And Toronto says goodbye to Cito, who will finish the season on the road, after which he’s all done as the Jays manager.
It was a tenure — interrupted by several years off — that is one of the more underrated in the game. Gaston won two world championships with the Jays. It was a talented bunch that won those titles you say? Most definitely. But Bobby Cox had some talented teams in Toronto — and Atlanta for that matter — and never won a ring with the Jays (and only one with the Braves). Lots of talented teams fail to win the series. Gaston deserves more credit for those titles than he gets.
And he deserves credit for more than just winning. He kept things on a pretty even keel while doing so too. After all, Jack Morris, Roberto Alomar, Rickey Henderson and Tony Fernandez weren’t the easiest guys to get along with at times, and unless I’m just blanking here, Gaston’s clubhouses always seemed to be pretty harmonious places. As I’ve written many times before, that matters. Probably more than people who talk about managers will admit. He was a mentor to many, most notably Dusty Baker, who may not have made it out of the minor leagues without Gaston looking out for him, and to this day calls him an inspiration as both a manager and a man.
Is he a Hall of Fame manager? Not to slight him, but I’m not inclined to think so. He is currently 891-836, which translates to a .516 winning percentage. That’s nice, as are the titles, but the twelve seasons he took off between stints as the Jays’ manager gives him far fewer games in the bigs than most Hall of Fame managers have. It’s probably also worth noting that, more often than not, his teams underperformed their Pythagorean record, though whether that’s luck of Cito or whatever is hard to say. He gets trailblazer points for being the first black man to manage a World Series winner. Your mileage may vary regarding how significant that is for a Hall of Fame case.
But let us not make perfect the enemy of the good here. Gaston may not get the props guys like Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox get, but he’s near the head of the class for his era. As the managerial revolving door the Blue Jays employed between 1997 and 2009 suggests, replacing him won’t be easy. And fans — not just Jays fans — should appreciate the guy while he still has a couple of games left.