<
>

Jays fire Tosca after fifth straight loss

NEW YORK -- Carlos Tosca won't finish this season with
Toronto, partly because the Blue Jays got off to such a terrible
start.

Toronto dropped its first eight home games, marking the
beginning of a disappointing season. Tosca finally paid the price
Sunday when the manager was fired less than an hour after the Blue
Jays were beaten by the New York Yankees for their fifth straight
loss.

Tosca was replaced by first-base coach John Gibbons, who will take over as interim manager for the rest of the season.

"We've been accustomed to playing our best ball at the end of
the year and this year we're not going to get an opportunity to do
that," Tosca said. "One thing I've always prided myself on is
that the players have given a good effort."

Tosca is the third major league manager to be fired this season, following Houston's Jimy Williams and Arizona's Bob Brenly.

"We have six or seven weeks left in the season and the team
showed signs of not playing hard," said Toronto general manager
J.P. Ricciardi, who hired Tosca on June 3, 2002. "We have an
obligation to try and do as well as we can. It wasn't an easy
decision. It never is when you have to tell someone who does what
he loves that it's being taken away from him."

Coming off their sixth consecutive third-place finish in the AL East, the Blue Jays added Ted Lilly, Miguel Batista, Pat Hentgen
and reliever Kerry Ligtenberg to the pitching staff last offseason
and hoped to contend for a playoff spot.

But they got off to a slow start, losing five of their first six
games and 18 of 26. A string of injuries depleted the roster; AL
Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay was on the disabled list for two long stretches because of a bad shoulder and first baseman Carlos Delgado missed 33 games with a ribcage injury.

Hentgen struggled mightily and has since retired. Ligtenberg,
Justin Speier and the rest of bullpen failed time and again, and
last season's powerful offense fell off dramatically.

Toronto slipped into last place in the division, and Ricciardi
said he saw an air of resignation in the Blue Jays' effort.

"We may have been starting to mail it in a little bit," he
said.

Tosca was told of the decision after an 8-2 loss to the Yankees dropped the Blue Jays to 47-64, a season-high 17 games under .500 and 24½ games behind first-place New York. Toronto is 18-37 on the road and in the middle of a seven-day, seven-game trip.

"The team seems to have hit the skids and we had to do
something," team president and CEO Paul Godfrey said.

Tosca's contract was up after this season. He said he hoped the Blue Jays would turn things around. He also said he hoped to stay
in baseball and would wait until the end of the season to seek
other opportunities.

"I know baseball is what I do for a living," Tosca said.
"It's in my blood and I will be looking for another opportunity to
carry that through."

Tosca, 50, was the fifth native of Cuba to manage in the major leagues. He had been the team's third-base coach before becoming the sixth major league manager without any playing experience. He finished with a 189-191 record in a little more than two seasons.

Gibbons, 41, is a former catcher who spent seven seasons
managing in the New York Mets' organization. He is in his third
season with Toronto, serving first as the team's bullpen coach
before moving to first base. He played in just 18 big league games
for the Mets after they picked him in the first round of the 1980
draft.

The Blue Jays were shut out by the Yankees on Saturday, the
ninth time Toronto has been held scoreless this season. In the
opening game of the series, Toronto lost 11-4, the 11th time the
pitching staff allowed 11 or more runs in a game.