Since it is Cito Gaston Appreciation Day, I thought we should talk about what Cito does well. We point out things he doesn't do well quite often enough.
I got an email awhile back (one of those that is the internet equivalent of a letter written in crayon) complaining that Cito was "a proud black man". Now setting aside the racial insult, why shouldn't Cito be proud? Only 22 managers have ever won 2 World Series. Wouldn't you be proud? No mater what else goes on, and what us bloggers might say about him, he deserves to take pride in that.
Cito has the skill I most admire in a manager. He picks the players that he is going to run with and he stays with them. Fans get inpatient and are allowed to be inpatient. Brandon Morrow starts off the year poorly, he'll never be a pitcher. A player has a few bad at bats, fans want him out of the lineup. Cito understands that the way to win is to pick the players you think are your best options and use them. Don't let the emotions of the season cloud your judgement.
We saw how the opposite approach failed with John Gibbons and J.P. Riccardi. Frank Thomas starts the season slow, so we release him. Try Adam Lind, he has 19 bat at bats, send him away. Try Brad Wilkerson. Try Kevin Mench. Cito comes in and says Adam Lind is the guy and we are going to use him. Let's face it, if you start changing guys around like that, you aren't going to win anyway.
If Cito sees talent in someone he will stick with them. When we picked up Jose Bautista, he had a few poor at bats to start his Blue Jay career. Fans didn't like him. There was a Jose Bautista Facebook hate page up before he had 50 Blue Jay at bats but Cito is willing to trust his judgement.
Now we might complain that he stays too long with guys he likes, but he isn't going to win by changing his mind every few minutes anyway, so he's going to stay with his convictions.
Cito has a way of showing confidence in a player that must give the player a pretty good feeling. Back in the day, when the Jays picked up Devon White, Cito say 'he is my leadoff man'. Now Devon wasn't really what I'd want as a leadoff hitter and we had Roberto Alomar and, later, Paul Molitor who could have been great leadoff men, but Cito felt that by show confidence in White, it would make him a better player. And it did. Now there might have been gains by using a better leadoff batter, but they likely wouldn't equal the gains had by making White a better player.
Cito is a good hitting coach, he preaches the same approach all the time. He doesn't try to make things too complicated. He can look at a player's swing and make small suggestions that will help. He doesn't try to force major changes on players.
Cito has improved tremendously in how he handles starting pitchers. His first time round, as manager, he would leave guys in too long. He'd ride guys until their arms gave up. Now, think back this season, has he had a starter go too long? Very very rarely. He's been very careful with the young arms in his care. He deserves a lot of praise for that.
The pitchers in his bullpen have clear defined roles. I'm not that big a fan of that sort of thing but the pitchers know what their job is and they know when they do have a bad day Cito isn't over react.
He doesn't ask players to do things they can't. He doesn't force guys to bunt or to hit and run when they don't have the ability. Fans think these things come easy, but Cito knows they don't and doesn't put players in spots where they can't succeed. .
Cito doesn't try to make the game about himself. He isn't going to make moves to make you think he is a genius. He lets the players go out about win or lose the game. And let's face it, the players always do win or lose, no matter how smart the manager tries to look.
He doesn't go out to make a show of yelling at the umpire. He doesn't argue often, normally when he does he is controlled and states his point without getting too heated. He feels the team is better off with him on the bench than in the dressing room. When he does get a little heated it means more because it isn't an everyday thing.
He has a quiet class that rubs off on the rest of the team. We aren't like some of the other teams that complain over every call that doesn't go our way. Cito wouldn't allow it.
He seems to be a good guy. Someone that you would like to talk to. He has had an interesting life. Being a good guy might not be all that important a skill for a manager, but it is a great skill for a human being.
His teams have almost always been fun to watch. We have been treated to enough bad baseball, over the year, that good baseball is something that should be appreciated.
I don't always agree with Cito's moves but I do respect the man. I hope he can enjoy life away from the dugout and wish him the best.