Cito back in T.O.

BOB ELLIOTT

, Last Updated: 12:00 AM ET

When the 2008 schedule was released, June 24 was circled by many Toronto baseball enthusiasts.

It was to be a homecoming for first baseman Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds, who played for Bob Smyth’s Etobicoke Rangers.

As well, the first visit by the Reds to Rogers Centre would mean a chance to see future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey and read Hall of Fame scribe Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News.

Who knew? Who knew in the spring that the arrivals of Votto, Griffey and McCoy would become subplots? Who knew in the spring that tonight would be Cito Gaston’s first game managing the Jays at the Rogers Centre since Sept. 23, 1997. The next day, Jays president Sam Pollock and general manager Gord Ash made a managerial change, going with Mel Queen as an interim boss for the final seven games.

In 1989, the World Series winning years of 1992-93 or in 1997, Gaston usually delegated the pre-game exchange of lineup cards to the third-base coach ‹ either Rich Hacker or Nick Leyva, also now back in the Jays saddle again.

Tonight, Gaston ought to made the short walk (slowly) from the third-base dugout ‹ to make sure the ground rules haven’t changed, what with those scoreboards set into the outfield walls.

As he does, you should stand and cheer him.

Gaston heard cheers at the post-parade celebrations at the SkyDome in 1992-’93 and again on Flashback Fridays when he would show. He has earned more cheers by trying to save a season headed so far south that Argentina was on the horizon when the Jays left Milwaukee last Thursday night.

If you did not appreciate Gaston when he was here ‹ some thought a 12-year-old could manage those talented Jays ‹ then consider who has come and gone since: Tim Johnson, who won more games in a season than anyone but Gaston, only to see his career go down in a lie about serving in Vietnam.

Jim Fregosi. Buck Martinez. Carlos Tosca and John Gibbons.

Finally, in Year VII of the J.P. Ricciardi era, a Jays manager has his own opinions. General manager Ricciardi will not walk into Gaston’s office a month from now and tell the manager who hits fifth, who starts in left and who pitches the eighth ... as he did with Martinez, Tosca and Gibbons.

Who knew in the spring that when the Reds’ Adam Dunn is announced tonight, it will be a public referendum of the GM? Ricciardi answered a caller’s question Wednesday about trading for Dunn by saying “the guy doesn’t really like baseball ... doesn’t have a passion to play ... we’ve done our homework on guys like Dunn and there’s a reason why we don’t want him.” Dunn responded on Thursday calling Ricciardi a “clown.” So, “now batting for the Cincinnati Reds ... No. 44 ... Adam Dunn.” Cheer if you agree with Dunn’s assessment on the GM and think enough is enough.

Boo if you agree with Ricciardi’s statement, one he has apologized for making.

Dunn is hitting only .219, yet he has 18 homers. Matt Stairs leads the Jays with eight.

Dunn has 43 RBIs. Lyle Overbay and Vernon Wells share the Jays lead with 30 apiece.

Who knew in the spring that Gene Tenace would be working with hitters during pre-game batting practice tonight?

Commentators Jesse Barfield and Rance Mulliniks discussed the Jays’ hitting woes on a recent telecast. Both agreed that the Jays take too many pitches.

They have been too passive at the plate.

And, as Barfield said, “the only way to get out of a slump is to swing it.” Under Tenace, hitters won’t be taking an opposing pitcher deep in counts.

It’s hoist yer belts, undo the top button, swing from the heels and try to hit it into the next area code.

Just the way Reggie Jackson and Tenace did it with the Oakland A’s.

Cito. Dunn. Votto. Griffey.

Who ever said a last-place team could be boring?


Videos

Photos