Gaston's return to Jays revives '93 All-Star flap



June 29, 2008|By DAN CONNOLLY

Observations, opinions and musings from last week in Major League Baseball. In the sixth inning of Tuesday's Toronto Blue Jays win against the Cincinnati Reds, the announced 28,153 at Rogers Centre began chanting for the new manager, who is also the old manager.

"Ci-to Gas-ton," the fans sang in Cito Gaston's first game managing in Toronto since the Blue Jays canned him in 1997.

"It gave me goose bumps," Gaston, 64, said. "It was a special night for me, and it's just great to be back."

He shouldn't expect such a warm welcome in Baltimore when the Blue Jays head here for a four-game series starting July 21.

Gaston's name triggers two bad memories for Orioles fans. The first was in 1989, when Gaston took over a Jays squad that was 12-24 under Jimy Williams. The club responded immediately to Gaston's relaxed managerial style and eventually caught and surged ahead of the "Why Not?" Orioles to win the American League East.

Then there was the 1993 All-Star Game in which Gaston managed the AL at Camden Yards. Orioles ace Mike Mussina was on the squad, but Gaston did not bring him in to pitch. Eventually, Mussina threw a bullpen session, drawing cheers from the sellout crowd - and speculation that it was an act of defiance toward Gaston (Mussina said he was just doing his normal side work).

Orioles fans never forgave Gaston for that.

Honestly, Gaston is one of the more respected men in baseball, and he deserved another chance to manage. He won two World Series and had a 681-635 record in nine seasons in his first stint with the Blue Jays. Yet he never got another opportunity despite doing more interviews than Tom Brokaw.

It's good to see him managing again - and doing it in the place he had so much success. Plus, Orioles fans have a reason to get loud when the Blue Jays are in town.

A different world

What would happen if your boss called you in for a meeting and you refused? And then, when he began yelling at you for your insubordination, you grabbed his neck, threw him to the ground and jumped him?

Handcuffs, sirens and lawyers, right?

Well, in the cartoonish world of Major League Baseball, it looks as if Houston Astros pitcher Shawn Chacon won't be pitching for the rest of the year.

An indefinite suspension. Then put on waivers. Ho hum.

On Wednesday, Chacon, 30, grabbed Astros general manager Ed Wade, 52, by the throat, threw him to the ground and got on top of him, "because at that point I wanted to beat his [behind]."

Chacon, who was 0-3 with a 9.35 ERA in four June starts and has a guaranteed $2 million contract, was miffed that he was demoted to the bullpen. Wade tried to get him to leave the clubhouse dining room for a meeting in manager Cecil Cooper's office, but Chacon, the Houston Chronicle reported, told Wade to say what he had to say there, in front of others.

Wade began cursing at Chacon, the pitcher said, and finally Chacon snapped.

He's now done in Houston - and the Astros will attempt to void his contract - but this is baseball, and he's a warm body with a healthy arm.

The players union will back Chacon, and it's very possible he'll get the money owed from the guaranteed deal. And then he'll be in another spring training camp next year. That's the way this business works.

Interleague intrigue

There has been more negative buzz this season surrounding interleague play. There have been complaints that it's unfair to AL teams who can't use the designated hitter in National League parks, and that a competitive disadvantage occurs when teams in the same division don't play the same interleague schedule.

But so long as there are interesting matchups for the fans, it should continue.

And this year had several intriguing pairings: the New York Yankees visiting Pittsburgh for the first time since the 1960 World Series, the Pirates in Baltimore for the first game that counted since the 1979 World Series, the Giants in Cleveland for the first time since the 1954 World Series and the Orioles at Wrigley Field for the first time.

This game is so rich with history, and when memories involving immortals such as Bill Mazeroski, Willie Stargell and Willie Mays can be rekindled, even for a few days, I say go for it.

Thankful Red Sox fans

When Arizona Diamondbacks closer Brandon Lyon was warming up in the Fenway Park bullpen last week, he heard some thank-yous from Red Sox Nation.

All came complete with thick New England accents and tongues in cheeks.

"Thanks for the World Series," one fan yelled. "Thanks for Curt Schilling," another added.

Lyon was a 24-year-old middle reliever in November 2003 when he and three other young players were traded to Arizona for Schilling, who helped the Red Sox finally win a title in 2004.

The other three are gone from Arizona's system, but Lyon, who is having an outstanding season, has made the trade at least somewhat bearable for Diamondbacks fans.

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