Of course, Gaston didn't see it that way. For him it was an opportunity to work with a team that had plenty of pitching, but couldn't hit - his specialty. This season, which began with zero expectations, has been magical through its first two months, even taking into account the dispiriting sweep in Boston this week. But that flicker of success, that intimation of a pennant race has also restarted the kind of baseball conversation that's been dormant almost since Gaston left town: Why is the slumping Vernon Wells still hitting fourth? Why are players' days off sacrosanct? Why was rookie Brett Cecil left in to get pounded on Wednesday night? Why does Gaston seem happy to often let the game take care of itself?
He is managing, he explains, as he always has, according to the strengths and weaknesses of his roster, still aware of what it felt like to be a player. "I want to win really badly, and we want to play well, and if we win, we win," he says. "But I'm not the type that is going to be hurting one of these guys to win. I'm not going to hurt a pitcher pitching too much to win, I'm not going to play a player when he can't play to win. I'm always looking down the road. I will lose a game tonight to win three down the road, even if people in the media don't see it that way."
If anything has changed now, the second time around, he says it's in the perspective that comes with age, that comes with having been here before, that understands this second chance is a gift.
"Some of these [other managers]are worried about their jobs if they don't win," Gaston says. "I've been in that situation. I've seen guys that panic. They're uptight. They're worried about their jobs or they're worried about what people think about them. They fight with the umpires… I do care if we win. I want to win. But I think I've finally realized this is fun. I want to have fun winning. This is fun right here. It's fun to have so many of your guys around and especially to have Paul upstairs. It's like the old gang's back here again.
"I'm not sure if that guy over there in the other dugout is having fun. But I'm having fun."