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Cito Gaston says goodbye to Toronto

Sep 30, 2010, 9:40 AM EDT

As we say goodbye to Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and maybe Tony La Russa, let us not forget that another fine manager is saying farewell himself.

And Toronto says goodbye to Cito, who will finish the season on the road, after which he’s all done as the Jays manager.

It was a tenure — interrupted by several years off — that is one of the more underrated in the game.  Gaston won two world championships with the Jays. It was a talented bunch that won those titles you say? Most definitely. But Bobby Cox had some talented teams in Toronto — and Atlanta for that matter — and never won a ring with the Jays (and only one with the Braves).  Lots of talented teams fail to win the series. Gaston deserves more credit for those titles than he gets.

And he deserves credit for more than just winning. He kept things on a pretty even keel while doing so too. After all, Jack Morris, Roberto Alomar, Rickey Henderson and Tony Fernandez weren’t the easiest guys to get along with at times, and unless I’m just blanking here, Gaston’s clubhouses always seemed to be pretty harmonious places. As I’ve written many times before, that matters. Probably more than people who talk about managers will admit.  He was a mentor to many, most notably Dusty Baker, who may not have made it out of the minor leagues without Gaston looking out for him, and to this day calls him an inspiration as both a manager and a man.

Is he a Hall of Fame manager?  Not to slight him, but I’m not inclined to think so. He is currently 891-836, which translates to a .516 winning percentage. That’s nice, as are the titles, but the twelve seasons he took off between stints as the Jays’ manager gives him far fewer games in the bigs than most Hall of Fame managers have. It’s probably also worth noting that, more often than not, his teams underperformed their Pythagorean record, though whether that’s luck of Cito or whatever is hard to say.  He gets trailblazer points for being the first black man to manage a World Series winner. Your mileage may vary regarding how significant that is for a Hall of Fame case.

But let us not make perfect the enemy of the good here. Gaston may not get the props guys like Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox get, but he’s near the head of the class for his era.  As the managerial revolving door the Blue Jays employed between 1997 and 2009 suggests, replacing him won’t be easy.  And fans — not just Jays fans — should appreciate the guy while he still has a couple of games left.

  1. Proudly Canadian - Sep 30, 2010 at 10:01 AM

    Thank You Craig!

  2. roboninja - Sep 30, 2010 at 10:05 AM

    You cannot forget the mustache tribute. Vernon Wells told the crowd during the pre-game ceremony that “He rocks the mustache better than anyone I’ve ever seen.” Several Jays players put eyeblack on their upper lips to emulate Cito’s mustache. Snider had it on when he hit the lead-off home run that broke the club single-season record. The players had quite a good time with it.

  3. Philip P - Sep 30, 2010 at 10:08 AM

    He dersves this type of send off unlike the firing during the final week of the 1997 season. Still surprised no other team gave him a chance to manage during the dozen years between Toronto stints.

  4. The Steve Jeltz Experiment - Sep 30, 2010 at 10:17 AM

    With some of the retreads who got chances to manage in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, it’s pretty ridiculous that Gaston never got a shot. With that being said, he’s on the next tier down from managers like Cox and LaRussa. But being on the next tier down from a couple Hall of Famers ain’t shabby at all. When you add in the fact that the guy was a trailblazer and a class act (never heard anyone say otherwise), he deserves more accolades than he’s received.

  5. BC - Sep 30, 2010 at 10:22 AM

    Guy was a heck of a hitting coach and manager. That, and he once almost came to blows with David Wells on the pitching mound. Good luck Cito in whatever you do.

  6. mezzie - Sep 30, 2010 at 10:46 AM

    Small quibble that I have, but why do people think that a “good” manager would somehow outperform their team’s Pythagorean record? It’s a circular argument and there’s no real evidence on either side that really carries any weight. Or am I missing something?
    PS Thanks for the memories Cito! You will be missed :)

  7. HomeHalfwayDotNet - Sep 30, 2010 at 11:25 AM

    It’s the end of an era, to say the least. You’re old school Cito, and you deserve all the respect you have.

  8. Citi Field Urinal - Sep 30, 2010 at 2:07 PM

    Guy could spot a tipped pitch better than any other manager, too.
    Adieu, Cito.

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