Blue Jays: Former manager John Gibbons’ memoir points to acrimony with front office

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages

Beloved former Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, the last skipper to lead Toronto to a playoff victory, has co-written a new memoir with author Greg Oliver entitled ‘Gibby: Tales of a Baseball Lifer’. It will be released in Canada on April 4th, and is a look at his major league career, from a highly touted New York Mets draft pick through his years of toiling up the managerial ranks.

The foreword was written by Josh Donaldson, who was AL MVP on the 2015 Blue Jays team that went to the American League Championship series with Gibbons as manager. In the publisher’s tease, they wrote, “Under Gibbons’ management, the Jays made the American League Championship Series in 2015, ending a 22-year playoff drought; then they did it again in 2016. Along the way the team defied odds, won over a nation, and with one flip of a bat produced one of the most iconic moments in MLB history.”

In perhaps the most controversial part of the book for Blue Jays fans, Gibby details the breakdown in his relationship with team president Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins. As per Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun in his preview of the book, Gibbons was convinced the front office had leaked rumours he was going to be fired during the 2018 season. Gibbons writes: “Things got tense between me and Ross and I knew I was done after the season. I was ready, but if we’re going to do this before the season’s over, how about a little respect? One thing you should know about me by now is if I’m going down, I’m going down fighting.”

This is not the first time we’ve heard of acrimony between the front office under Shapiro and Atkins and the players and staff they’d inherited from the previous regime under team president Paul Beeston and general manager Alex Anthopoulos.

We’ve heard that same refrain about leaks and rumors from the front office on players like Marcus Stroman, Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnación, and now we hear from Gibbons. Certainly by early September 2018, that was being mentioned by Jon Heyman, who was with Fancred Sports at the time.

In addition to those front office leaks, Gibbons writes, “It was truly so different for me than it had been working with (former GMs J.P. Ricciardi and Alex Anthopoulos). Decisions were made, and not only was I not consulted, but they directly changed how I operated.”

Certainly it sounds like Anthopoulos left after disagreements with the newly hired Shapiro after the 2015 ALCS run. When he was hired in Atlanta after the 2017 season, he spoke with Jeff Blair and Stephen Brunt on Sportsnet 590 The Fan’s ‘Jeff Blair Show’ and cryptically said, "… you can have the greatest organization in the world, if you’re working for people you don’t enjoy, you don’t believe in them, they don’t believe in you, what environment is that going to be? How rewarding is that going to be?"

International scouting director Ismael Cruz, who signed Vladimir Guerrero Jr., as a teenager in 2015, also left following that season to join the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. He was soon followed there by former Toronto head scout Brian Parker, who the front office fired shortly after the 2016 amateur draft, where he’d advocated strongly to draft high schooler Bo Bichette with the 66th pick.

However, despite perhaps never really fitting with their plans, Gibbons did last three years under Shapiro and Atkins. He was indeed fired after a 73-89 record in a poor 2018 season, punctated by the disastrous handling of the Josh Donaldson trade on August 31st for a player to be named later; Gibby was gone with one year left on his contract through 2019. He was replaced by Charlie Montoyo and the full rebuild was on.

So congratulations to Gibby on his new memoir. For fans of his 11 years as a Blue Jays manager and those magical back-to-back ALCS runs in 2015 and 2016, it should be a fun read!

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