Gaston Disparaged Anonymously
A Fox Sports report by Ken Rosenthal this morning claims that virtually the entire Jays' clubhouse is in agreement that manager Cito Gaston needs to go. He has lost everyone, says the source. Since Rosenthal is not around the Jays' clubhouse and has very rarely quoted any Jays' players directly in recent years, this "clubhouse insider" information has to come from someone in the Jays' front office.
Here's a clue. Needing confirmation for the column, Rosenthal claims he was unable to reach GM J.P. Ricciardi for comment. If it's true that he was unable to contact the GM that would be a first. This has the feel of a Ricciardi scud missile on his way out the door.
A Canadian Press piece by Shi Davidi followed up on the same theme, quoting unnamed players interviewed on the final weekend as being upset with Gaston and his "lack of communication, old-school approach and negativism."
That sounds bad. Let's see, if an entire team wants a manager out of the way, the usual strategy is that a team quits playing for him and virtually mails in the results. Unfortunately for the conspirators, the Jays have won six in a row and nine of 10 and have returned to the offensive juggernaut numbers of April and May - and even beyond that production. Way to deliver a message to management boys.
No, some significant discontent is definitely there towards Gaston, but it is far from as rampant as Rosenthal insists it is. When the New York Yankees visited Toronto September 3-6, they already knew about the clubhouse anger. The links are former Jays Josh Towers, A.J. Burnett and Eric Hinske, who heard about it from friends with the Jays. The knowledge of the discontent has certainly permeated the Jays' clubhouse. They have all heard it, but for young players trying to establish themselves and fit in, stating that position and adopting it as their own would be professional suicide.
So if guys like Adam Lind, Travis Snider, Aaron Hill, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Jason Frasor, Jesse Carlson and every one of the young starting pitchers has likely listened to the leaders of this revolt without offering comment that does not mean they are among those ready to burn Cito at the stake. For the most part, they are earning close to the major-league minimum salary and have long careers to look forward to.
The leadership of the revolt likely comes from the bullpen and likely started with the treatment of B.J. Ryan as he struggled to regain his form at spring training and was subsequently released.
At spring training Gaston threw Ryan under the bus during a trip to Orlando to play the Braves. He discussed the diminishing returns issue and scratched his head over Ryan's loss of velocity, even though he was healthy. The baton of explanation was immediately passed to a distressed pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, who while trying to defend his friend B.J., inadvertently backed the bus up over Ryan and moved forward, crushing him again. That was the beginning of the end.
The soap opera moved to Minnesota in April. After a failed Ryan appearance, Arnsberg snapped on the media, saying that he was never asked positive questions about his pitchers. It was always negative. That he had to deal with his pitchers every day and didn't want to comment on failure. He was still shaken by the spring training "loss of velocity" discussion.
The major-league bullpen is a virtual social club during every one of 162 games. They have six innings to sit and chat before two of them have to get up and start getting loose. The pitching coach is the father figure. Arnsberg treats all his pitchers like sons. When one of their bullpen family is mistreated by the manager, or anyone else, they all feel the pain.
Fast forward to Yankee Stadium in July. By that time B.J. Ryan had become an afterthought in the manager's mind. Despite what Cito had protested to me earlier in the year, that he "likes his own pitchers" but doesn't like other teams' hurlers, it doesn't fly. Gaston, a hitter, loves his hitters and is loyal to them. He allowed Alex Rios and Vernon Wells to bat third and fourth in the order this year until it was impossible to leave the underproducing pair there. He does it out of loyalty. That's old school. Pitchers see that loyalty. In the Yankee clubhouse, Ryan challenged his manager. He said he needed to pitch more to be effective but he understood that to pitch more he needed to be effective. He expressed frustration. When asked about it, Gaston scoffed and the next day the Jays released Ryan and ate his remaining $15 million.
Gaston is not patient with pitchers. Scott Downs, a good friend of Ryan's and another of Arnsberg's disciples, has been the latest whipping boy for Gaston. He took over from Ryan as closer, then got hurt and was replaced by Jason Frasor, came back and got hurt again. The last time he was hurt it was in leaving the mound to cover first, and he strained a hamstring. The manager and trainer George Poulis went to the mound to check on Downs. When Cito found out his pitcher was hurt again, Gaston strode back to the dugout, leaving the trainer and injured reliever to hobble off the field. It seemed strange at the time, but seems to be part of the mutual discontent that has clearly developed.
It comes down to this. There are many villains and few heroes in this Jays' piece. In hindsight, that's exactly the way their disappointing season has gone. Many changes will be made.