The Toronto Blue Jays are like a freight train right now the way they’re running through the American League. They’ve bowled their way through the standings to hold a 2 game lead in the AL East. And, in the driver’s seat is manager, John Gibbons. Just how much impact any manager can have on any given team on any given night is still relatively unknown. They can be credited with a handful of wins either way without any real way to quantify it. There may come a time when some stat (Manager Impact Rating?) is created to indicate success or failure.
But right now, winning seems to help as does the overall sense that the team has changed or turned things around. The Award is voted on by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America who have two writers in each MLB city. Each writer votes on candidates by awarding points. The BBWAA site doesn’t list criteria for Manager of the Year.
In fact, Dave Cameron (a member of the BBWAA) wrote for FoxSports.com and lamented that there really is no criteria. According to Cameron, winning is at the center of past votes. Your team winning a lot of games is a good thing. But, winning too many is not. It makes it look like the manager benefited from too much talent. As well, being a bit of a surprise helps. If you exceeed expectations, you could garner some votes.
Toronto Blue Jays
All of this might help John Gibbons. Let’s be honest. No one really had any high expectations for Gibby. In fact, when GM, Alex Anthopoulos hired him again, Gibby’s own reaction was ‘There’s no way you can pull that off’. Many Blue Jays fans shared this reaction. It stems from his first go ’round with the club that wasn’t very successful. And, his second kick at the can hadn’t been going so well, either.
At the start of this season, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe ranked MLB managers. And, while first timers automatically went to the bottom of the list, John Gibbons didn’t rank so well. Cafardo listed the Blue Jays’ skipper at #16, stating, “Your record (462-472) is what you are”. There really wasn’t a whole lot of people who would disagree with this assessment. There weren’t a whole lot of expectations placed at Gibby’s feet.
But, here we are approaching the end of August and the Blue Jays are 71-55 and have a 2 game lead. They’ve managed to climb all the way back from an 8 game deficit at the end of July, which they erased in short order. They’ve definitely performed better than they were expected to. That’ll help Gibby’s chances. They won’t finish with the best record in the AL (Kansas City likely will), so they won’t win “too many games”. That’ll help Gibby. But, (as of right now) they’ll win a lot. They’ll make the playoffs. All of this will help Gibby.
In fact, right now, Matt Snyder at CBSSports.com says that John Gibbons is a front runner to win the award along with A.J. Hinch of Houston and Ned Yost of the Royals. Yost might be hurt by that “winning too much” thing. Hinch will certainly be helped by the low expectations that the Astros had entering the season. With no set criteria, tough, this award could go to either of these three…or someone else for that matter.
But, if you take a look at the general consensus of what it takes to win the Manager of the Year that both Snyder and Cameron provide, you might feel pretty good about Gibby’s chances:
Snyder- “Generally speaking, breaking playoff droughts and exceeding expectations with drastic improvement over last season are things the voters love.”
Cameron- “It seems my BBWAA brethren have essentially taken to voting for a manager of a small-to-mid-revenue team, who finished in first or second place, with bonus points going to a guy whose team had not historically been a contender, or wasn’t expected to contend in that season.”
John Gibbons has been criticized for many things. His bullpen management has been questionable in the past. In the past, he’s stuck with a starter too long. He lets certain hitters ride out slumps while banishing others to AAA (see Dalton Pompey). But, this year there is a different look to Gibby. He’s managed to rally his troops during a disappointing start to the season. Now that he has had an infusion of talent and an upgraded roster, he is managing personalities. He is a much different manager than the Ted Lilly and Shea Hillenbrand version. He’s grown. Will it be enough to earn him some major recogition? Time will tell.