Just a few days ago, I was listening to J.P. Ricciardi being interviewed on the FAN 590, and thinking to myself, “If you wanted to try to save this season, you’d be bringing in Cito Gaston to take over the club.” And today, that’s exactly what has happened.
What made me think that? Well, first because I have been totally frustrated over the past 11 years by the fact that Cito was pretty well ignored by the baseball community. Why on earth would someone with back-to-back World Series rings not be offered a chance to manage again?
The other factor was that I have been listening to the interviews on Flash-back Fridays when the Jays have brought in former players who were on Cito’s teams, and they all seem to credit Cito with helping them become the players they were. Players like Roberto Alamar. I don’t think Cito was ever given the credit he deserved. It was always, “Anyone could have won with that team.” I completely disagree. True, it’s very hard to win unless you have good players; but it’s not a given that if you have good players, the manager’s role is meaningless.
No, I’ve never managed a baseball team. But I have worked with a lot of people over the years. I remember when I was teaching high school and coaching the school’s quiz team. We were in the finals, on TV. We arrived first and were sitting in the green room laughing and talking when the other team came in. My team was having fun and joking, and happily greeted the other team. Led by their teacher/coach, they just stared at us. They were focused, tight as a drum, and dead serious. They sat down and got into a tight group to talk. Every once in a while they’d look over at us as if evaluated our chances against them. We continued joking around and doing a lot of laughing.
When we were called into the studio, my team walked nonchalantly, arms swinging, and joked with the quiz master and the camera people. The other team came in a tight group, looking around as if worried they were going to be tricked. Finally, the questions began.
My happy group – which by the way came from a high school much smaller than that of the other group, and therefore was the underdog – continued to smile as they responded to the questions with ease. The other team was visibly tense and made mistakes they obviously found frustrating. I’m sure the other team was every bit as capable as mine – possibly more capable. But they were uptight and worried.
From the comments they made, it was clear they felt a lot of pressure to win. I had worked hard in the car and at the studio to keep my team loose. We had practiced; we were ready; if we lost it wasn’t going to be the end of the world. If they won, great, but all I cared about was their doing their best and enjoying the experience.
Yes, my team won handily. And celebrated afterwards at the Dairy Queen (Chuck Swirsky’s favorite place) with banana splits, on me.
Managers do make a differnce – subtle, maybe, but real.
I’ve been sensing a lot of frustration on the Jays this season. Maybe Cito can turn it around. I sure hope so. Go, Cito! Go, Jays!