Player's Own Voice podcast: Former Jays manager Cito Gaston on what it takes to win

Cito Gaston, manager of the 1992 and 1993 World Series-winning Toronto Blue Jays teams, acknowledges the crowd on the 25th anniversary of their back-to-back championships on Aug. 11, 2018 in Toronto. (Jon Blacker/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Cito Gaston, manager of the 1992 and 1993 World Series-winning Toronto Blue Jays teams, acknowledges the crowd on the 25th anniversary of their back-to-back championships on Aug. 11, 2018 in Toronto. (Jon Blacker/The Canadian Press - image credit)

It pays to keep your wits about you in conversation with Cito Gaston.

The two-time World Series-winning Blue Jays manager is a relaxing presence, even-tempered and genial. But that soothing voice belies sharply independent opinions, formed over a long career of hard-won experience.

Gaston will ease you along, sharing memories of his years as Hank Aaron's roommate and friend; and that will slide into talk about the home run record, touching upon Aaron Judge and, of course, Barry Bonds.

Intriguingly, the former manager makes a case for a more open-minded attitude toward steroid use in baseball. The prevailing wisdom is absolute: juicing is harmful and bad — but Gaston calmly describes a future that might include fair and healthy uses of performance enhancers.

And so it is with Gaston, who's willing to lend every idea and every person he meets with respect, to a point.

It's remarkable how often "winning" enters Gaston's conversation. For him, that's the last word on a player's career. A player who wants to win? That's all he needs to hear. When he says Joe Carter would not let his own children beat him at checkers, that's high praise.

It's impossible not to revisit the Blue Jays' glory years, and Gaston is happy to share recent brushes with George Bell and Dave Winfield and Tom Henke. However, those good memories can't hide the unpleasant fact that he never won manager of the year.

People who should know better said Cito had so many stars on his roster and it was easy to win with them. But that ignores the fact that when Gaston took over the team in 1992 it sported a losing record (12-24). He turned the club around immediately, leading the charge to a World Series victory.

And then 1993: the confirmation of back-to-back World Series wins.

We forget that Toronto lost 14 players from its 25-man roster between 1992 and 1993. So he led a largely revamped team to victory. And again, no manager of the year.

Gaston does not say there is racism in the voting for league honours.

Instead he runs through some reasoned proposals for introducing more diversity in the game, more Black players on the field and more Black managers, coaches and executives in the front and back offices.

When Anastasia Bucsis, host of Player's Own Voice podcast, asks Gaston about the work he continues to do on behalf of coaching organizations, Gaston puts his record aside. He helped give Toronto its greatest baseball years, and those were three decades ago, but he's still got an eye on the future of the game.

And he still says the greatest satisfaction is helping players who want to win.

There is a transcript of this podcast for our hard-of-hearing audience. To listen to Cito Gaston, Robert Parish, Aaron Brown, Kaylyn Kyle, Kurt Browning, Bianca Farella, Summer McIntosh, Beckie Sauerbrunn or any of the guests from earlier seasons, go to CBC Listen or wherever else you get your podcasts.