With only two home games remaining in the schedule, Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston's time on the bench is coming to an end.
There's a portion of Jays fans out there that are glad that Gaston's tenure is ending, while there is another group that wouldn't mind seeing him return for another year.
For many reasons, Gaston seems to polarize fans, but no matter what side of the Cito debate you stand on, every Jays' fan needs to take a moment and thank him for what the Jays have done on his watch.
The ultimate measure in professional sports is winning. Gaston has done that. Remember 1992 and 1993? He helped lead the Blue Jays to back-to-back World Series wins.
I know that once that statement is made, there's always someone hammering away at the Your! Call feature below ready to say that “Anyone could have managed those teams.” To that argument, all I can say is maybe you're right, but we'll never know. What we do know is that, without a doubt, Gaston was the manager and the Jays were winners, and that can't be discounted.
My friend 'Evil Dave' who once played semi-pro ball in Spain when he was a much younger man (think Kenny Powers without the mullet) has always told me that chemistry matters a lot, and that while numbers are important, sometimes 'stat guys' don't pay enough attention to chemistry.
Gaston seems to be a manager that had the ability to instantly change the chemistry of a room. In both of his tenures with the Jays, Gaston was able to turn around underachieving teams.
In 1989, the Jays were 12-24 under Jimy Williams. Under Gaston, the club went 77-49 and made the playoffs.
In 2008, Gaston made his return and took over from John Gibbons. Under Gibbons the Jays were 35-39, while on Cito's watch, the club went 51-37.
I know that when Gaston left the first time in 1997, there were hard feelings and it was reported that there were problems in an allegedly divided clubhouse at the end of last season.
I'm not writing this in order to turn Cito into a saint, because like all of us reading this, he's not perfect. I've wondered aloud and in this blog in the beginning of 2009, why Gaston was so stubborn in keeping Alex Rios and Vernon Wells locked into the three and four spots in the batting order night after night after night. The funny part about that is in any other walk of life, Cito's loyalty to 'his guys' would be seen as an admirable trait, and perhaps one of the most desirable traits that you would look for in a friend, boss, wife or whatever. I'm not sure it works in professional sports anymore, but in the end, that's one of the things I'll remember Cito for the most.
To me, he's like that old uncle who you see during the holidays. You know, the one who isn't a huge fan of modern technology (or advanced MLB statistics) and remembers the good old days when people worked hard (or players played everyday) and respected their elders (or managers). You don't always agree with that uncle, but you try to see where they are coming from because you respect them.
The reality is that Gaston leaving is the end of era and the last on-field reminder of what it was like to have meaningful baseball in Toronto in September and beyond. Fans of the Jays have two games left in Toronto to remember and acknowledge what Cito has meant to them.
I hope they take the chance.