Many viewed the Blue Jays current stretch of games as a test of how good they were as a team. With six games against the Bay Rays and three against the Yankees, it was thought that the surprise team of the AL East would either wilt or prove their mettle. Six games into that nine game run, the results are mixed. They have won three of the six, which isn't bad considering the caliber of the teams they are playing. But the thing is, they could have won all three of the games they lost. To say that the managing of those three losses was questionable would be an understatement.
The Fan has always thought Gaston was a good manager. Heck, he has those world championships next to his dossier, right? But that thought was eroded somewhat last year when the players revolted and went to the team's executive management to complain about him. How many times has that happened that you can remember? So, that certainly started giving the Fan pause about Gaston as a manager. Then the Fan started to read some of the Blue Jays' finest bloggers and their complaints were similar about the man. So the Fan has been paying closer attention.
The first loss against the Bay Rays was achingly horrid as they had a decent lead going into the ninth and then put in "closer" Gregg. Gregg didn't have it that night and walked five batters. The Fan wrote a dead-on post on how Gaston had three opportunities to bring in lefty, Rommie Lewis, to end that threat and win the game and Gaston never did it. The next night...the very next night...probably stung by his bullpen the previous night, Gaston got a terrific start from one of his great, young starting pitchers. Again, they had a decent lead going into the ninth inning. That starter was sent out to pitch the ninth. The fatigue was evident and things started going poorly. Now the rule of thumb for such things is that you allow the starter to put base runners on base up to the point that if the runners scored, the starter wouldn't be saddled for the loss. The rule is a good one, because if the starter pitched his heart out, then you don't give him an opportunity to lose the game after such a good outing. But Gaston left him out there and for too long and that starter indeed got saddled with the loss after eight brilliant innings of work.
That brings us to Sunday's game against the Yankees. The Blue Jays had a chance to sweep the series and that certainly would have been a feather in their cap. They had a 2-0 lead going into the top of the eighth inning. The two runs scored on the comeback player of the year, Vernon Wells' two run homer, the only hit recorded against Yankee starter, Javier Vazquez, who was otherwise brilliant. Jeter hit a double to make the score 2-1 and it was second and third with no outs. The Jays got a break when Swisher was called out on strikes on a questionable check swing call made by the home plate ump without checking with the third base ump. Teixeira was up next.
The rote move here would be to walk Teixeira with one out to create a double play situation. But rote shouldn't always be what a manager does. For one thing, Teixeira has been bloody awful. The night before he went 0 for 6 with five strikeouts. On Sunday, he was 0-4. With Fraser out there, there was a great chance that he could have struck out Teixeira making it two outs. But Gaston took the rote move and walked Teixeira to bring up A-Rod. Five other managers have pulled that same move this year and A-Rod had five hits to show how stupid that move is, including two grand slams. But Fraser threw a wild pitch to allow a free run to tie the game. Okay, that happens. But at least it's still tied. A-Rod struck out, which, if you had pitched to Teixeira, could have been the third out. Instead, it was the second out allowing the hottest hitter in baseball to come up in Robinson Cano, who promptly lashed a double that allowed the free base runner (Teixeira) and Jeter to score. That made the score 4-2, Yankees.
The Blue Jays would come back in the bottom of the eighth with a run that would have made it a 3-3 game if the free base runner hadn't scored. So, in this Fan's mind, the decision cost the Jays the game. So that's three games out of six that Gaston has eked out a loss on the heels of a victory. If the Blue Jays had won two of those games, they would be right up there with the Yankees and only a couple of games back to the Bay Rays.
The Fan doesn't believe that any series this early in the year is overly critical. At the same time, in a division that is going to take 98 to 100 wins to take it and with the likely wild card coming from the AL East in a four team race, three questionable losses can haunt you for a long, long time.
Lately, whenever the Fan thinks about Cito Gaston, that song from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" comes into the brain:
"Gosh it disturbs me to see you, Gaston
Looking so down in the dumps
Every guy here'd love to be you, Gaston
Even when taking your lumps
There's no man in town as admired as you
You're ev'ryone's favorite guy
Ev'ryone's awed and inspired by you
And it's not very hard to see why
No one's slick as Gaston
No one's quick as Gaston
No one's neck's as incredibly thick as Gaston
For there's no man in town half as manly
Perfect, a pure paragon
You can ask any Tom, Dick or Stanley
And they'll tell you whose team they prefer to be on
No one's been like Gaston
A king pin like Gaston
No one's got a swell cleft in his chin like Gaston
As a specimen, yes, I'm intimidating
My what a guy, that Gaston"
The line that sticks out the most is the one about the incredibly thick neck. For a Toronto legend, it's too thick to cut off the head and his neck is too thick and stubborn when it comes to making cookie cutter baseball moves that blow up in his face.