A story surfaced on Friday that in an unusual and highly public way, several players on the Toronto Blue Jays stated their concern over the way Cito Gaston manages the team. There isn't any need to recount the details here. Click here if you want to read the whole story. Without knowing the insides of the clubhouse there, all a blogger can do is comment on the extraordinary story to see if any of it makes sense.
First of all, the main culprits, instigators, defenders of sacred freedom (searching for the right word, because we can't know if they are right or wrong) are core players of the team: Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, Aaron Hill and Rod Barajas. In other words, it's not just one or two disgruntled hotheads. That fact tends to lend some credence to what they are saying. But then again, the Mutiny on the Bounty was led by the first officer. If we discount the mutiny theory, what do we have then?
Gaston seems soft. In other words, he seems to be a "just let them play" sort of manager. Apparently, that seemed to work well during the championship years of the eighties, but isn't playing too well right now. A "let them play" manager needs a strong core of veterans who handle team discipline to fill the vacuum. Perhaps the championship Blue Jays had that. Perhaps they do not have that now.
The linked article mentions three problems. One is a lack of communication. Second is a passive managerial style (which we already talked about) and the third is a perceived negative attitude. Lack of communication is certainly not an uncommon problem with managers of any business. Communication is a skill that is either innate or has to be worked on. Gaston is an old school kind of guy. Perhaps the hear and obey dictum was what he grew up with and experienced in his own playing days. But communication skills can be improved with effort and training. The question is whether Gaston is open to that in this point of his life.
Gaston, for his part is either in denial or is totally baffled by what is going on around him. In his mind, he doesn't know how he could have been more fair. He believes he treated people the way he'd like to be treated. The last accusation is the hardest one to deal with. When a leader is accused of having a negative attitude, that's a bad, bad thing.
The Fan has been in leadership positions for a long time. And one thing most people forget is that managers are people too. We have good days and bad days. It takes a lot of will to consistently concentrate to not allow our charges to see us worry or fear or even believe that we are heading in the wrong direction. In other words, we are glorified parents that need to constantly remind our kids that everything is okay. But even parents get depressed or react badly to bad situations. How many times have you heard an adult say in front of a child, "So what else is new," when something goes wrong. Or perhaps, "If I didn't have bad luck, I wouldn't have any luck at all."
Most of the time, parents or leaders aren't aware that they are being watched all the time. Fortunately, the Fan understood this from an early age. But even so, there were times the Fan had to self-agonize when forgetting to mind the mouth after letting something negative slip. It can be a absentminded comment about a co-worker. It could be a negative comment about those higher on the food chain than the manager. Managers often do that in the mistaken idea that it builds rapport to have something in common to loathe.
No doubt that it's been a difficult year for the Blue Jays. It is terribly likely that a manager wouldn't handle that very well, especially after having some success in his job before. If Gaston took a walk on the negative side, he's made a huge error and will likely pay the price. This writer hopes that isn't the case because Gaston has always been respected in this corner. But if the problem is the manager or the players, it seems Gaston is history because the situation seems unworkable and untenable. If this is a case of spoiled players, good luck to the next manager. If this was Cito's fault, good luck to the players.