Paul Beeston can't have signed up for this. No way.
On Saturday, the interim president and chief executive officer of the Toronto Blue Jays will meet the players at Camden Yards before their penultimate game of a rotting hull of a season. But what was supposed to be one of those hail-fellow well-met things Beeston does so well will instead be a bitch session with players who have had it with blasts from the past, and who have launched what one national online sports service described as a "mutiny" against manager Cito Gaston.
Beeston will have to hear that his dear friend Gaston, who in case anybody's forgotten managed the Blue Jays to back-to-back World Series, has lost the clubhouse.
So a year that looked like the heady days of the early 1990s is ending like the bad old directionless ownership days of Interbrew, the benign Belgian brewers who wore down Beeston's perpetual optimism to the point where he decided he preferred the company of Bud Selig.
In truth, the players wanted a meeting during the last homestand but Beeston was overseas for his 40th wedding anniversary until mid-week. Beeston rubbished the reports of mutiny Friday, saying he would have known if Gaston lost the clubhouse, because the players knew his door was open.
But, really, Beeston himself is here on an interim basis, as he keeps telling everyone. Couple that with a general manager, J.P. Ricciardi, who most in the game view as dead man walking, and a manager who is tight with the interim president in an environment where nobody trusts ownership? Good luck keeping lines of communication open with that.
What to make of this mutiny? What does it mean for the future? The first thing to keep in mind - and not to be indelicate about this - is that the 2009 Blue Jays aren't a very good team, so who the hell cares what some of these guys think? I know this: If Kevin Millar's upset with Gaston, he's dimmer than I think he is because no other manager would have given a player as pathetic as him as many at-bats.
As for Vernon Wells? My guess is there are worse things that could happen to the Blue Jays than have him so embittered that he decides to exercise his escape clause. In fact, the payroll relief that would provide might alone be worth another year of Gaston managing.
Leaving aside his mistimed comments about former closer B.J. Ryan - who, whatever anyone may think of him, cast a huge shadow in the clubhouse - Gaston's bullpen mismanagement is as poor as Buck Martinez's was when he was here, so if the relief corps is a bubbling cauldron of discontent it's understandable. Since it might be the most cost-effective part of the team and should be back almost in its entirety in 2010, that's not good. You can debate Gaston's so-called passive in-game managing all you want, I judge a manager first and foremost on how he handles a bullpen.
At the end of the day the only ones who matter in all this are Aaron Hill, Adam Lind, Travis Snider and pitchers such as Ricky Romero and Marc Rzepczynski. It is their souls and well-being that ought to be first priority, and the young pitchers have done okay by Gaston, as has Lind. Hill becomes the most important person in the clubhouse the second Roy Halladay is traded, because he has the edge and the interpersonal skills to be this franchise's go-to guy for years to come. He is close to Wells, too close, some of his veteran teammates will tell you, to the point of being deferential.
And when Hill told reporters Friday that there were issues that needed to be addressed, it spoke volumes.
That's the issue here. The well-being of those players. I don't think the young guys have done all that badly by Gaston, but I've already gone on record as saying that if Beeston decides to fire Ricciardi he ought to get rid of Gaston, too, because this organization can't move on with Gaston as manager, not now.
I doubt that will happen, because while we keep being told that managers are hired to be fired, it's tough to imagine this manager being fired by this interim president - especially if, as some within the organization believe, Beeston will stay on in an advisory capacity. And there are enough Gaston acolytes in the media that he will still get to skate by.
Last Wednesday, Beeston said he still believed Toronto was a destination city for ballplayers, that "our best ambassadors have been players who've been here in the past." I don't see too many ambassadors in this group, but that may just be me: refusing to get stuck in one perpetual Flashback Friday, realizing that for many those warm and fuzzy flashbacks and curtain calls for the boys of 1992-93 feel like some kind of bad trip.
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