Jays' hire is puzzling

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

Why John Gibbons?

At the end of a baseball weekend of sadness and tragedy, why him and why now?

How does this make us believe more in the Blue Jays? How does this bring us back to the park? How does the least interesting manager in Blue Jays history make a disinterested public interested again?

Everything seems so cloudy today, so difficult to catch our breath. The head still spins from the stunning news of Sunday.

Inside we ache.

John Cerutti is dead.

It's hard to get past that part and move on.

It's hard to care what Vince Carter says on media day or why Carlos Delgado wants to play for a contender now when he didn't want to a month ago when three children don't have a father anymore and none of it seems to make sense.

In this backdrop of shock on a grey autumn day, the Blue Jays provide full-time work to a part-time manager who won two out of every five games -- and they say it is all in the name of progress.

They say there was no reason to look elsewhere for a manager, no reason to interview.

They say John Gibbons is the right man for the right time. Their guy. And the most brutally forthright general manager in Toronto sport, J.P. Ricciardi, says all of that with a straight face.

Because as honest as he is, he doesn't really want to reveal the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

He doesn't want to say he hired his old teammate, Gibbons, to manage because the team really isn't any good, is at least three years away from contenting, and he doesn't have a whole lot of money to spend, so why waste it on a manager?

He doesn't want to say that Gibbons is a different kind of Blue Jays bird, a lame duck in this case, hired on the cheap only to be discarded when the time is convenient, when the time is right to not be last any longer.

It has never really been like this since Bobby Mattick came in to play caretaker in 1979 and 1980, a baseball lifetime ago. And that was after expansion and before contention. There was simply no expectation then.

"I don't think anybody's lying to anybody," Ricciardi said.

"The Toronto baseball fan has been through this before. I don't think we're doing anything different."

The baseball fan has been through this before. He just doesn't remember that far back. And with Gibbons, there is no reason to be excited, to expect anything, almost no emotion at all.

Just another step sideways or backward -- sometimes it's difficult to tell which is which.

Delgado is leaving. A last-place team is already worse. A manager nobody knows isn't likely to change all that. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Baltimore Orioles are getting better. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox spend better. Where does that leave Gibbons and the Blue Jays?

In the past, other managers have been hired with some kind of expectation: Bobby Cox was to rebuild; Jimy Williams was to win or find him an "M," whichever came first; Cito Gaston wasn't supposed to last; Tim Johnson wasn't supposed to lie; Jim Fregosi was to push and Buck Martinez was going to communicate.

There is almost always a story attached to the hiring of a manager, but there is no real story with the man they call Gibby.

Yeah, he played with Ricciardi in single-A ball. Yeah, they even roomed together. Yeah, they're old friends who have kept in touch.

And Ricciardi says jokingly: "I just hired him because he owes me rent money."

He laughs at his own joke.

We laugh.

Both sides know it's not funny.

This isn't much of a time for humour.


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