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Happy Birthday B.J. Ryan

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Today is Christmas day for my family. My oldest son is coming down from Edmonton, so we have the whole family here.

B.J. Ryan turns 47 today.

Looking at his picture, he looks like a former neighbour, Scott. Off-topic, but I’m terrible with names. Around then, I used baseball players’ names to help me remember. Unfortunately, the player I picked for Scott was a former pitcher Scott Terry, and I spent six months calling him Terry. But I digress.

I’m sure you remember B.J. He had been an excellent 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 seasons, JP Ricciardi decided that it was time for the Blue Jays to spend a pile of money to catch the Yankees and Red Sox and end our long stretch without making the playoffs. So he traded for Lyle Overbay and Troy Glaus. And they signed Bengie Molina and A.J. Burnett as free agents.

And he gave Ryan an insane amount of money to be closer for the Jays ($47 million over five 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, ten 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 returned strong in 2008, getting 32 saves with a 2.95 ERA in 60 games. His strikeout numbers were down, but he still struck out more than 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 lousy luck on big closer contracts. It wasn’t B.J.’s fault; everything lined up perfectly for him. He became a free agent at the right moment. But then, Ricciardi should have remembered the ancient saying: “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.