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Blue Jays edge Twins in season finale

In Canada on October 3, 2010 at 20:55
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Blue Jays edge Twins in season finale

October 03, 2010

Richard Griffin


Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston tips his cap to fans before the start of the Blue Jays’ MLB American League baseball game against the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis, October 3, 2010.


MINNEAPOLIS, MINN.—Not everyone in a Blue Jays uniform was playing Sunday’s meaningless finale as if they had a plane to catch — which in fact they all did. Some men in uniform were on a personal mission out there as the Jays beat the Twins 2-1 at beautiful Target Field. It was Toronto’s 85th win.

Jays starter Marc Rzepczynski (4-4) was trying to even his record and show that he deserved solid consideration for the fifth spot in the 2011 rotation. Catcher J.P. Arencibia, with Triple-A MVP credentials in tow, was trying to show he actually knew what he was doing behind the plate. Others, like Jarrett Hoffpauir, Mike McCoy and Dewayne Wise, were just happy to be in the lineup one more time. As for John McDonald, well he just doesn’t know any other way to play the game but hard.

The biggest on-field news resulting from the game was that Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind homered for the Jays, raising the team total to a major-league leading 257, tied for third all-time in single-season home runs with the ’96 Orioles behind the ’97 M’s and the ’05 Rangers. Major league leader Jose Bautista went hitless in three at-bats to finish his year at 54 home runs. The game was played in a crisp two hours and one minute, with Shawn Camp notching his second save.

Manager Cito Gaston has been around a long time and in finishing up his impressive 11-year managerial career knew the drill. As such, he called his team meeting to address the troops at 12:10 p.m., before the game, well aware that to get them to sit still after the final out with flights on tight schedules would be like the guy in charge of the popcorn stand at a burning theatre.

“I just wanted to thank the guys for what they’ve done this year and the way that they’ve played,” Gaston said as part of his final pre-game briefing. “I think the theme that they came up with this year, heart and hustle, has really been appropriate for this club. They never quit. We lost some tough ones this year and won some tough ones. But we’ve got it moving forward.”

It was a year ago to the day that the player revolt was suppressed in Baltimore, a policing action that ended up with a new general manager, 32-year-old Alex Anthopoulos, and a reshuffled coaching staff. The main changes were Bruce Walton replacing Brad Arnsberg and Dwayne Murphy taking over from Gene Tenace. For Gaston, the past 12 months have been the best of times, the worst of times.

“I probably had one of the worst winters of my life this year,” Gaston admitted. “When I went home from what happened in Baltimore and all the things that were said, people not even having the guts to stand up and say that they said that. So my winter at home wasn’t too good, thinking about that.”

It was advice from Tenace in a phone call that helped turn his winter around.

“(Tenace) called me up before I went to spring training,” Gaston recalled. “He said, ‘Cito, I know you. You’re going to try and win every game that you possibly can and all the things that were said about you, you have got to just put that behind you. Move on.’”

“I’ll just give you a little advice because I’m a little bit older. If you’re upset with somebody and you’re at home worrying abut them, thinking about them, hey man, you’re crazy. Because they’re not thinking about you. You’re the one who’s going through all the s–t.”

Gaston came to spring training with a clearer vision of his final year. The lines of communication improved with the changes to the coaching staff and the team played well.

“Once we went to spring training, I think the guys on this ballclub, they don’t mind me being around here,” Gaston said. “There’s a few guys that are not here anymore who were probably behind all that stuff. I won’t mention any names because it won’t do any good. Right now I feel great about what this team is and where they’re going. I feel good about what myself and the coaching staff did. It wasn’t easy all the time. It’s great working with Walton and all of the coaching staff. It’s turned around.”

But now it’s over for Gaston and the most important thing is that the second time around he is leaving on his own terms and leaving his successor with a team whose prospects are on the upswing.


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