Early favourite is Gibbons

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:27 AM ET

TONY LACAVA is working the phones, calling around, asking questions. Call them background checks.

LaCava is the Jays director of player personnel and he has been on the phone since the team's top brass met recently at the SkyDome to discuss the 2005 season.

Remember in high school? Three weeks before the big dance. Calls would be made. Questions would be asked.

"So, what's he like? I mean what's he really like?"

Most of LaCava's calls, so we have heard from other clubs, have been made in regard to veteran Anaheim Angels bench coach Joe Maddon.

Why is LaCava making the calls? Well, he remains in general manager J.P. Ricciardi's loop. That hasn't been the case for everyone Ricciardi has hired.

Jack Gillis signed a multi-year deal as a scout and was gone after one season.

New Englander Bill Livesey signed a three-year deal and left after his second year for a lateral move to the New York Mets.

LOTS OF QUESTIONS

What types of questions do executives ask about possible managers? Is he organized? Does he get along with veteran players? How would he discipline a star player if he didn't run out a ground ball? What's his opinion regarding on-base percentage?

The funniest answer we ever heard came in 1989 when a psychologist, whom the Jays used in the hiring process, asked triple-A Syracuse manager Bob Bailor: "What would he do if his star player was in a funk? Would he take him fishing on an off-day?"

That was the short version of the question. Actually, it was probably four paragraphs long.

Bailor, an old-fashioned meat-and-potatoes guy, waited until the question finally ended.

"Well, that would depend," Bailor said slowly.

"On what?"

Bailor paused. Everyone was all ears leaning in for the answer.

"On who was buying the bait, who was renting the boat and who was buying the beer."

Most Jays executives thought it was a funny answer, but apparently it was the wrong one. Cito Gaston, who had the interim title at the time, was hired.

Maddon is respected as a teacher, but has a chronic neck/back condition that gives him pain.

Another possibility is Oakland Athletics bullpen coach Bob Geren. Geren played 15 years of pro ball, five in the majors with the New York Yankees and the San Diego Padres.

Three months ago, word from the coast was that A's third base coach Ron Washington would replace Carlos Tosca.

Interim manager John Gibbons remains a strong candidate. Since taking over for Tosca, the Jays are 12-20 under Gibbons.

Is he Whitey Herzog reborn? Or Sparky Anderson II? No, but he has not done a bad job and seems to have the respect of the club. And he has the GM in his corner or he wouldn't have been given the interim tag.

Like Tosca, Gibbons has been saddled with the same bullpen and a team that didn't hit most nights.

Unlike the previous string of Jays managers -- Tosca, Buck Martinez, Jim Fregosi and Tim Johnson -- Gibbons does not appear to have the ability to fill a notebook or provide one snappy sound bite after another.

That's irrelevant when selecting a manager. And besides, it took Tosca his first full season for him to bloom.

The first instalment of our fall/winter book managerial odds: Maddon 30-1, Washington 15-1, Geren 3-1 and Gibbons 3-2.

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MANAGERIAL ODDS

Handicapper Bob Elliott posts the following odds on the race to become the Blue Jays' next manager:

JOHN GIBBONS

Blue Jays interim manager

3-2

BOB GEREN

Athletics bullpen coach

3-1

RON WASHINGTON

Athletics third-base coach

15-1

JOE MADDON

Angels bench coach

30-1


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