute bullpen pick-ups such as Scott Downs, Brian Tallet, Jesse Carlson, and Shawn Camp. Over the season, the team had the best ERA in baseball at 3.49 and the bullpen ERA of 2.94.  Toronto ended the season on a high note, finishing with a final record of 86 wins and 76 losses. This was the organization's third-best showing since the 1993 season.
With two games remaining in what was a disappointing 2009 season, Ricciardi was fired on October 3, 2009. He was replaced by assistant vice-president of baseball operations and assistant general manager, Alex Anthopoulos.
During spring training of 2007, B.J. Ryan was suffering from an injury that Ricciardi initially reported to be a result of a bad back. It was later revealed that it was not a back injury that he was suffering from at all, but rather a more severe elbow injury which subsequently required season ending Tommy John surgery. When asked why he was not more upfront about Ryan's injury situation, Ricciardi responded by saying, “They're not lies if we know the truth.” This led many fans and media members to question Ricciardi's trustworthiness for what was perceived as an act of deception towards the team's fanbase.
In the middle of June 2008, with the Jays in last place in the American League East, Ricciardi appeared on local Toronto sports radio station The FAN 590, in which he fielded questions from fans. One fan voiced his opinion that the Jays should actively seek to acquire Cincinnati Reds outfielder Adam Dunn, to which Ricciardi responded with very negative personal comments about Dunn's passion for the game of baseball:
On June 24, 2008 Ricciardi told Toronto media that he received a personal phone call from Dunn and personally apologized for the ad-lib comments, a conversation Dunn vehemently refuted in an interview with MLB.com.  Some again questioned Ricciardi's trustworthiness, but Ricciardi said, "All I know is the person I talked to said it was Adam Dunn. That's quite a prank to pull."
Ricciardi is married and lives with his family in West Boylston, MA. He has two sons, Mariano and Dante. He also has a brother Steve Ricciardi and sister Mary Sivo. He is also a fan of the Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics.
- "The Baseball Cube J.P. Ricciardi". Retrieved on 2008-08-20.
- "The Baseball Cube Little Falls Mets". Retrieved on 2008-08-20.
- Blue Jays Announce That Ricciardi Is Leaving Club Immediately TSN. Accessed on October 3, 2009.
- Damned lies and J.P. - Jim Lang - Sportsnet.ca
- Dunn denies phone call with Ricciardi | MLB.com: News
|Toronto Blue Jays General Manager