Cito Gaston

Years ago Bill James used something he called Managerial boxes, where he asked and answered a number of questions about a manager to give a feel for the manager's style.  I thought it would be interesting to answer these questions about Cito:

The Manager


Cito-gaston-300x202_medium

NAME: Cito Gaston

AGE: 64, 65 on March 17th

MANAGERS FOR WHOM HE PLAYED FOR IN THE MAJORS: Billy Hitchcock, Preston Gomez, Don Zimmer, John McNamara, Clyde King, Connie Ryan, Dave Bristol, Bobby Cox, oh and Ted Turner for one game.

CHARACTERISTICS AS A PLAYER:  Big slugging outfielder. Played mostly in center field, he was a pretty good fielder for not the fastest runner. He didn't take a lot of walks and was not a high average hitter. His best season he hit .318/.364/.543 with 29 homers. The next season he hit just .228, after that he just had one more season that he played more than 120 games, though he was in the majors for 11 seasons. Finished with a .256/.298/.397 line with 91 home runs.

 Managerial Record

 Year    League   Team     Age  G     W    L    WP   Finish

+----+-----------+--------+---+-----+----+----+------+------+

 1989 Al East     Toronto   45   126   77   49   .611      1

 1990 Al East     Toronto   46   162   86   76   .531      2

 1991 Al East     Toronto   47   129   72   57   .558      1

 1992 Al East     Toronto   48   162   96   66   .593  WS  1

 1993 Al East     Toronto   49   162   95   67   .586  WS  1

 1994 Al East     Toronto   50   115   55   60   .478      3

 1995 Al East     Toronto   51   144   56   88   .389      5

 1996 Al East     Toronto   52   162   74   88   .457      4

 1997 Al East     Toronto   53   157   72   85   .459      5

 2008 Al East     Toronto   64    88   51   37   .580      4

+----+-----------+--------+---+-----+----+----+------+------+

      TOTAL                                1407  734  673   .522

WHAT HE BRINGS TO THE BALLCLUB

IS HE AN INTENSE MANAGER OR MORE OF AN EASY-TO-GET-ALONG-WITH TYPE? Oh he's laid-back. Anymore laid-back and he'd be in a coma. Easy to get along with is a judgment call but he seems like a really nice fellow, someone you'd like to meet and chat with.  The players that liked him really liked him and the ones that didn't really didn't. Shawn Green asked for a trade when the team hired him back as a hitting coach before the 2000 season.

IS HE MORE OF AN EMOTIONAL LEADER OR A DECISION-MAKER? More an emotional leader in a different sort of way, he tries to bring a calm to his players, feeling, rightly so, that there is a lot of pressure on these young men and they don't need any extra pressure from the manager. He tries to deflect pressure from the players so they can relax and perform their best. Some managers seem to like to put pressure on the players, let them know if they don't play their best they won't stay in their job, Cito likes to show his players he has confidence in them.  The flip side of this is there are players he doesn't have confidence in and they know it.

IS HE MORE OF AN OPTIMIST OR MORE OF A PROBLEM SOLVER? Oh yeah, the man's an optimist. He truly believes in the power of positive thinking, in a very likeable way. He believes in setting high coals and almost willing yourself there. When he took over the Jays this season he said his goal was to finish 10 games over .500, I thought he was crazy but they finished 86-76. I think if he could bring himself to show some emotion he could be a really good motivational speaker.

Now that doesn't mean he doesn't do any problem solving. When he took over he saw that we had   huge hole in left field, instead of being like JP and Gibbons and hope that Brad Wilkerson suddenly would suddenly become 5 years young and remember how to hit the ball, he insisted that Lind be recalled to play the position. The same with the DH spot, I think when he took the manager job, he thought he could fix Matt Stairs bat but when that didn't happen he decided to try Travis Snider in the role. JP said several times that Snider wasn't going to be called up, and he hoped that things would just work out with Stairs. Cito saw it wasn't working and made a decision. Two really smart moves that he made after a half season of Gibby and JP being hopeful that things would just work out.

HOW HE USES HIS PERSONNEL

DOES HE FAVOR A SET LINEUP OR A ROTATION SYSTEM? He very, very much prefers a set lineup. Likely more than any other manager. He has often said the way he wished he was used when he was a player was to be put in the lineup and left to play.  The problem his last run with the Jays was that he was far too slow in realizing that a player was no longer producing well enough to deserve that set spot in the lineup and there was little incentive for a player to try to work hard to improve because once he was going to stay in the lineup.  

DOES HE LIKE TO PLATOON? No. No. No. He doesn't. He never did before and this past season he had what could have been an interesting platoon at catcher last year but didn't use it. He did try a platoon at first base with Overbay/Bautista near the end of the season. He never used them before, but maybe he has learned. But he likes filling out the same lineup every day.

DOES HE TRY TO SOLVE HIS PROBLEMS WITH PROVEN PLAYERS OR WITH YOUNGSTERS WHO STILL HAVE SOMETHING TO PROVE? HOW MANY PLAYERS HAS HE MADE REGULARS OUT OF WHO WERE NOT REGULARS BEFORE? Well in the past he liked proven players. This past season? He gave jobs to Lind and Snider. I'd like to think he's learned with time away from the game. He is going to have a lot of chances in the next couple of years to prove that he likes to use young players with stuff to prove.

In his first run with the Jays this was his fatal flaw. He refused to remove aging veterans with young talented players. He used Otis Nixon in center when Shannon Stewart was clearly the better player.  Shawn Green sat while Joe Carter, Orlando Merced played. Carlos Delgado sat. He got Gord Ash to trade John Olerud to allow Joe Carter to play first.

Being overly committed to some players is not a good thing, but this is a new start and I think it is likely that since he doesn't have any history with any of the players on today's team he won't have any emotional stake in keeping them.  I hoping he'll to decide to give the young players a chance.  

DOES HE PREFER TO GO WITH GOOD OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OR DOES HE LIKE THE GLOVE MEN? He prefers bats, but he does like guys that can catch and throw the ball. He tends to think that he can teach players to hit, he keeps talking about how McDonald can be taught to hit and he tried to use him at short. If he likes the glove enough he'll work on the bat.

DOES HE LIKE AN OFFENSE BASED ON POWER, SPEED OR HIGH AVERAGES? Power....he likes power. I mean yeah he won't complain if a guy has a high average as well and yeah if you can steal he won't stop you from doing it. But he likes power, at the state of the union dinner he talked about how many home runs Overbay/Rolen/Rios would hit next season, not that they would hit .300. He was a power hitter and he likes hitters with power.

DOES HE USE THE ENTIRE ROSTER OR DOES HE KEEP PEOPLE AROUND SITTING ON THE BENCH? Ask Zaun. In his first run with the Jays guys sat on the bench. He wasn't quite as much that way last year but then he was trying to see what different players could do for him, when he saw that Wilkerson wasn't a starter, he sat on the bench.  Yeah, bench guys don't get much work from him unless there is an injury.

DOES HE BUILD HIS BANCE AROUND YOUNG PLAYERS WHO CAN STEP INTO A BREACH IF NEED BE OR AROUND VETERAN ROLE-PLAYERS WHO HAVE THEIR OWN FUNCTIONS WITHIN A GAME? We will have to see how he builds it this year....but he has in the past preferred veterans for the most part. Although often  young players sat on the bench while the veterans played. 

GAME MANAGING AND USE OF STRATEGIES

DOES HE GO FOR THE BIG-INNING OFFENSE OR DOES HE LIKE TO USE THE ONE-RUN STRATEGES? He likes the big innings for the most part. Last season he used one-run strategies more often than before. It was likely as a result of the personal he had. Batting John McDonald second and having him bunt every time he had a runner on is an extreme one-run strategy.  Of course batting McDonald bat second is a one run strategy all by itself or a no run strategy.  But clearly he prefers the three run homer.

DOES HE PINCH-HIT MUCH, AND IF SO WHEN? Rarely, maybe for Johny Mac if it is a situation where he couldn't bunt him and the game is on the line.

ANYTHING UNUSUAL ABOUT HIS LINEUP SELECTION?  Well yeah there is. Back in his first run with the Jays he installed Devon White as a leadoff hitter and that is where Devo hit for his entire time with the Jays, except for the month or so that Rickey Henderson was with the team. Devo was likely the 4th best choice as leadoff man, for most of those seasons, at best. Robbie Alomar would have been a much better choice, Paul Monitor was a terrific leadoff man, and John Olerud got on base at over a .400 rate most years. But Cito felt that Devon would be a better player if he was given an important role in the offense. 

And maybe he was right, maybe convincing White that he could be a leadoff man made him a better player than he would have been if he hit in the 9th spot. And maybe getting more out of White was more important than putting the best player for the role into that spot. At one time Bill James said that there is less than a 10% run difference between using the best possible lineup and the worst possible lineup and no manager would use the worst possible lineup. So maybe convincing White that he was a good leadoff hitter was the better idea.

Of course when your leadoff hitter is hitting .248 with a .303 on base like Devo did one season or .270 with a .313 on base another season, it is a tough sell. His best season, with us as a leadoff hitting he got on at a .341 rate, exactly the on base average of Marco Scutaro last year. But with the all All-Star lineup we had back in the World Series years we could have had anyone lead off and things would have been good. We don't have the same sort of lineup now, it is more important that we put them together in the right order.

He felt by showing confidence in a player by giving him an important role on the team it would make the player better, but then showing confidence in one guy shows a lack of confidence in someone else.

DOES HE USE THE SAC BUNT OFTEN? He never used to, but then things have changed. He bunted more often last year. Changing strategies to suit the makeup of your roster is a sign of intelligence, but bunting in the first inning isn't.

DOES HE LIKE TO USE THE RUNNING GAME? No not in particular, guys that can steal he allows to steal but he doesn't force it. Rios' stolen base numbers dropped after Cito took over.

IN WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES WILL HE ISSUE AN INTENTIONAL WALK? Very rarely.  Doc issued 3 intention walks last year all with Gibby as the manager. Gibby didn't use them much but Cito used them far less, only rarely with a lefty reliever to get to a lefty batter.

DOES HE HIT AND RUN VERY OFTEN? No.

ARE THERE ANY UNIQUE OR IDIOSYNCRATIC STRATEGIES THAT HE PARTICULARLY LIKES?  Bill James called him the "most conservative, virtually inert manager in baseball" and, you know, he hasn't changed much.  Inert might be the best way to describe him. Most of the time he seems like a statue. No there are no unique strategies he likes.

HANDLING THE PITCHING STAFF

DOES HE LIKE POWER PITCHERS OR PREFER TO GO WITH THE PEOPLE WHO PUT THE BALL INTO PLAY? Well last season he used what he had. I think he prefers power pitchers from how he ran his staff in the past.

DOES HE STAY WITH THE STARTER OR GO TO THE BULLPEN QUICKLY? He is and has always been an extremely slow hook with the starters. How many times last season were we screaming at the TV for him to, you know, move, get the starter out of there. Shawn Marcum comes back to the rotation from injury, we are told he is on a firm pitch limit and Cito leaves him in out there 20 pitches after the ‘limit' has been reached.

He was the same in his first run with the Jays, he seems to have no clue on how to read the signs that a pitcher is tiring. Leaving guys in to pitch when they are tired leads to injuries. With the young staff we are likely to have this season and the couple of guys that are returning from arm injury, I hope he can learn to be a little gentler with his starters.

DOES HE USE THE ENTIRE STAFF OR DOES HE TRY TO GET FIVE OR SIX PEOPLE TO DO MOST OF THE WORK? You remember the times he brought Downs into games with the team up by 4 runs? He picks the relievers he likes and rides them hard. Downs hurts his ankle and Cito rushes him back out there. He loved Downs, League and Ryan and used them in just about every game that we were ahead or tied or close in.

HOW LONG WILL HE STAY WITH A STRUGLLING STARTER? Is too long a good enough answer? He'll stay with him till the game is lost or his arm falls off.

ARE THERE ANY PARTICULAR TYPES OF PITCHERS OF WHOM HE IS FOND? Ummmm good ones? When a pitchers gets his confidence he uses him a lot, if a pitcher doesn't get his confidence he is buried in the pen. He likes starters that can give him a lot of innings. Don't we all? He really didn't like David Wells and had Gord Ash release him, Wells went on to have a really good career.

IS THERE ANYTHING UNIQUE ABOUT HIS HANDLING OF HIS PITCHERS? Other than how long he will leave a pitcher out there? Not really.

WHAT IS HIS STRONGEST POINT AS A MANAGER? I am tempted to say ‘his record'. He won the World Series twice. That is definitely a strong point. He is a terrific hitting coach. And when he believes in a player, they just want to play well for him. Let's go with the has ability as a hitting coach.

IF THERE WERE NO PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL, WHAT WOULD THIS MANAGER PROBALY BE DOING? He seems like a heck of a nice guys, someone I would love to talk to for a bit. I think his level personally would work well as a financial planner. I'd say teacher but I'd imagine him as one of those teachers that sits at the front of the class and talks in a monotone until you fall asleep, but was a great guy to talk to after class.

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