Blue Jays manager John Gibbons must have stopped reading the newspaper long ago. With his laid back nature and “happy to be here” approach to the game of baseball, Gibbons has been an easy target for Blue Jays fans and media whenever the club is struggling. His bullpen management has been picked apart, his pinch-hit decisions criticized and attitude bemoaned.
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Following the deadline additions of David Price, Troy Tulowitzki, Ben Revere and Mark Lowe, the Blue Jays have enjoyed a streak that has shot them into serious playoff contention and awakened a sleeping baseball nation. Not surprisingly, however, the praise for John Gibbons has been entirely non-existent. As Gibbons told Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star after the deadline splashes, he embraces being all-in.
“Oh yeah, no doubt,” Gibbons said. “I thought we were all in coming into the season. I had that feeling and, as the season has gone on, we identified some areas we needed to improve on and he’s done that. In my heart and in my mind I knew there were some areas (we needed) to upgrade to get over that hump a little bit. I felt the same way coming out of spring training as far as excitement of the team. That was primarily with the addition of Josh (Donaldson) and Russell (Martin).”
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I won’t stand atop the hill waving a flag that bears the face of Gibbons, but if we’re going to blame him for losing with a flawed team, I find it inconsistent to let him go without credit for winning with a more talented roster. Perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay Gibbons is that, over the past two weeks, he’s stayed out of the way when he’s needed to.
His obsession with rolling Aaron Loup into every other ball game has died down, with Loup seeing just one meaningless inning thus far in August. Gibbons now realizes that this roster is fully capable of self-policing, and with the additions of LaTroy Hawkins, Mark Lowe and Aaron Sanchez to the bullpen, it’s simply easier for Gibbons to look smart.
If there’s one area I’d like to see advanced metrics conquer, it’s the impact of a manager of baseball games, because frankly, it’s a very difficult discussion to have. A strong decision can backfire when an elite player fails to rise to the moment, or a head-scratching substitution can win a team the game despite being the “wrong” move at the time.
While Gibbons was not able to raise the level of this roster earlier in the summer, he seems perfectly able to manage this current roster with a hands-off approach. I can already hear someone saying “Yeah! I could do that!”, but I’m not so sure that’s the case. I won’t ask for a pro-Gibby vote here, mostly because I know the room I’m standing in, but at the very least, let’s open this up and have a discussion. A new discussion. What has changed over the past few weeks with Gibby, and are you now more comfortable with him entering 2016?