Orioles Set To Play Accardo-ian

It’s hard to believe that a baseball player who pitched more innings in the Minor Leagues than the Majors over the last three seasons could be as polarizing to Blue Jays fans as Jeremy Accardo (pictured above in the most uncomfortable photo op of recent memory).

Accardo came to Toronto in 2006 as a part of the deal that got Shea Hillenbrand out of harm’s way, or as it was known at the time: John Gibbons’ way.  When B.J. Ryan’s back problems turned into an elbow injury (it’s not a lie if we know the truth), Accardo became the interim closer in 2007, collecting 30 saves and putting above average numbers up across the board (or rather, across his FanGraphs player page).

He started 2008 as the Jays closer but before he could hand the baton to the returning B.J. Ryan, a forearm injury sidelined him for what ended up being most of the year.  Returning in 2009, new manager Senile Gaston had the “brilliant” intention of stretching out his arm (after most of his previous season was lost to injury) and turning him into a starter.  After ten games in Spring Training, Accardo had thrown more innings than any other Blue Jays pitcher.

By the end of the Spring, Accardo was sent back to the bullpen where he pitched well, but the inflated numbers due to his ill advised role swap likely influenced the decision of management to send him to Triple A to start the season.  From there he was jerked around more than the genitalia of teenage boy: recalled in June, sent back in August, recalled the next day, optioned back ten days later and then recalled again in September.

Despite the unwelcome hand job from Blue Jays management, Accardo still managed to win awards in Las Vegas as the best reliever in the Pacific Coast League.  In the offseason, he was convinced by incoming general manager Alex Anthopoulos that he’d be given every chance to succeed and play on the big club in 2010.

Seeing no action for the first two weeks of the season before being put in three times in five games, then getting an eight day break before pitching twice in three days, was not Accardo’s idea of being set up for success.  He was demoted for the remainder of the season, and despite the endorsement of coaches in Triple A, didn’t even receive a September call up.

In late August, Accardo finally complained about his treatment to the Las Vegas  Review-Journal.  The article drew the ire of some Blue Jays  fans who didn’t believe it was ever in the best interest of a baseball player to publicly complain.

The Accardo-haters also pointed to his diminished velocity since his 30 save performance in 2007 as reason for his inability to stick at the Major League level.  But if you look at the average speed of his pitches during 2008 and 2009, they’re actually well in line with 2007.  There’s a drop off in 2010, but the velocity slow down can be somewhat justified considering he sat in the bullpen without making a single appearance for the first two weeks of the year.

In a move that was likely in the best interest of everyone involved, Accardo wasn’t tendered a contract at this year’s deadline and he became a free agent.  The Baltimore Orioles stepped up yesterday and the two teams came to an agreement on a one year deal that will pay the former Jays closer the exact same amount of money that he made last season languishing in Las Vegas: $1.08 million.

Accardo should finally be given the opportunity he’s been seeking in Baltimore’s bullpen.  And now Blue Jays fans will finally be able to find out if Accardo was being held back because of performance issues or because of something more personal.