Midway through the 2008 season, the Blue Jays pulled Gaston away from an 11-year hiatus from managing, asking him to come lead the franchise once again. Gaston was at the helm for Toronto's consecutive World Series titles in 1992-93, and he jumped at the chance to rejoin the organization after being skipped over for other managerial openings around the big leagues.
Gaston guided the Jays to a 51-37 finish in '08 after replacing former manager John Gibbons, and then saw Toronto soar to a 27-14 record out of the gates last season. That was before a nine-game losing streak in May sent the Jays tumbling down the standings, leading to a forgettable season that ended with a discontented clubhouse.
At the heart of the issue was a perceived lack of communication between Gaston and some of his players and coaches. General manager Alex Anthopoulos spent time over the past few weeks discussing the matter with players and staff, concluding that the situation was blown out of proportion by the media. Gaston shares that belief.
"If they dislike you that much, you're going to feel it," Gaston said. "I don't feel like there was 50 percent of the people in that clubhouse who feel that way about me, because I don't treat them in that way. I try to treat people in the way that I want to be treated."
Gaston said he plans on meeting with Anthopoulos before the start of the 2010 season to go over feedback the general manager received from the players.
"I'm pretty sure we will talk about it," Gaston said. "Hey, listen, I'm all for making things better. If there's some way I need to lean to make it better, then I will do that. If there's something that I need to step up and say, 'Well, I don't think that's a good idea,' I'll step up and do that, too."
Gaston added that he plans on holding a meeting with his players during Spring Training to make sure they know they can and should come to him with any issues. He said he would prefer that the players come directly to him rather than go to any of the coaches if any problems arise.
"I'm going to have that meeting -- thats for sure," Gaston said. "I'm going to tell them, 'Hey, come in and talk to me. Don't be afraid to come in and talk to me.' I've had guys come in and talk to me, but mostly it's about personal things. No one's come in complaining about their playing time or anything like that. I will encourage them to do that."
Along with the announcement that Gaston will retire after next season, the Blue Jays also revealed a wave of changes to their coaching staff on Friday. Among them, former pitching coach Brad Arnsberg accepted the same role with the Astros, and former hitting coach Gene Tenace elected to retire. Replacing Arnsberg and Tenace with Toronto are Bruce Walton and Dwayne Murphy, respectively.
With Houston, Arnsberg joins the staff of his close friend, Brad Mills -- recently hired to be the Astros' new manager -- and also has the chance to work primarily in his home state of Texas. It became clear that Arnsberg was not entirely happy in Toronto, though, and Gaston admitted on Saturday that the pair did not have a close working relationship.
"It was good," Gaston said. "But, a lot of times I didn't have as much [communication] with him as far as I had with the other pitching coaches. Brad was always -- he'd pretty much sit down and talk with Doc [Roy Halladay] most of the time. He did his job. He worked hard. He probably sees that he probably was going to be here one more year -- he's looking for more than that.
"He's close to home and I'm pretty sure he'll do a good job down there in Houston for those guys."
Another change to Gaston's staff for 2010 is on the bench. Brian Butterfield, who spent the past two years as Toronto's bench coach after six seasons working as the team's third-base coach, will move back to third base this year. Nick Leyva, who has a longer working history and closer friendship with Gaston, has been named the new bench coach after serving as the third-base coach.
"Nick and I have been around each other a long time," Gaston said. "We're just a little bit more on board with each other and I know Nick a little bit better than I know Butterfield. Butter does a good job there.
"He works hard. I just thought it would be better for myself if Nick was my bench coach. He knows me a little bit better than Butterfield."
Beyond potentially having an entirely new coaching staff for the 2011 season, the Blue Jays also have uncertainty surrounding Halladay. Next winter, Halladay is eligible for free agency, which has led Toronto to explore trading the ace pitcher. Asked for his gut feeling on Halladay's situation, Gaston did not sound optimistic that the pitcher would remain with the Jays for much longer.
"My gut is that I think Doc wants to be on a winning team," Gaston said. "He's probably sitting there looking at A.J. [Burnett] out there pitching [for the Yankees in the World Series], knowing that that's where he'd like to be. It's not about money with Doc. It's about him being on a winning team.
"I can't speak for Doc, but my gut feeling is if he's here next year with us, then he'll probably leave after next year. Hopefully, if that's the case, then we can get something for him before he leaves."