BALTIMORE — Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston expressed surprise over stinging criticism from his own team, and insisted Friday he doesn't feel the need to regain favor in his own clubhouse.
"If you've got two or three or four guys in there that have a problem, then you don't have to win anything, do you?" Gaston said before Toronto began its final series of the season at Baltimore. "You might have to certainly deal with those guys, but you don't have to win the clubhouse back."
The Blue Jays are 75-84 this year, though they carried a six-game winning streak into Friday night's game against the Orioles.
Gaston, who guided Toronto to World Series championships in 1992 and 1993, took over a 35-39 team from the fired John Gibbons last year and guided the Blue Jays to a 51-37 mark over the remainder of the season.
"Over the course of eight months, you're going to have issues arise. You're going to have problems and complications. … Things have gone on a downward spiral just throughout the whole year," outfielder Vernon Wells said.
Published and Internet reports, using information attributed to players who spoke anonymously, began circulating Friday detailing widespread problems that players want addressed, including the perception that the 65-year-old Gaston displayed a negative attitude and a passive managerial style. They also reportedly complained that Gaston isn't effectively communicating with them about playing time, and that a split exists between the coaches Gaston inherited last year and those he hired when he began his second tour as Toronto's manager in June 2008.
Wells said he met Friday with teammates Aaron Hill and Rod Barajas to discuss the problems but didn't outline a plan for resolving the grievances.
"What course of action we're going to take, we don't know," Wells said. "It's a family. You go through issues and you have to figure out a way to do this in a family manner. We're not out to bash anyone. It's a touchy situation. It's something that most of us, all of us in this clubhouse, have not gone through."
Any meeting, however, will include a large portion of the team, Wells added.
"I'm sure there will be a meeting and I'm sure it will be a large group," he said. "We're all in this together, good or bad."
Informed that Wells told reporters that at least 50 percent of Toronto's players believed problems existed with the manager, and that players were planning a meeting with interim team president Paul Beeston, Gaston said there was no reason to hold a meeting to clear the air.
"What would I say to them? I think I've done everything that's right here," Gaston said. "I think I've treated everybody the way I'd like to be treated. I'm not sure what I'd call a meeting about. If they want to call a meeting and talk to me, that's fine. But I don't know what to say to them."
Barajas said the Blue Jays' problems weren't unlike those faced by many teams, but that concerns needed to be confronted instead of being left to fester.
"I've been on teams where the relationship between manager and players isn't always the best and that makes for an unhappy clubhouse," Barajas said. "Usually, you're not going to have much success on the field. But it happens – and it happens to a lot more teams than people think."
First baseman Lyle Overbay is one of those who wants Gaston to improve his communication. Overbay, who had expected to be a full-time player, found himself platooned with Kevin Millar as the season wore on.
"More than anything, I want to try to figure out what to expect for next year. It kind of caught me off-guard a little bit when I wasn't playing. … (Gaston) never really said a lot. As we were winning, he was kind of sitting on the back burner, watching us play good," Overbay said.
Overbay said talk about meeting with management began a couple of weeks ago.
"We've got to figure it out. We're not going to be a very good team if this goes on," he said.
Gaston isn't convinced there's widespread sentiment in the clubhouse that he needs to change.
"I think you have to go around to all those players and ask them that. I don't think that you can … rely (on a few) players to find out," the manager said. "I think you need to talk to all of them. If it comes up to 50 percent, then, hey, maybe we've got a problem. I'd like to know what the problem is because I can't be any fairer than I've been."
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