Monday, September 7, 2009

The Cito Side Effects

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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.

13 comments:

  1. Citocism, nice. There are a growing number of Citoisms to attempt to explain what it is that he is trying to accomplish. Seems pretty obvious to me. Field a team that can't win in order to get better picks in next years draft. The better the picks available, the more attractive the position for a new GM to begin a rebuild...

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  2. I can see that point, but then why have Scoots in 1, Hill in 2nd, LInd in 3rd, when Barajas, Encarnacion, and MacDonald (in that order) can easily do a much worse job?
    If the whole point is to lose, I think I can out-Cito him at that too.

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  3. I can see that point, but then why have Scoots in 1, Hill in 2nd, LInd in 3rd, when Barajas, Encarnacion, and MacDonald (in that order) can easily do a much worse job?
    If the whole point is to lose, I think I can out-Cito him at that too.

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  4. Mattt, that's an interesting theory. I would hope that Cito wouldn't purposely be throwing games just to get a better draft pick, but that was certainly explain a lot of things.

    QJays, you're right - there's not a lot to choose from after the top three. Ever since Rolen left, they've been scrambling to find a true cleanup hitter. Millar is a .186 hitter in the number 4 spot where Overbay is a .315 hitter.

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  5. I was actually responding to Mattt - the reason I don't believe Cito is actually trying to lose is because there are much worse 1,2,3 hitters to choose from too. So I just think he's bad at what he's doing no matter what it is.

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  6. I don't think you can change your one and two hitters who have been in those spots all year and not be accused of intentionally losing. But you can do the other moves that he's made with a relatively fluid lineup. Fluid for Cito anyway...

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  7. I wouldn't even be opposed to putting Ruiz in the cleanup spot. He has the power to drive in the runs if men are on base. Maybe it's something we should ponder ...

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  8. Mattt - so now we'll see if your theory is right, with the #2 spot open for a few days (although, who can you possibly fill it with that won't make it look like you're trying to lose? UGH!)
    Ian - I'd be willing to ponder almost anyone in the #4 spot, and I think the justification is better for most players over Millar. Sure, Ruiz hasn't been a major leaguer for long, but it's not like these are high pressure games. I could even see the justification for sticking Wells back in there over Millar.

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  9. QJays-you're right, with whoever gets slotted in there it will be difficult to tell whether it's the best option or an attempt to lose. If nothing else this theory is at least keeping me interested...

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  10. With Hill gone for a couple days, that leaves some big shoes to fill. My best guess is that Wells will step into the number two spot, but I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see Johnny Mac there.

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  11. If PMoD is in there, it's an obvious attempt at tanking!

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  12. PMoD is offense!! JMac for fulltime 2nd base and #2 hitter!!!

    Good fun.

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  13. Totally agree. PMoD in the four spot...

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