This is not a good week to be a major league manager. First, the New York Mets unceremoniously let go of Willie Randolph in the wee hours of Monday morning. Yesterday, the Seattle Mariners parted ways with John McLaren. Today, the Toronto Blue Jays fired John Gibbons who had been at the helm since late in the 2004 season. Anyone who read my column on my 2008 MLB Predictions will know that I picked the Toronto Blue Jays to win the 2008 World Series. However, this was on the condition that the Jays fire manager John Gibbons and replace him with first base coach Ernie Whitt, an original member of the Blue Jays. (www.intellectualconservative.com/2008/03/25/my-2008-mlb-predictions/) However, Whitt was also let go along with hitting coach Gary Denbo and third base coach Marty Pevey.
Gibbons' replacement is none other than Cito Gaston. Boy, did not see that coming. Cito Gaston managed the Toronto Blue Jays from 1989 to 1997. Gaston is the most successful manager in the franchise's history. He guided them to 4 AL East pennants (1989, 1991-1993) and back to back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993. Joining Gaston are Gene Tenace as hitting coach (Tenace is best known for being the 1972 World Series MVP for the Oakland A's) and Dwayne Murphy and Nick Leyva as first base and third base coaches, respectively. Brian Butterfield remains the bench coach although Tenace has long been Gaston's right hand man and Brad Arnsberg remains pitching coach.
Gaston will probably have a better relationship with the players than did Gibbons who was notorious for getting into confrontations with his players (who are no longer with the Jays) such as Dave Bush, Shea Hillenbrand, Ted Lilly and most recently Frank Thomas. He also seldom saw eye to eye with star centerfielder Vernon Wells. If Gaston turns things around in Toronto it will be a bigger story than the emergence of the Tampa Bay Rays.
But I still think they should have given Whitt a shot. As mentioned earlier, he was an original member of the Jays when they debuted in 1977 and he played with them through 1989. Whitt went as far as to take out Canadian citizenship. While he has never managed at the major league level he has managed the Canadian National Team and came within a heartbeat of a Bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics in Sydney. He also did a good job with the team at the World Baseball Classic in 2006. I suspect that he will be back at the helm of the Canadian team at the next WBC in 2009.
It's interesting to note that all three managers fired this week were first time managers replaced by managers with previous MLB managing experience - Willie Randolph by Jerry Manuel, John McLaren by Jim Riggleman and now John Gibbons by Cito Gaston.