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It seems the Blue Jays are going to move on from John Gibbons

The times are changing in Toronto. As the back-to-back ALCS teams from 2015 and 2016 have become a distant memory, we’ve shifted our focus to the prospects of the future. Speaking of that future, it appears that manager John Gibbons isn’t going to be a part of it.

Stephen Brunt spoke on Monday about why he believes that the Blue Jays are likely to move on from Gibbons prior to the 2019 season:

Brunt: “I agree with you. I think he’s done a very good job this year. If you look at what happened to that rotation right off the top, we all thought the rotation was going to be the strength of the team, and between the injuries and the under-performances and what he had to deal with. A bullpen that was cobbled together in the off-season with Seunghwan Oh, Clippard, and Axford, and a bunch of guys who weren’t sure things. And then he loses his closer to circumstances no one could have anticipated.

No they’re not a contending team but John Gibbons has had to do a lot. He’s had to dance a lot this year with a lineup that has been ever-changing. His best player, Josh Donaldson, has hardly played this year. So yeah I agree with you. I think John Gibbons has always been a bit underrated by the Blue Jays fanbase in a way because he isn’t a self-aggrandizing guy. He doesn’t go out and pretend to be the smartest guy in the room. He is what he is. I think John is a really solid guy. I think he handles the bullpen really, really well which is 80 percent of what a manager does. That being said I don’t think anyone thinks he’s going to be the manager in 2019. There is a big turning of the page happening here.

The team is going to look very different in 2019. Not that Ross Atkins and company have been desperately looking for a chance to get rid of him. I think they’ve come to a pretty decent understanding and accommodation given the fact that they didn’t hire him. But this is the moment when they put their stamp on the team in terms of the manager. I think you’ll see a more new school analytics guy. Look at the guys who are succeeding in the league right now. I think John knows that. I think John knew that two months ago. I think the only question is whether they do that during the season or whether they wait until the end of the season. I’m not sure what you gain by doing it earlier but that may be the way it happens.

It’ll almost be a mutual parting of the ways. I don’t think there’ll be any bad blood here. This has been a really good run and there were circumstances beyond anyone’s control here but things are going to be different heading into 2019 and beyond with new players and it’s probably time for a fresh voice in that room.

Gibbons signed a two-year contract extension prior to the 2017 season with a club option for a third season. So, as it stands right now, he is signed to be the manager of the team in 2019. Back when that deal was signed, Russell Martin had an excellent quote that I think very accurately sums up what Gibbons is as a manager.

“The guys love him,” said Martin. “He’s easy to work with. He keeps the guys level-headed. He knows how to work with the different egos on this team and he does a fantastic job of that. He’s almost a father figure to us.”

Gibby has had a very interesting career with this organization. He was hired by J.P. Riccardi mid-way through the 2004 season to replace Carlos Tosca as the team’s manager. He would manage the team until 2008 when he was fired and replaced by Cito Gaston who was making his second go-around with the team. Then, in 2013, Alex Anthopolous brought Gibbons back to replace John Farrell who left to pursue his “dream job” with the Boston Red Sox.

It was a very shocking decision that Anthopolous brought in Gibbons, who many remembered as being the hot-headed manager who got into fights with players, to lead the team that went all-in after acquiring Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and R.A. Dickey in the off-season.

The 2013 season was obviously a huge flop, but the team stuck by Gibby, who had suddenly become a very endearing player-first manager, and he ultimately ended up leading them to to the playoffs in 2015. When Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins replaced Anthopolous that summer, it seemed inevitable that Gibby would be let go. But the new front office also stuck by him and he helped lead the team back to the ALCS in 2016.

So, basically, we went from this forgettable staple from the dark angry bird logo era who would toss fists with Ted Lilly to this calm, relaxed, lovable personality from the resurgence era who became a fan favourite. It’s honestly like John Gibbons round one and John Gibbons round two aren’t the same person.

But here we are trudging our way through the second of back-to-back miserable, injury-riddled seasons with all eyes on the minor league system and what lies ahead.

Based on what Brunt said, it does seem inevitable that the Jays are going to move on from Gibbons in 2019. The team is moving in a new direction and, as Brunt suggests, could use a new voice, perhaps with more of a new age, analytical slant, to lead the Large Adult Sons as they break into the league. We saw that in the off-season when the Red Sox, Yankees, and Phillies hired Alex Cora, Aaron Boone, and Gabe Kapler, leading a new generation of managers into the Major Leagues.

I think this has kind of been the Shapiro front office’s plan all along. They were cognizant of the optics of coming in after the magical 2015 and changing things up so they let that core, including Gibbons, continue to roll and put a modest effort into continued contention in 2017 and 2018 with the ultimate priority being the future.

I think Gibby has done an excellent job managing this team. Not only is he a fucking gem with great quotes and a hilarious and relatable demeanour, but he’s always stood up for his players and, in turn, he’s given a unique set of individuals an opportunity to thrive.

I can empathize with wanting to move in a new direction, especially when it comes to bringing in a manager who’s more analytically inclined as we know that’s a priority of the front office. That said, letting Gibbons go before the end of the season would be absolute trash. Gibbons has been a great father figure for the players on the team for quite some time and he’s done an excellent job navigating through extremely challenging seasons in back-to-back years. He’s second all-time in Blue Jays franchise wins as a manager and is one of only three managers, Bobby Cox and Cito Gaston being the others, who has led the team to the playoffs. Firing him mid-season when he most certainly isn’t the reason this team sucks ass would be an unnecessary slap on the face to somebody who, in my mind, is a franchise icon.

  • xxOCZMSxx

    Knowing gibby, he’ll get tossed in the 2nd inning on the final day of the season so he can kick back with a few beers in his office and avoid all the standing ovation hoopla.

  • TGreg

    He was the right guy for the team that we had, but I agree that a new perspective will be needed for the young guys, with more active mentoring. It’ll be interesting to see who’s considered.

  • PastorofMuppets

    Love Gibby but I agree a new voice is probably for the best. Let him ride this season out then give him the viking funeral he deserves and bring in a new voice. The organization seems to like the current AA coach in NH, John Schneider; could be a possibility.

  • Oz Rob

    I miss him already. Hopefully they wait until the end of the season. I can’t see the justification for firing him during the season as that would suggest an element of fault on his part for the way the season has gone and that is most certainly not his fault.

  • Paul Beestons Grass Surface

    Here we go, straight from the horses mouth, so it must be true….not the kiss of death that clear support from management normally implies right?
    Gibby rules. Now that being said. Why is everyone so hung up on Gibby being out of date? He may not be an analytics whiz, but they could hire an assistant to get into it and let him know, that it needs to play a role. Stats are great, but are they taking over the game? I mean, you can quote stats all you want. They are great in making a case, but, ultimately, it comes down to players performing, in a manner that wins baseball games. I mean, stats are front and center, but then people always say “…it’s baseball”. A general statement, that explains the quirks and possible failings of stats to predict future outcome. Keep in mind, I’m playing devils advocate. I think stats have their place. But I don’t think they are the be all to end all. 2013 proved that. I remember AA saying they had added something like 28 war. but war does not win baseball games. Players do. Stats are important and are possible outcomes at best (like an orbital). But, they can never really account for “…it’s baseball”. Maybe I’m more of an old school guy, but I think a guy like Gibbons would be great for the next wave, with someone who can help him with analytics, in making decisions. If the players like him, and he keeps everyone on an even keel, then what’s the problem? Don’t most minor league players get coached by older coaches. I guess I’m not sold on having to have a younger manager who gets analytics. I think you need more than that. Ok, that’s that….looking forward to hearing what you guys think. And yes, double posting this on BlueBirdBanter.

    https://www.sportsnet.ca/baseball/mlb/atkins-gibbons-remains-part-blue-jays-plans-moving-ahead/

    • Abogilo

      I think the purpose of the stats is to inform your decisions and to allow you to gain insight from all history of baseball. With them you can gain marginal improvements in your likeliness to win games by employing the strategies that have historically resulted in favorable outcomes the most often. Stack those up and I believe that you will have the best chance to win over the long season.

      Statistically driven decisions, and gut decisions (which really are just decisions based on a single person’s experience filtered through the lens of their personal bias) can both look great, or terrible depending on the outcome.

      I will paraphrase something I read on Fangraphs recently that I think illustrates this nicely:

      There was a time when all stock market decisions were made on instinct. You can still choose to invest your money with someone who picks stocks based on their own instinct, or you can choose to trust a broker who uses research, statistics, and analytics to inform his or her decisions. Both have a chance to win or lose, but I know who I would put my trust in.

      • The Humungus

        I think if the plan is to go with Schneider (who would be the first Blue Jays manager who is my age, which is weird and makes me feel really old), I’d love to see them keep Gibby around as bench coach for him for a few years, if he wants to take the job.

        Hale has been mentioned as a managerial candidate for other organizations the last 2-3 offseasons, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him move on.

        I think the most important thing is that they hold on to Walker/Johnson, as I think they’ve done a generally great job with the pitching staff.

        If they do decide to drop Gibbers before the seasons is done, though, I’ll hope they let Dennis Holmberg be the interim manager, even if it’s for a week. That dude deserves a nice thank you for all he’s done for the org over the last 40 years.

      • Paul Beestons Grass Surface

        I agree, they are tool. But stats will never replace a pitcher looking over and seeing a guy, who doesn’t steal, according to stats, leaning towards second and then trying a pick off move. Just one example. Again, I agree stats have their place. I just get the impression that they are the be all to end all. I think it’s important for sure, but it should be a part of the mix. I think lack of an understanding of analytics, should not stop Gibby from working with young guys. I think in the end, the only way to tackle the “…it’s Baseball” feeling, description or whatever, is through human perception. Stats will predict that Chris Davis will pull the ball this much, and lead to a shift. It will not predict, that he will just lay down a bunt. Initially. If he does it enough, then yeah, stats can help out. But you still need that human element. That’s my whole point. If the management of the game shifts to far into analytics then you’re going to see more of the Tampa Rays bullpen pitching mentality, because, shouldn’t you have your best pitcher, starting off the game, against the top hitters?

        • El Cabeza

          I wonder how many times Chris Davis has actually laid down a bunt to beat the shift.

          How would the Tampa Rays bullpen pitching mentality be going too far? If it works better than the 5 starters rotate to go 2+ times through the order plan, then isn’t going just far enough?

          • Paul Beestons Grass Surface

            Good question, it would be an interesting answer. Or maybe tried to go the otherway, with a slap single . Course some players would scream that the batter is not playing the game the way it should be.

            As for the Rays bullpen pitching mentality, I didn’t say it was going to far. I said you would see more of that mentality, or thinking. And, who knows what the reaction will be for fans, players, coaches, etc etc.

            Baseball is about tradition, and what the rays are doing is definitely not traditional, for better or for worse. Probably is a good thing to do what they are doing, especially if it becomes effective at shutting down hitting by the best hitters to start the game.

            If baseball does move that way, does it becomes more like the NFL, where everything is controlled by coaches, in terms of plays, based on the available analytics?
            Do coaches start looking at the stats for each pitched ball and tell a pitcher to throw a type of pitch and align the defense for that pitch, and continue, with each pitch afterwards? Note, I said for each pitch. This does occur, but not on a pitch by pitch basis. I believe. I’ve not seen that. I don’t know, but when I heard about wanting a coach who embraces analytics, it got me thinking. I don’t think embracing stats is bad, I just hope it does not take over the game, where the players can’t just play, for the most part.

        • Abogilo

          If Chris Davis (or you know somebody who is actually good) lays down a bunt in a key situation instead of playing to his strengths (hitting the ball hard) you have already won.

          • Paul Beestons Grass Surface

            But if Chris Davis, or somebody actually good, lays down a bunt and it advances the runner, or even scores a runner, and overcomes an extreme defensive shift, that has led to a players “strengths” being diminished, would you not call this a new or different strength, or a new and different approach added to the arsenal, that a players “strengths” are composed from?

          • Jeff2sayshi

            This whole idea that you’ve “won” cause you’ve held somebody to a single sounds like garbage to me. If the guy does it long enough, eventually the defense will abandon the shift, and the hitter can pull the ball again. But nobody is willing to test the theory.

          • Abogilo

            You are also assuming that the person in question (Chris Davis type) is going to successfully bunt for a single every time they try. Lots can happen other than that:
            Popup, Foul into pitcher’s counts, bunt back to the pitcher, whiff…
            Players who have the skills to hit to all fields, but for hits etc. are not the ones who are being aggressively shifted against.
            Baseball players/orgs are not completely blind to the empty side of the field like broadcasters make it seem. If it was that easy to “always get a single” you would see more people doing it.
            My guess is that there is some complicated analysis that goes into when it is favorable for a defense to shift VS not shift, and for players to bunt vs. swing away and that teams will drift around the break even point but that none are far away from making the right decision most of the time.
            If most teams were consistently choosing the wrong option, and it was that obvious, somebody would be taking advantage of it and running away with success beyond their talent level.
            The teams that are constantly playing over their heads in terms of success per talent unit seem to be (no proof of this claim, just my own bias/opinion) the A’s and Ray’s – and they also seem to be the most progressive in analytics.

          • El Cabeza

            You’ve already won by letting Chris Davis get to first and possibly advance runners? Let’s say he always tries this approach and manages to lay down a bunt to the left side 6 times out of 10. This would leave him with an OPS of at least 1.2 (higher with each walk or HBP he manages to take). Are you sure that’s ‘winning’?

    • Manny b

      Gibby does not get enough credit for his understanding of the analytical approach because of the his demeanor and his folksy language. He’ll never speak like Atkins or John Farrell, but it does not mean that he doesn’t get it.
      From batting JD second, batting Travis ninth, bringing in osuna in tied games, etc.
      In one of his first interviews when he was rehired by Alex he talked about how in his playing days, the set up guy would complain that the closer was getting all the credit, but many times it was the set up man that was pitching to the heart of the order in the eighth and making life easy for the save in the ninth.
      Gibby talks old school, but he’s not clueless. Many people don’t see that.

      • Abogilo

        This is a very good point. Just like Steve-O pointed out below, there are very few things that can be pointed to that Gibby does that are inconsistent with an “analytically inclined” manager’s choice. I hope they keep Gibby, they could do a lot worse.

  • Steve-O

    If someone could point out what an “analytically inclined” manager would do that’s any different from how Gibby sets lineups or handles the bullpen I’d love to hear it. Otherwise it just sounds like nonsense to me, and this isn’t a shot at analytics – I just don’t see what problem a change in manager is supposed to be solving.

    • Dexxter

      100% agree.

      Shifting, lineup structure, platoons, bullpen usage…. even rotation order and using bullpen days. It seems like the Jays are using non-traditional strategies quite often in all these areas. Maybe Gibby isn’t driving the bus for implementing the analytical statistics…. but he certainly seems open to using the data. Not sure what problem bringing in a more analytically minded manager would solve here either.

      I hope if he’s done (which is probably is) they announce before seasons end the he will finish out the year. A kind of mutual parting of ways so Gibby can get his standing O.