Volume 91, Issue 7

Tuesday, September 9, 1997

frosh 'n' tasty


Can Cito

Going, going, gone. No, I'm not talking about the ball that Ken Griffey Junior just parked 450-feet into the right field bleachers – rather Cito Gaston's days as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Sure Gaston has always had his critics, it comes with the job, but with the ho-hum season that his ball club is having this year, there is a legitimate argument to be made against his established seat on the Toronto bench. This season, Cito has shown both an inability to motivate his players and to play managerial chess with the opposing team's dugout.

Of course you have to give him credit for winning back-to-back World Series championships in '92 and '93, but I would question how much he truly deserves.

In both those years, Toronto had the best team talent-wise with a good mix of veteran players like Paul Molitor and Dave Winfield. Both of these classy individuals had never won a World Series ring and were desperate to acquire one before their aging bodies fall to injuries or old age. Both were instrumental during the regular season and playoffs and were much more of a clubhouse influence than Cito ever was.

Jays fans could probably be more thankful to Cito then, for not blowing the World Series, rather than winning it. The real credit should be given to former Toronto, now Baltimore general manager Pat Gillick, who convinced Molitor and Winfield, two future hall of famers, to make the trip north to Toronto.

The Jays, at least on paper this year, are a far better team than their sub-500 record would indicate and it's apparent that Cito's managerial style as a player-friendly coach is ineffective.

Ever since the Jays won their most recent championship in 1993, the team has been in the process of rebuilding by giving the green light to general manager Gord Ash allowing him to spend an outrageous amount of dough in the free agent and trade markets – still with unsuccessful results. Before this season, it looked like the ball club once again had added the right mix of veteran players with the likes of Roger Clemens, Benito Santiago, Orlando Merced and Carlos Garcia.

But where have the Jays gone this year? Certainly nowhere noticeable from last season. A division pennant, let alone a third World Series championship is way out of the question.

The Jays have the most pathetic hitting in the majors, with Ed Sprague, Santiago and Garcia hitting way below expectations. It's probably also safe to say that the Jays' batting coach Willie Upshaw is also to blame for the team's slumping bats, but it's common knowledge that slumps are more often a symptom of a psychological rather than a physical problem.

It's not within Gaston's personality to come down on a player, which is often needed to psychologically motivate them to step up their game, though I can think of plenty of Jays who need a swift boot in the ass.

In short, Gaston's managerial skills fall well short of the upper echelon of field generals such as Tony La Russa, Jim Leyland and Felipe Alou.

Alou for example, has never had the luxury of a roster with a huge payroll of proven players, yet the Expos have always been contenders with him running the ship.

With rumors floating around that Alou may desert the Belle Province in favour of Toronto, maybe then the Jays franchise will have a manager whose personality and knowledge of the game will get them back on track.
–Alex Chiang

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Copyright The Gazette 1997