Clarence Gaston is back.
And this doesn't smack of J.P. Ricciardi's last-gasp attempt to fend off his inevitable firing at season's ending. No, this is Paul Godfrey feeling his Richard Peddie oats and telling Ricciardi, "The season's lost. I don't want to answer any more Gibby questions and Gaston's popular. Trust me, the fans are too stupid to notice we hired the unhirable. They'll just be happy to talk about '92 and '93 again."
Mr. Godfrey, you are wrong.
John Gibbons wasn't a good manager. I think he had risen to the level of average this year, attempting to inject action into the moribund Blue Jay offence, styled as it was by the GM to hit homers. And now, in the non-steroid era (snicker), homers don't happen outside of Milwaukee. Mike Scoscia, who some feel is state of the art in managing today, or even Sparky Anderson could not win with the players the Jays now call their regular line-up. Gibbons could have been better, but there was no light at the end of whatever tunnel he was wandering around in anyway.
Gaston's charm, as limited as it was, was being able to reign in his own ego and let old pros play. If we get THAT Gaston, we get THE EXACT SAME laid-back manager as Gibbons. If we get the Gaston who got upset when he wasn't recognized as the best manager in baseball (snicker), then we get a sour-faced guy who failed when he DIDN'T have the GREAT old pros to put out there and have them make him look good.
It's been more than a decade since Gaston or any of the coaches he brings back were on the firing line. Baseball's changed, not the least of which is this dramatic lack of power. And most of these folks have been on the sideline, just like you and me. This might very well be the ultimate fantasy for Roto players!
Availability and misty fond memories seem to be the driving force behind Godfrey's interference in Ricciardi's probable plan to stave off criticism by firing Gibbons (probably at the all-star break) and installing Brian Butterfield in the manager's chair. It is the reason, afterall, that Butterfield was moved from the third-base coaching box into the dugout, to serve as Gibbons' right-hand man and successor. Ricciardi, who didn't have the cajones to quit when presented with the hiring fait accompli, at least saved the jobs of the two coaches he truly cherished, Butterfield and pitching coach Brad Arnsberg. Won't matter. He, Butterfield and Arnsberg will follow A.J. Burnett out of town in three months and 12 days. If Burnett doesn't pack his suitcase earlier.
Make no mistake about this. Godfrey was the guy who made this move. He probably told Ricciardi Wednesday it was happening. That accounts for Ricciardi's idiotic slippage of the tongue about Dunn. Who knows, he might have been getting heat from Godfrey about making a move for Dunn the same way radio callers were doing it to him. Ricciardi's notoriously close-mouthed, prefering lying to the public to telling us what he really thinks. (Note to Mike Wilner: Being willing to come on and spin, is NOT a refreshingly honest approach. Just more spin).
Toronto is the Comeback City. Tony Fernandez had FOUR tours here and Rico Carty was technically a four-time Jay. Wendell Clark was a three-time Maple Leaf and Oliver Miller had two Raptor stints and was in training for a third when management wised up. The Argos have made a fetish of bringing back the likes of Leo Cahill, Adam Rita, Bob O'billovich and even Mike Clemens to coach again. There is a whole posting in the future just listing the tens and tens of guys who have coached and played in Toronto around tours elsewhere. This is Gaston v3.0. Of the above names, only Rita and Clemens really enjoyed rebirths. The odds of Gaston making that three exceptions to the rule? Not great. Be afraid, be very afraid.