Blue Jays skipper John Gibbons didn’t see the departure of Alex Anthopoulos coming, either. While his own job status was the next thing to be called into question last week, incoming president and CEO Mark Shapiro was quick to put any concerns to rest in his introductory press conference on Monday. Gibbons will be back, and with his entire coaching staff expected to stay intact, he’ll represent the on-field arm of the continuity that Shapiro hopes to instill throughout the transition.
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Interim general manager Tony LaCava was another voice in Gibbons’ corner, as he tells Jeff Blair of Sportsnet that he’s “a stabilizing force around the organization … sometimes, a voice of reason.” Eat your heart out, Gibby “supporters”.
There’s a mutual admiration between the two, as well. “Baseball’s a negative game in a lot of ways,” Gibbons said. “And Tony’s the ultimate optimist. You don’t find a lot of people like that in the game. I think he’s the perfect guy for them to put in place.” Anthopoulos often complimented Gibbons as an underrated evaluator of talent, and reading between the lines of Shapiro’s statements, he could be more involved than the average field manager in personnel decisions.
Blair adds that Gibbons and Shapiro have spoken briefly, and expect to hold a lengthier discussion in the coming days. The two had crossed paths briefly before, and Gibbons seems encouraged by his initial impressions. Still, the loss of Anthopoulos came as a surprise..
“It shocked everybody, to be honest with you,” Gibbons added. “Alex kept it pretty close to himself. I don’t think anybody around the team had any idea … things seemed perfect that month through the playoffs. I heard it the same time everybody else did: on a conference call with all the staff, clubhouse guys – everybody – on, I think, Monday. Alex was emotional, but he’s an emotional guy, anyway. He cares. The relationships he builds go much deeper than a relationship with a boss.”
It’s a difficult period of transition now for the Blue Jays, especially with such a thin margin for error in a division that should be even more competitive in 2016. Therein lies the necessity for continuity, and given the high number of returning players on the MLB roster, it makes the decision to return Gibbons fairly unsurprising. There will be no convincing the anti-Gibby crowd, but at some level, logic is at play here. Don’t expect him to have a mile-long leash, though.
The news that his coaching staff will be returning is even more encouraging. It would have been discouraging to separate a potent lineup lineup from hitting coach Brook Jacoby, especially players like Kevin Pillar and Ryan Goins who are on the cusp of establishing themselves with the bat.
Assuming this roster is left relatively intact, the Blue Jays will benefit from familiarity and health alone entering 2016. Someone like Troy Tulowitzki, who admitted to being uncomfortable following his sudden trade from the Rockies, will have a chance to go through a full spring training with the club, and they should exit a better team on the other end of that. Shapiro’s tenure is beginning with a sense of continuation, and when free agency opens, the Blue Jays will look to move into addition.