The playoffs won't be on the menu for the Blue Jays but Thursday was a feel good day for fans.
First, the club gave Cito Gaston a contract extension through 2010. It's a well-deserved reward for turning the club around after he took over in June.
Gaston might not be a master of strategy, he doesn't make wild player moves and complicated decisions; instead he uses common sense to guide his teams on the field. He lets his players play. The respect he has for his players and his ability to bring calm to the clubhouse is where his strength as a leader lies.
It's old news now but what he did for A.J. Burnett on Wednesday was huge. Giving his starter, who more than likely will be heading to free agency, the chance to walk off the field to an ovation was a classy move. Burnett has had an up and down career but for the most part this season he has been way up. He pitched well and Gaston rewarded him.
The move also had another possible benefit. With the pitching staff looking to be in trouble for 2009, Burnett has suddenly become an important option.
No question the Jays will make a bid to get Burnett back next season. While I doubt he'll return, as there are too many teams with bigger bank accounts that would be after his services, if he did choose to play in Toronto in 2009, you can bet Gaston would be a big reason.
There was more news coming out of the front office on Thursday as president Paul Godfrey announced general manager JP Ricciardi would be returning in 2009.
This might not be met with much optimism by fans but it's not much of a shock. With the Gaston extension being almost a sure thing for some time, it all but assured Ricciardi would be at the helm next season.
The field manager and GM have been complimentary to each other and, who knows, with Gaston bringing a winning attitude to the clubhouse, maybe they can get the franchise on track in 2009.
It could be a tall order, though. The starting rotation is full of questions after Roy Halladay and, although the offence improved under Gaston, the order could use an impact bat.
In a perfect world, Marcum and McGowan would be healthy to begin next season and join Halladay and Jesse Litsch in the starting five. Since that won't happen, Ricciardi and Gaston will need to find three starters, at least until McGowan returns.
Like him or not, Ricciardi will be back. He might not have many chances left but this is a dare-to-be-great situation. If he can find a way to get them competitive, he's set. If they start slow, things will get interesting.
If the time comes that they do decide to remake the club's front office, I wonder if Gaston would be interested in taking over as president or head of baseball operations. It would move him away from the field and his players, but it would give him the chance to restructure everything. Maybe a steady hand would do wonders for the entire organization.
--- Doc Does It Again ---
The second reason to celebrate on Thursday came from the mound as Halladay pitched a gem, going the distance for his 20th win of the season.
There have been more than a few lines in this feature about Halladay's skill and value to the organization but you can't help and feel good for one of the top competitors in the game. He's one of the greats and the Jays are lucky to have him.
The Cy Young might be too much to ask as Cleveland's Cliff Lee is having a very strong season (22-3, 2.54 ERA, 223.1 IP, 170 K, 4 CG), although Halladay's numbers are nothing to take lightly (20-11, 2.78, 246.0, 206, 9).