Apr 25, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons (5) throws down his cap while arguing a call with umpire Jeff Kellogg (8) against the New York Yankees during the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium. Yankees won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

John Gibbons And The Managerial Role

When John Gibbons was hired in the fall of 2012, many fans were surprised to hear that the former Blue Jays manager was re-taking the reins after being relieved of his duties in 2008. After ‘The Trade’, fans were perhaps hoping that a so-called ‘big-name’ manager would be coming north to lead the new-look team to baseball glory.

A Joe Torre? He’s a proven winner! Jim Tracy? Track record of success!

Some were disappointed – virtually everyone was surprised. Few, however, paused to consider what the role of a manager actually encompasses in baseball, and whether Gibbons would be fit to satisfy those requirements.

Most fans of the Blue Jays are familiar with hockey and are at very least exposed to it on a regular basis. A hockey coach has, on top of many other responsibilities, a motivational role to play in leading his team to battle.

Anyone who has ever watched a Disney sports movie assumes that locker room speeches are fundamental to the success of any team. Certainly seeing Bruch Boudreau’s profanity-laced locker room speech in 2010 is enough to make you forget that the Capitals actually lost the game 3-0.

In order to fully understand the role of a Major League Baseball manager, one has to shed any misconceptions they might have that are ultimately rooted in knowledge of other sports, such as hockey, basketball, and football.

It’s well known that the Blue Jays are struggling right now. The team is not getting on base, batters are striking out too often, and the starters aren’t delivering as expected – where is Herb Brooks when you need him?

One can imagine John Gibbons waddling into the locker room after Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Yankees with scowl on his face. Throwing his hat down in a fit of rage, he begins to deliver a speech for the ages in his Boomhauer-like voice.

“Hit the ball more”, “Throw more strikes”, “Quit half-a**ing it!” – all of the stereotypical statements that are sure to deliver immediate results and cultivate long-term success.

Seriously though, what is he supposed to do? In a largely individual sport where success is determined over the long-term, no motivational speech is going to inspire a group of professional adults to suddenly start performing better.

As far as we know with certainty, a manager can help contribute to the success of a team through sound bullpen management, batting lineups, defensive alignment and situational hitting. That’s about it.

In some regards, Gibbons has been all that one could ask for in a manager.

While he does tend to rely a bit too much on small sample splits, he shuffles the batting lineup quite a bit. We’ve seen Melky Cabrera batting cleanup, Adam Lind in the two hole, and just this past Sunday, Brett Lawrie leading off, all taking the opposing pitcher – and in some cases, common sense – into consideration.

‘Small ball’ is employed at more appropriate times. The bullpen is finding success with less defined roles and a careful consideration of high leverage situations. Some late game pinch hitting substitutions have demonstrated that behind Gibbons’ ‘Simple Man’ demeanor is a thoughtful and creative baseball mind.

Not everyone agrees, of course, as Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star argues that some of the team’s shortcomings are to blame on the manager. The Twittersphere hasn’t exactly been supportive either.

Certainly some of the defensive shifts seen during the 2012 season would be a welcome sight. Fielding performance overall likely hints that the Blue Jays miss Brian Butterfield.

Not helping his case (and with the benefit of hindsight), some felt that the decision to substitute Rajai Davis for Colby Rasmus on April 16th, who was 2-2 on the night, was a little over their heads – and apparently, Emilio Bonifacio’s as well.

There has been some good and some bad, as one would expect from such an up and down sport like baseball. The question is, what has Gibbons’ role been in those failures?

There is only so much that an MLB manager can do to maximize the performance of their team. Those quick to fire off a #FireGibby hashtag on Twitter based strictly on wins and losses should consider the rationale behind their impulsive prescription.

I, for one, welcome some of what John Gibbons has brought to the table in his second tenure as the Jays skipper.

If the Blue Jays start winning, do we credit him with the turnaround?


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  • Justin Jay

    They’ll probably only credit him as a benefactor of a good team. I’m not a huge Gibbons fan. I disliked the hiring almost as much as I disliked the Dickey trade. I think he’s terrible with handling a bullpen. Less defined roles in the pen are necessary mostly due to the fact that the Jays don’t have anybody to take them from the 6th to the 8th.

    But that’s what the first month is about. Finding the right group It’s too soon for fans to turn into the Queen of Hearts

    • newbrunswick1o1

      I have been a Jays fan since their conception but I have never been a Gibbons fan. Besides his sloppy demeanor I question some of his actions; for example, why take Davis out of last night’s game after he went 3 for 3 on base and replace him with Lind who has become next to useless at the plate.

      • Justin Jay

        But Lind hasn’t been useless at the plate as of lately. He’s been highly selective and his OBP currently sits at .397. Since April 11th, he’s hitting .346 with an OBP over .500. Rajai, against RHPs is batting .231. In a close game, with the heart of your line-up coming up, Lind’s been your best OBP guy and Gibbons needed somebody on base. So he rolled the dice, replaced the DH, and the move didn’t pay off… but it was solid baseball management at that point in the game.

        I really dislike how he handles the bullpen. He uses struggling relievers in tight portions of the ballgame and that drives me nuts. It seemed like back in 2006, he was always going to Schoenweis when the game mattered. Awful. This year’s example, Loup. The 6th and 7th innings have been terrible for the Blue Jays as of late.

  • http://twitter.com/SQUEEZEMEEZ scott segal

    A team reflects the manager.The players clearly aren’t responding to Gibbons

    • Michael M. Beraskow

      And with a different manager, they would suddenly see the ball better? play better defense? pitch better? How does one ‘respond’ suddenly to a new manager? Hustle more and try harder…is that what you are inferring?

      I highly doubt that any professional athlete would be apathetic about winning. That is likely tough to say with any certainty as neither you nor I have played professional sports.

      Simply stating that a ‘team reflects the manager’ is a blanket statement with no proof behind it at all. Ditto on the players ‘not responding to Gibbons’.

      Here are some true statements: “The Blue Jays players are not playing well.” “The starting pitchers have not performed well”. “Hitting has not been good”….none of this falls on Gibbons. If you can share what Gibbons has contributed specifically to their poor performance (using facts – not just general statements based on anecdotal observations), do let us know.

      Just something to think about. Not trying to say anyone is stupid or anything. Also, I should add that my very knowledgeable colleague Justin Jay (below) knows his stuff. While I disagree with him, is making a better case against Gibbons than most by using facts.

      I implore you to do the same!

  • Keith

    Gibbons should have never been rehired….he was a terrible coach his last run with Toronto and he is terrible now…Gibby make the mosdt unessessary bullpen changes and never trusts his starting pitchers to fish the inning or the game…he changes the lineup every damn game….stick with a fuckin line up!!! Why does Bautista bat third??? he is a 250 hitter that walks and hits home runs!!!!he should be our clean up hitter

  • po’d Canadian

    No manager worth his salt, in any industry or sport, dresses down a player a)on the bench during a game b)on camera for the world to see c) repeatedly with the same player. This stint with the Jays, Lawrie is that player, but in the past Gibbons has always had a sophmoric hate on for some player (Ted Lilly) and openly fights with verbally and secretly actually challenges them to physical altercations. Do you really think those are attributes of a great manager? Not in my books. If the Jays keep Gibbons into next season, this 36 year fan may have to rethink his allegiances. I was so hyped about this season until I heard that Gibbons was going to be the manager and then I thought, well let’s see how this plays out. I don’t need to see much more, anybody??

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