Gibbons, who managed the Blue Jays for parts of five seasons from 2004 to 2008, was introduced Tuesday morning as their next manager.
At the general managers meeting in Indian Wells, Calif., Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said he was “looking for someone he could work with, someone his staff could work with, someone who was good for the city, good for the whole country.”
Going on a we-need-to-know-you-to-hire-you basis we figured the only people Anthopoulos knew with previous managerial experience were Frank Robinson from their days together with the Montreal Expos, plus Cito Gaston, bench coach Don Wakamatsu, and John Farrell from his GM days.
We forgot about Anthouplous’ time as an assistant GM, under J.P. Ricciardi. Anthopoulos and Gibbons were close friends, working well together.
Anthopoulos and Gibbons were spotted dining in Yorkville Sunday night.
Gibbons replaced fired manager Carlos Tosca in 2004. Tosca also inquired about returning as the Jays manager.
Under Gibbons in 2004, the Jays were 20-30. Gibbons had talent and great expectations in 2006 after the Jays landed free agents A.J. Burnett, B. J. Ryan, and Bengie Molina, while trading for Troy Glaus and Lyle Overbay.
The Jays ended in second place in the American League East division with an 87-75 record, one game ahead of the Boston Red Sox, the first time the Jays had escaped third place since 1993.
The last game Gibbons managed the Jays was in Milwaukee, an interleague contest. The Jays won 8-5 after dropping the first two games of the series.
The charter flight arrived in Pittsburgh and Gibbons was fired by Ricciardi, who put Gaston into the manager’s office for a second time.
Gibbons managed the Jays for 610 games (305-305, .500).
The Jays have been riding a crest of excitement and popularity since the 12-player deal with the Miami Marlins brought in shortstop Jose Reyes, right-hander Josh Johnson, lefty Mark Buehrle, catcher John Buck and utility man Emilio Bonifacio. The Jays also have signed free-agent outfielder Melky Cabrera.
Both deals were finalized on Monday.
The thought was that the Jays would try to keep the season’s tickets and merchandise momentum going by hiring a high-profile manager. They approached Bobby Cox, who is headed for the Hall of Fame, but he decided to stay retired.
They interviewed Los Angles Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach and decided to go with experience.
The old saw about people not coming to ball parks to see a manager manage remains true. One month in, John Gibbons will be either a good manager or a bad manager based on his club’s record.
Since leaving the Jays, he has been the bench coach with the Kansas City Royals and managed double-A San Antonio, in the San Diego Padres organization, to a 60-80 record this summer.
Gibbons, the son of U.S. Air Force Col. William Gibbons, had his first at-bat playing Little League in Goose Bay Labrador, when his father was stationed there.
There must be something about the water in San Antonio which attracts the Jays front office to the city.
Gaston, currently vacationing in Hawaii, grew up on the east side of San Antonio at 239 Belmont St., while Gibbons grew up on the north-east side on La Albada Rd.
Gibbons is affable with the players, press and fans, a lifer after coming up in the New York Mets system. He has the other side of the pillow too.
After DH Shea Hillenbrand who wrote “this ship is sinking,” on the display board in the clubhouse in 2006, Gibbons confronted him behind closed doors and challenged him. Three days later, Hillenbrand was dealt.
The same year, lefty Ted Lilly refused to come out of the game as Gibbons made his second trip to the mound after watching an 8-0 lead nearly evaporate. Gibbons followed Lilly into the clubhouse tunnel where another confrontation happened.
When the doors opened, Lilly and Gibbons were both apologetic, no doubt with then-president Paul Godfrey’s peace mending.