Cito's lost the clubhouse.
Of course, this happy happy joy joy of a season we call (Fuck) 2009 had to come down to this. It was inevitably inevitable, wasn't it? The team couldn't just finish up strong and send us into the offseason with a Jays fan's favourite feeling - faint hope - could they? No, of course not. Not in 2009. Not in this season.
Really, this is evolving - correction, has evolved - into the ultimate nightmare scenario for those of us who held the '92-'93 memories of Cito near and dear to our baseball loving hearts. We managed to (conveniently) forget about the absolute management butchery of '94+ era Cito. Yes, we forgave and forgot long ago, and the notion was sealed with the team's run of great baseball under Gaston's guidance to close out 2008.
But here we are. We've come full circle. The possible end of Cito v2.0 is mirroring the end of the first Gastonian era, and the happy memories of '92-'93 are again beginning to fade. Oh, we'll get them back. We'll always have those banners hanging from the rafters of the 'Dome. But now? They're in the shadows, man. 16 years has never seemed so long ago.
So who's to blame? If you're a regular reader of this space, you're probably aware that I feel fairly strongly about how the club has been managed this season. But in the interests of fairness, let's look at both sides of the coin.
Today: defending Cito.
Player entitlement: Cito don't play that
If you're reading this with any sort of interest, you'll know by now that "the Mutiny" centers on issues like lack of communication and Cito's old-school no bullshit approach. It worked for Cito a decade and a half ago. So why not now? What's changed?
For starters, the players. Gone are the days when the term "Manager" commanded instant respect. Gone are the days of players needing to perform to earn & keep the paycheques flowing. Gone are the days when all a player needed was to stroll into the locker room and check the lineup card to see if their name was penciled in.
Is that Cito's fault? You be the judge.
Players win games
It's been said over and over and over and over again that Cito was successful in the halcyon days of the franchise because he simply stayed out of the way of the superstar lineup assembled & handed to him.
It's also a fairly obvious truth that talent wins. Conversely, you aren't going to win without enough talent. Ergo, there's no way Cito could have pushed this club to the top of the division with the roster he was given. The question then becomes, did he do enough with the talent at his disposal? For you to decide.
The emergence of Lind and Hill
Self-explanatory and difficult to argue. If we can all pat ourselves on the back and belittle Gary Denbo for his role in destroying the team's offence pre-Cito, then by rights we must heap praise in Cito's direction for nurturing Aaron Hill - and especially his young protege Adam Lind - into legitimate middle of the order mashers. Fair enough?
The stretch run of '08 & the opening and closing of '09
How do you explain the extended periods of brilliant baseball Cito has coaxed from the team? It really boggles the mind that the team can look so unstoppable for weeks on end, then follow up those stretches by playing the worst baseball in the league this side of the Nationals.
Bench strength fail
A major point of contention between non-Cito partisan Jays fans and the manager is his use of the bench and, uh, "confusing" lineup decisions. Count me among them. I will also hypocritically declare the Jays bench strength to be abysmal - late runs of brilliance by Jose Bautista and recent play from Johnny Mac notwithstanding of course. We can't have it both ways, can we?
They don't call him The Cito for nothin'
Because he's Cito Fucking Gaston. Bad-ass manager of back to back World Series Champion teams. That's gotta count for something, doesn't it?
(Next up, part 2 - the case against. Buckle up, friends.)