I have learned, in my time blogging on the Blue Jays, that often times you get a better read on a "breaking" story if you hang back and let it develop, both in the traditional media and in the blogosphere, before you dash off a missive detailing your fevered ramblings.
Such was my response to the huge "Players v. Cito" storm breaking over the end of the Jays' disappointing 2009 season.
Of course, the flip side of that is that occasionally you can't really add much to the conversation. I have been a non-fan of Cito 2.0 right from the start.
Admittedly the team played much better after he was hired last year but even then, my view was that it was more a reflection on the ability of the players than on the Cito Magic. There was just too much that he was doing that was obviously wrong.
One of the persistent comments, offered in somewhat of a rebuttal, to this story is that this is what you tend to see when a team falls apart and that there's a chicken/egg conundrum.
But at least some of the reporting indicates that there was an undercurrent of discontent even last season. discontent which built to a critical mass once the illusory success in the first quarter of the season passed away.
I tolerated him during the win-column success, naturally, because I had no answer for the one bit of consistent praise he seemed to get - to wit: "no manager is better in the clubhouse than Cito, which makes up for his on-field blunders."
As the 2009 season unraveled, it became glaringly apparent that, in point of fact, this supposed virtue did not after all outweigh the faults. Now we find out that the presumed virtue doesn't even exist anymore.
I will admit that even as strong a Cito critic as I am, I am a bit surprised the problem is as big as it turns out to be. but upon reflection, I shouldn't be.
After all, if the armchair GMs who write and comment on blogs and forums can see the insanity of, for instance, Kevin Millar hitting clean-up, why should we be at all surprised that people who play the game for a living (and their coaches) can reach the same conclusions? We shouldn't.
Rather, I'd be more disappointed if they saw all this nonsense and still rallied around their manager and professed that all was well.
The quotes and reports which are out there speak for themselves, profoundly so. I had intended to quote them all here but frankly, the volume is just overwhelming. And the only voices defending Cito are not among the players.
Beeston says he's totally unaware of any discontent - that's more damming of his awareness than a defense of Cito if it's true. JP said this morning he doesn't see a reason why Cito wouldn't be back next year but that's very likely to change and was probably a pc comment anyway.
The one quote that likely won't get wide play in the traditional media that you might find compelling comes from Drunk Jays Fans, or more specifically, from an anonymous commenter in reply to one of their posts on the Citostorm.
Now, obviously an anonymous commenter has to be taken with a grain of salt but DJF has a higher profile than any other Jays blog and there's every reason to think jays employees, including possibly even some players, read it - and who knows, perhaps post an occasional anonymous comment? In any case, I find the comment striking:
"I have to remain anonymous, but I gave you a bit of this when I told you that Rolen was leaving because of Cito. They had a agreement not to make their disagreement public.
It got way worse for Cito as other players started asking the same questions (specifically batting order, where players were starting, late inning replacements) to the point where Cito blew up.
He hates second guessing, especially by players. But you guys would be shocked if I told you the player who is actually leading the mutiny. He is actually very good.
I am not going to tell you because you wouldn't believe me anyways. This story is a bombshell and I hope some reporter gets it (I am trying to lead someone to it)."
For what it's worth, my guess as to who the "leader" spoken of here is - Aaron Hill. We might not be the only ones who ask ourselves why a guy who spent much of the season on a 40-homer pace spent the whole year hitting second. This is not a slight on my part against Hill, by the way. I'd be that much more a fan if it turned out to be true.
Also remarkable, in my view, and ironically, far more supportive of the reported problems than he ever intended, are Cito's comments in his own defense (I put them together in a paragraph, even though they may well not have all come in the same interview or in this order):
"I'd really like to know what I need to change. That would be interesting. I'd like to hear it myself. I've had managers I didn't think treated me fairly, but I'm surprised I can find any guy who says they haven't been treated fairly. I've been honest with them, I never lie to players.
I'm not sure what the problem is. I think you guys know I'm probably one of the most positive people out here every day. You're not going to have everybody like you on the team that's just the way it is. There's not a guy on this team I don't like. I treat all the guys fairly."
Asked if he felt he had to win back the confidence of his team, Gaston said he did not think that was the case.
"If you got two or three or four guys that have a problem, you don't have to win anything back, do you?" Gaston said. "You might have to deal with those guys, but you don't have to win a clubhouse back."
Told that players indicated that at least half of the team felt there was a significant problem, Gaston displayed disbelief.
"I think you really have to go around to all those players and ask them," Gaston said. "I don't think you can just rely on the players that told you that. I think you need to talk to all of them to find out. If it comes out to 50 percent, maybe we've got a problem."And I'd like to know what the problem is, because I can't be any fairer than what I've been."
"It's not up to the players to have me back here," Gaston said. "It's up to ownership, of course Paul Beeston and J.P. (Ricciardi),It's up to them, it's not up to the players.I'm willing to come back here next year and my door is always open, guys can come in and talk to me about everything.
If guys aren't happy with whatever happened here, then they're looking at the wrong person.
"If they're unhappy, they have to look at themselves, because I certainly treated everybody in a way that I'd like to be treated as a player and how I'd like my manager to treat me. If they're grumbling, they're grumbling because they didn't do their jobs. They had opportunities."
That last is, in my mind, most damning. The perception around Cito, even before this fully blew up, was that of a man very confident in his way of doing things and one who suffered second guessing very poorly. I don't think that implying he has no fault for this season and it's all on the players is an attitude that's likely to bind up any wounds in this affair.
In fact, one of the repeated comments in reaction to this story has been "it's far more about the players than it is the manager" when it comes to wins and losses, and in some cases (Wells and Rios notably) this is true, but overall, the statistics indicate that the team doesn't win as much as the talent level suggests it should.
It's pretty difficult to discern where the responsibility of the players leave off and the responsibilities of the manager - in terms of taking the blame - pick up, but it's clear to any halfway informed baseball observer that Cito hasn't put his players in the best position to win in the last two years.
In that regard he suffers even in comparison to John Gibbons. For Cito to point the finger at the players and say, in essence, "I did all I could do with this motley crew" isn't a sign that he understands his role in how this season turned out.
He has to go. He had to go before this came out but he likely wouldn't have which is why, in my estimation, someone involved the press. As someone posted to Twitter - If you are unaware your players think you are a bad manager, that itself is evidence of being a bad manager.
Furthermore, this team and it's fan base cannot be allowed to continue to twist in the wind. I understood the arguments for starting fresh in the off-season, even though I think some broad hints at the new plan or at least some "ruling out" was definitely in order.
But with this latest drama, time is of the essence. if we go another week without knowing who the next president is, it's a massive blunder. If we go two without Cito being kindly shown the door, it's another.
Whether or not you get JP in the process (I think he'll go and for PR optics probably should but I don't think it will be a huge blunder if he doesn't) isn't the point right now. Everyone associated with this team needs to see a clear direction and they need to see it soon.
Because if this goes on much longer, this organization is going irrevocably off the rails and into territory they won't emerge from for a decade and only then with miraculous effort.