Former Toronto Blue Jays Manager, John Gibbons belongs on the level of excellence according to some, and he does not according to others.
I was absolutely shocked to learn that John Gibbons didn’t just come to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2002 as the team’s new Bullpen Catcher. Or just another old pal of General Manager at the time J.P. Riccardi. John Gibbons was a very good Minor League Manager. From 1999-2001, after success in the Appalachian, Florida State and Eastern League, Gibbons managed the Triple-A Norfolk Tide, at the time the affiliate of the New York Mets to a 227-199 record.
Gibbons took over the Managerial reigns of the Blue Jays on August 9th of 2004. He finished with a 20-30 record in his transitional season. In his first full season as manager, Gibbons took the team to an 80-82 record.
Gibby would be tested in the next season by veterans Shea Hillenbrand and Ted Lilly. Hillenbrand expressed his frustration with the team for not celebrating him expanding his family, and for the way he was being used in the lineup. It got to a point where Gibbons challenged him to a fight. Hillenbrand was later traded for future closer Jeremy Accardo.
Speaking of fighting:
Gibbons and Lily would eventually make amends.
The 2006 team finished with an 87-75 record, the best record since 1998 when Tim Johnson was the Manager. There was some hope among Jays fans that maybe 2007 was the year the team could improve. They received very solid pitching performances from Roy Halladay and youngsters Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan. The offence faced a lot of injuries and the team finished with an 83-79 record.
On June 20, 2008 Gibbons would be relieved of his duties and replaced by Cito Gaston going on his second tour of duty as Manager.
After stints as the bench coach for the Kansas City Royals and the Manager of the San Antonio Missions, Gibbons unknowingly entered himself into the great Blue Jays Managerial race of the 2012 off-season. He flew to Toronto a week before he was hired to have dinner with General Manager Alex Anthopolous.
After that on November 20, 2012 John Gibbons was hired as the new Blue Jays Manager. Gibby told reporters “You guys were way off” when it came to the Manager search. This seemed to be a refreshed and refocused version of John Gibbons this time around. Unfortunately for Gibbons the 2013 season did not meet expectations. The team bulked up in the off-season acquiring starting pitchers Mark Buehrle and National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, among others, but they finished 74-88.
The Jays improved their record in 2014 to an 83-79 record. A modest improvement, but the team lost momentum in the second half after there were a lack of additions made at the trade deadline. That sure didn’t happen in 2015.
The Jays started in the off-season by signing Canadian Russell Martin in free agency and acquiring All-Star Third Basemen Josh Donaldson through trade. The Jays would take a 50-51 record to July 26th when Anthopolous started to give Gibbons some high leverage talent to work with. Troy Tulowitzki and David Price helped turn the tide for the 2015 Blue Jays. Gibbons and the club would go on to break the 21 year playoff drought by winning their first American League East Title since 1993. Sadly they would lose in the American League Championship Series to the Kansas City Royals.
In 2016, after the departure of star starting pitcher David Price, Gibby led the Blue Jays to a Wild Card birth in 2016 . Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins would be running the Blue Jays at the Executive level by this time. The Jays would return to the ALCS to lose again, only to Cleveland this time. Gibby did a great job of not panicking that season as again the expectations were high. The 2017 and 2018 Jays missed the playoffs and it was decided a few days before the end of the 2018 season that Gibby would be riding into the sunset.
Gibbons had a 793-789 record with a 501. winning percentage. He leads all Blue Jays managers with 53 ejections. He has two American league Championship appearances with a 10-10 playoff record. He will always be the manager whose team broke the 21-year playoff drought.
The question still remains, does John Gibbons belong on the Blue Jays Level of Excellence?