Managing a big league baseball club is incredibly complex. There are a million factors to consider before making each and every decision – weighing the human element as it affects the clubhouse dynamic as well as the instant impact on the field, all while wondering how the big bosses in the upstairs suite appreciate your choices.
The Toronto Blue Jays spent the last two weeks completely overhauling their ball club, investing millions of dollars in a massive trade with the Miami Marlins and signing key free agents. Canada’s team is in a crucial position as they look to make a Great Leap Forward in the American League.
Rather than keep the money flowing or appealing to the worst impulses of the casuals, the Blue Jays opted for a name from their less-than-glorious past: former manager John Gibbons, who took over the Jays in 2004, managing the club to a .500 record until he was replaced by Cito Gaston in 2008.
John Gibbons was in charge of the Blue Jays the last time they splashed cash as they have this winter. The 2006 Toronto Blue Jays ended up being a very good but not nearly good enough team. They won 87 games despite starting Josh Towers, Ty Taubenheim, and Gustavo Chacin a combined 36 starts. Gibbons managerial style is best classified as “competent”, as the affable Texan refused to give away precious outs and managed the bullpen with aplomb. Competent is not a indictment by any means.
The former catcher is best known for sparring with outspoken players Ted Lilly and Shea Hillenbrand in separate incidents, a trait Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos praised during the press conference re-introducing the Blue Jays field boss.
While the public battles with former players inform many opinions of the Jays new manager, Anthopoulos noted Gibbons is far from a hardass. Players past and present love playing for him and nearly every reporter who covered him has nothing but good things to say about the 50-year old from San Antonio.
Gibbons insisted during his press conference that his team will not run itself into outs by “stupidly” taking chances. No team with Jose Bautista in the lineup needs to worry about putting runners in scoring position when scoring position is anywhere in front of Jose Bautista.
The new Blue Jays roster is one built on flexibility – the off-season has barely begun but the 2013 Blue Jays might enter camp with four switch hitters and jack-of-all-trades Maicer Izturis and Emilio Bonafacio. While Gibbons was content to let his old Blue Jays teams mash taters, his new team is built with “speed and contact” in mind. While Gibby’s hands-off approach worked in the past, the current iteration of the Blue Jays could require more input from the manager as the skills of the players aren’t as analog as the bombs away sluggers from the past.
Some fans are not enamoured with the choice of Gibbons, hoping the team would splash out for a big name or Hall of Famer currently between jobs. Gibbons, however, represents a great choice for a now-talented team. A manager who showed a strong ability to manage the bullpen and one who will let the players play with minimal intrusion.
Hiring John Gibbons is not forgetting to buy a HD receiver for your new 80″ LED TV, as one local radio guy stated. John Gibbons is more like the tech you bring in to get your new TV running like it should. Turn it off Big Box Showroom Floor torch mode and help you position the speakers properly. He isn’t the star of the show, he doesn’t long to see himself ON the TV – he just wants the TV to deliver a beautiful picture so you might enjoy the program you chose to watch, not marvel over how expensive the damn TV was.
If you just promised $166 million dollars in salary to three players, what more can you ask? The manager keeps the peace and stays out of the way, putting his players in the best position to succeed. The prospect of which hopefully appeals to front office types and Blue Jays fans alike.