John Gibbons brings toughness, organization and smarts to his new gig, which just happens to be his old gig, too.
It’s the start of the ’08 season.
We’re sitting around jawing in the visiting manager’s office at old Yankees’ Stadium. Gibbons’ time as manager is growing short. He knows it. We know it. But we’re all trying to pretend this isn’t the beginning of the end.
We start talking about something we’ve all seen in the New York Times that morning — an attempt by a mathematician and baseball fan to metricize the performance of big-league managers.
“How’d I do?” Gibbons asks.
“You were sixth,” someone says.
A smile be hauling up the sides of Gibbons’ face like sails being raised on a longship. A comic beat passes.
“In the American League East,” someone else says.
The smile collapses. The room quiets, turning uncertainly to the guy who delivered the zinger. Then Gibbons bends forward in his chair and begins to laugh. He is rocking back and forth, delighted. No one appreciates a John Gibbons joke more than John Gibbons.
(It should be noted that he was sixth. In all of baseball.)
John Gibbons got all kinds of attention for getting into spats with his players, with Shea Hillenbrand and Ted Lilly and Randy Bush and maybe one or two more. There’s nothing wrong with examining those incidents because they’re part of his track record. At times, though, they seem to be all people focused on.
Gibbons did a terrific job with the Blue Jays. He was given only one really good team and led it to a second-place finish in the American League East. Otherwise, he had less talent than almost any other manager. He’s terrific at organizing a bullpen and running a game. He also does his job with energy and enthusiasm. Those things will play well over the course of a long season.
The Blue Jays are a more interesting job with the addition of Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, etc., but that doesn’t mean it’s an easier job. Now the Blue Jays have something they haven’t had in a long time: expectations.
Gibbons has worked so hard to get this second chance that he probably guessed would never occur that he seems likely to hold up just fine. Actually, he went through a similar situation one year with the Blue Jays and passed with flying colors. There are a long list of people who like him and are happy he got this second chance.