B.J. Ryan turns 45 today.
Looking at his picture, he looks a lot like a former neighbor of mine, Scott. Off-topic, but I’m terrible with names. For a while there, I would relate them to a baseball player when trying to remember names. Unfortunately, the player I picked for Scott was a former pitcher Scott Terry, and I spent six months calling him Terry. But I digress. Digressing again, Scott was one of those guys that always had a get rich quick scheme going. At one point, he wanted to import Australian crayfish and raise them to sell to restaurants. Not surprisingly to anyone except for him, the Alberta government had this issue about bringing a new species into the province (see the Simpsons cane toad episode for a reason why).
I’m sure you remember B.J. He had been a very good reliever for the Orioles for several years, then in 2005, he got the closer role, getting 36 saves, with an ERA of 2.43. Perfect timing for him, he was a free agent after the season.
During the winter between the 2005 and 2006 season, JP Ricciardi decided that it was time for the Blue Jays to spend a pile of money to try to catch the Yankees and Red Sox and end our long stretch without making the playoffs. He traded for Lyle Overbay and Troy Glaus. And they signed Bengie Molina and A.J. Burnett as free agents.
And he gave B.J. Ryan an insane amount of money to be closer for the Jays ($47 million over 5 years).
In 2006, Ryan was terrific. 38 saves a 1.37 ERA, and 86 strikeouts in 72.1 innings. It still seemed like too much money for a closer, but at least we had an All-Star, not that it got us to the playoffs. We still finished a distant 2nd to the Yankees, 10 games back.
And that’s pretty much where the good times ended with B.J. He had Tommy John surgery in early May of 2007, missing the rest of the year.
He came back pretty strong in 2008, getting 32 saves with a 2.95 ERA in 60 games. His strikeout numbers were down, but he still struck out a batter an inning.
In the spring of 2009, his velocity was down. He missed some time with ‘shoulder inflammation’. When he did pitch, he was awful, putting up a 6.53 ERA in 20.2 innings, walking 17 before being released on July 8th, and that was the end of his major league career.
The Jays have had pretty lousy luck on big closer contracts. It wasn’t B.J.’s fault; everything lined up perfectly for him. He became a free agent, just at the right moment. Ricciardi should have remembered the ancient motto: “Don’t give tens of millions to a closer with iffy mechanics.” But JP wanted to make a big splash, get people talking about the Jays again and get us to the playoffs.
Happy birthday B.J. I hope it is a good one.