Is it time for Jays to fire John Gibbons?
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons is on the hotseat with his club a long way from playoff contention thanks to poor starting pitching and several injuries. (REUTERS)
Dan Jennings, assistant general manager of the Miami Marlins, pulled his car over in front of his downtown Toronto hotel Monday afternoon and popped the trunk.
The bell man unloaded the bags, saw the Marlins logo on the tags and asked Jennings:
“You here to take back some of your players? Because you can have them.”
Completing his regular American League East scouting coverage at the Rogers Centre, Jennings said “man, I barely had my feet on the ground.”
The 12-player, Blue Jays-Marlins deal, widely praised in November was not the question of the day before the last-place Jays met the New York Yankees, with only Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle have been as advertised.
The question of the day was how secure is John Gibbons’ job as manager?
Vernon Wells has seen Blue Jays managers come and go.
He played for Jim Fregosi, Buck Martinez, Carlos Tosca, Gibbons and Cito Gaston.
All but Gaston were fired by president Paul Godfrey, general managers Gord Ash and J.P. Ricciardi. Sam Pollock and Ash let Gaston go in 1997, the year Wells was drafted in the first round from Arlington, Tex.
“There wasn’t any sense something was going to happen when we got on the plane to leave Milwaukee,” said the Yankees outfielder speaking of the 2008 season.
The Jays’ Milwaukee-Pittsburgh charter landed and Gibbons awoke to find out that he’d been fired, replaced by Gaston and coaches Gene Tenace, Nick Leyva and Dwanye Murphy who were in the same hotel.
“With the other managers there was a sense something could happen, I don’t know if it was because what was written and guys read it, but players had an idea,” Wells said. “They are all good people. It was shame to see that they no longer had a job.”
Wells said he was happy Martinez was able to return to the TV booth, that Tosca, while he’s not managing, is the Atlanta Braves bench coach, that Gibbons returned to the Jays, Gaston has “his job here in the front office,” and Fregosi is an executive with the Braves.
“I don’t have any feeling of what’s going to happen here,” Wells said.
Wells looked at the Jays lineup in the spring and thought it was a team that would contend.
“You can’t replace two guys from the starting rotation (Josh Johnson, Brandon Morrow), the shortstop (Jose Reyes) and all the other injuries that they’ve had,” Wells said.
The Yankees did.
“We had a team of veteran guys and were able to bring in older guys to play until everyone got healthy, we knew our injuries in spring training,” Wells said. “(Toronto) didn’t know until they were a few weeks into the season that they needed help.”
Wells did say that a manager has to have “a pulse on his team.”
“From top to bottom, there are so many different personalities, guys need to know where they stand, if it’s a set-up guy, a mop-up man, a utility player,” Wells said. “Each person has to know his role.”
Is Gibbons to blame? Partially.
So are the players.
So is general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who overhauled the roster.
Everyone is to blame.
Yet, the manager is the easiest to pin the blame on in baseball.
If the Jays fire Gibbons it will be four managers in five years: Gaston, John Farrell, Gibbons and the next guy.
And it’s two bad hires by the GM in three years: Farrell may win manager of the year in the American League, but giving a guy a three-year contract and his first managerial job and having him want to bolt after one year is a bad hire. Even if he stayed two years.
Does the GM crank up the managerial search committee again without the spotlight of blame landing on his shoulders?
The GM was not spotted Monday night. Or in Houston or in New York.
Not the best way to clear up all the ‘is Gibbons gone?’ questions.
This is a results-based business and the results have not been there.
Now, if the Jays were dead last and the building was empty, the folks up at the Rogers campus probably would not have allowed Gibbons on Sunday’s charter home from Houston: Take a bus home to San Antonio.
And there was another crowd of 35,241 to cheer Derek Jeter’s return, boo Alex Rodriguez, hopefully see Mariano Rivera on the farewell trail ... and Gibbons on Monday.
The Jays are averaging 32,363 fans compared to 27,536 a year ago.
Should the Jays fire manager John Gibbons?
Let him finish the season.