Connect with us

Toronto Blue Jays

‘Some as equal, but never any better’: John Gibbons has left his mark in Toronto

Blue Jays president emeritus Paul Beeston was approached in the press box dining room at the Rogers Centre last week and asked about John Gibbons, the club’s soon-to-be former manager.

“Why don’t you write the angle that nobody has written about yet,” said Beeston, a two-time president of the Jays and former chief at Major League Baseball.

“What’s that?” the Welland, Ont. native was asked.

“He’s a prick!” Beeston replied, breaking out in laughter.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons has words with home plate umpire Kerwin Danley in the fifth inning of MLB action against the Astros in Toronto on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018.

Fred Thornhill /


The funny thing is, even though Beeston was obviously joking, Gibbons probably has been called that, and worse, during his career as manager of the Jays. Just think back to his epic confrontations with Toronto players Ted Lilly and Shea Hillenbrand. Then again, both later spoke about how much they respected Gibbons as a manager and a man. Same for current Jays centre fielder Kevin Pillar, who has been caught in Gibbons’ cross hairs a couple of times during his career. There was an incident in the 2014 season, his second year in the bigs, when Pillar threw his bat in frustration when he was taken out of the game for pinch hitter Anthony Gose. Pillar was then unceremoniously sent down to Triple A Buffalo. On Aug. 19 of this year at Yankees Stadium, Pillar tried to steal third base with two out and the Jays behind 6-2 and was thrown out, ending what looked to be a promising inning for the Jays. When he arrived in the dugout, Gibbons screamed at him for a good half a minute, but then later said how much he respects and values Pillar as a player and person. Pillar said he understands why his manager reamed him out. More importantly, said Pillar, is what Gibbons said to him afterwards and how he had his back.

“He’s the only manager I’ve ever played for (in the big leagues),” said Pillar, 29. “He’s been here through my entire journey, my ups my downs, everything in between. I feel like he’s always been in my corner, despite the mistakes I’ve made on and off the field. Despite the struggles I’ve had, he believed in me, maybe when other people didn’t. And that’s something I’ll always respect him for. Part of the reason I always want to go out there and play as hard as I do is because when you have someone who believes in you as much as he did, it makes it easy to go out there and sacrifice it all for a guy like that.”

Gibbons’ departure from the Jays at the end of this season is not official, but it’s the worst kept secret in Toronto sports. It’s a mutual agreement. The Jays are rebuilding and the front office wants to bring in their own man while Gibbons isn’t interested in going through a complete rebuild as a veteran manager. Pillar isn’t thrilled that his manager is leaving – most players, especially the veterans, aren’t. But Pillar said he will stay in touch no matter where Gibbons lands.

“I always enjoyed his company, whether it was on the plane or at concerts we’ve been to, it’s something I’ll miss,” said Pillar. “He’s kind of been a dad away from home.”

Gibbons is considered a player’s manager. He lets them play and treats them like adults. But he hasn’t always been popular with Jays fans. During some down times, Gibbons incurred the wrath of many fans, who felt he was too laid back, didn’t play enough small ball, things like that. Even the way he spoke, his Texas drawl, his laid-back demeanour, drove some fans crazy, believing that Gibbons was some kind of unmotivated good-old-boy, who parked himself at the end of the dugout during games and let the proceedings unfold. But Beeston said it’s a long-held misconception that Gibbons isn’t on top of situations every minute of every game.

“He likes to play that self-deprecating thing, but underneath (that persona) is somebody who is very organized,” said Beeston. “You can’t be fooled by that. Everything he does is well thought out. He’s very sincere and intelligent.

“And he treats everybody with respect,” Beeston added. “Whether it’s the clubhouse kid, whether it’s a player, whether it’s the media, whether it’s the front office, whether it’s someone who works in the front office, and whether it’s the fans. He’s got that smile for ya, and he’s been able to live his life by being he who is.”

Prior to every home game, Beeston makes his way down to Gibbons office to shoot the breeze. It’s become a ritual and something Beeston said he’s really going to miss. Beeston said he hardly knew the San Antonio native the first time he arrived in Toronto for the 2002 season as the bullpen catcher – not a position that is often a launching point for big things. In August 2004, Gibbons was named interim manager after Carlos Tosca was fired and appointed full-time manager in October of that year. Gibbons was fired during the 2008 season and re-hired in 2013, leading the Jays into the playoffs in 2015 and 2016. Throughout his journey, Gibbons has become a man of the people, if you will. Sometimes to his detriment. He often says things that he shouldn’t, particularly when it comes to politics. Gibbons is unashamedly old-fashioned and right-wing, managing in a very liberal city. Under regular circumstances, that would spell disaster. But not in his case.

“Hey, we have great arguments (about politics), and that’s fine,” said Beeston, jokingly adding that Gibbons’ self-deprecating sense of humour and the fact that he shows respect for everyone has prevented him from being run out of town. Gibbons made a crack last week about his veteran first baseman Justin Smoak. Asked if rookie first baseman Rowdy Tellez has been picking Smoak’s brain since being recalled from the minors, Gibbons laughed and said, ‘Smoak’s brain? The boy is from South Carolina. Not North, South.” On other teams, a joke like that might turn out to be an issue.

“The thing about Gibby as a manager is, he understands the philosophy of the players being the game,” said Beeston. “And he does everything possible to make sure that they’re prepared and there are no surprises and the communication is there. His door is always open and he’s available to talk to them about anything that might make them more comfortable, at the plate, or in the field or on the mound.”

Beeston was the very first Blue Jays employee, hired in 1976 and has been in baseball ever since. He is known and respected around the league and has friends in every MLB city. He rates Gibbons as one of the finest people he’s ever known and like many people around the Rogers Centre, is bummed out that he’s leaving.

“There’s been some that have been as equal but there’s not been any better. It’s as simple as that,” said Beeston. “What you see is what you get. He is genuine, he is sincere. He has the ability to express himself and some might think it’s that southern shtick, but it’s not. He is well read, he knows what’s going on in the world and he’s not afraid to take a stand. You don’t have to worry about what Gibby thinks. He’ll tell you.”

Source Link

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Toronto Blue Jays