The Edge: Farewell Cito
After eight years at the helm of the once-storied Toronto Blue Jays franchise, management and Cito Gaston decided to part ways on Wednesday afternoon ending a memorable partnership. He was the man that brought two World Series Championships (1992, '93) and four division titles (1989, '91, '92, '93) to Canada, yet the team's fall over the past four seasons called for his dismissal.
Unfortunately it is the manager that must be the first to go when times are tough for any team in any sport. "The players have failed, the organization has failed and I have failed. However the manager, as unfair as it might be, must be responsible and accountable for the lack of results on the field," Blue Jay general manager Gord Ash explained in a press release.
But can Cito be blamed for a collective .242 team batting average, the lowest in the American league? No, that would be the responsibility of Willie Upshaw, the team's batting coach. Can Cito be blamed for the disastrous play of off-season acquisition's Carlos Garcia and Benito Santiago? No, that would be the management's. So exactly what has Gaston done, besides be the scapegoat for a team that just can't put runs on the scoreboard or "Ws" in the win column.
Although the public disagrees, the players feel that the blame should be thrown on their shoulders. "He definitely was the type who let you go out and play," said pitcher Pat Hentgen. "There are things the players need to take responsibility for."
Most of the players say Gaston's laid-back managerial style allows him to treat his players like men and gave his stars the opportunity to shine. They had fun playing the game under his leadership and enjoyed coming out to the ballpark. Isn't that what baseball is about?
Both current and former players, many of them future Hall of Famers, respected the words of a man who won 681 games over his nine years with the club.
During Wednesday night's match-up, the first game in the post-Cito era, former Toronto bad-boy Roberto Alomar scrolled the number 43 on the front of his hat in honour of his former manager. Robert Person, a member of Toronto's starting rotation, said that for some of the Blue Jays, not having Cito Gaston on the bench Wednesday night was like having lost a family member.
And Gaston's closest ally, Joe Carter, couldn't bring himself to talk about it.
It is true that the Blue Jays need a good shakeup to pull them out of this four-year drought. What is in dispute is whether the addition of a new manager with the same bunch of underachievers will have an affect. Does Gord Ash honestly believe that a new manager is going to magically rebound Sprague from a disastrous season or heal the arm of Juan Guzman? What the Jays need is an overhaul starting at the top.
Since the departure of Pat Gillick to the Baltimore Orioles in 1994, the Jays have lacked the executive vision to develop and mold a team through drafting, trades and free agency. Yes, Roger Clemens proved to be a success story in the blue and white, but what about Carlos Garcia, Benito Santiago, Ruben Sierra, David Cone and Erik Hanson?
Given the right ingredients, Gaston has proven that he can field a winning and happy squad. Unfortunately, he was not provided the Winfields and Molitors for the past few years.
If I were Mr. Ash, I wouldn't be getting to comfortable in that big desk, because you never know when or where the axe may drop next.
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