It’s what eyebleaf calls “The Cito Effect” and the term that Drew at Ghostrunner on First has labeled “Citocity“. Countless times this year, manager Cito Gaston has made decisions that left us scratching our heads.
Whether it was questionable starting lineups, leaving a starter or reliever in the game too long, or not using the bench players effectively, armchair managers are still pondering what drives Cito to make these choices.
Part of me thinks that Cito was so used to parading WAMCO (White/Alomar/Molitor/Carter/Olerud) out there day after day back in 1993-1994, that he thinks the same strategy would work with the 2009 Blue Jays. If you want proof, just look at how long Alex Rios and Vernon Wells hit in the three and four spots before Cito finally broke things up (which was 62 game for those who are counting).
Unfortunately, Cito doesn’t have the same luxury of a dependable top half of the lineup like he did back in the early 90’s. Just like a toddler, this lineup needs to be watched and monitored very closely; otherwise they can very easily run themselves out into the middle of traffic. Starting lineups are not etched in stone for all eternity, they put an eraser at the end of a pencil for a reason.
Another glaring Citocism that is especially evident this year is how he continues to put Kevin Millar in the cleanup spot game after game. Typically that spot is reserved for the best hitter on the team, not somebody like Millar who has the worst batting average on the team (aside from trade deadline acquisition Edwin Encarnacion). Putting your worst hitter in the cleanup spot is like giving your punter the starting quarterback job; it’s essentially baseball suicide.
As frustrating as it was to watch the Blue Jays these past few years, I don’t remember criticizing or questioning John Gibbons nearly as much as I have with Cito Gaston. John Gibbons was notorious for changing his lineup card almost every game, and with Cito we have the polar opposite – someone who almost refuses to change things because that might disrupt the dichotomy of the team.
Ultimately, it’s on the players to win baseball games, but if the manager cannot determine the best lineup day after day then some of the blame should rest on the shoulders of the manager.
Cito Gaston seems like a great guy and he has a deep knowledge of the game, but maybe his in-game managerial decisions and starting lineup skills could use an overhaul. As Tao suggested earlier this week, maybe Cito would make a great advisor or consultant for the Blue Jays.
This 2009 Blue Jays team is a very rookie-heavy roster and is definitely a far cry from the team Cito managed in his hay day. It’s a totally different mentality approaching a starting rotation that is three-fifths rookies as opposed to five seasoned veterans.
Technically, Cito Gaston’s contract ends after the 2010 season but I wouldn’t be heartbroken to see him leave earlier than that. Like most of us, I’m still waiting for the cavalcade of wins to start rolling in from the “lose one, win two later” philosophy.
It’s just that every time he makes one of these questionable in-game decisions or fills out a lineup card, it seems like Cito’s old-school mentalities might not translate well in the modern era of baseball.