The Toronto Blue Jays have decided to part ways with manager John Gibbons at the end of the season, it was announced Wednesday.
“Ultimately, we decided it was time for a new approach, a new voice,” general manager Ross Atkins said.
The 56-year-old Gibbons has a record of 792-787 in his two stints as manager of the Blue Jays, and he ranks second only to Cito Gaston in franchise history for managerial wins and games managed.
“I’ve been here a long time, and I agree it’s probably time for a change,” said Gibbons, who received a warm ovation when he brought out the lineup card prior to Wednesday’s home finale, a 3-1 win over Houston. “We’re rebuilding here, and actually I think I’m the perfect guy for a rebuild. But I don’t know if I have the energy, necessarily.”
Give it up for Gibby. 💙 pic.twitter.com/yHFWxGnnut
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) September 26, 2018
After getting the final out Wednesday, Blue Jays closer Ken Giles gave the ball to Gibbons and the Rogers Centre crowd of 22,828 rose for a standing ovation.
“I’ve been here a long time,” said Gibbons, who first joined the Jays in 2002. “I’ve had some great times and I’ve had some tough times. It’s sad in a way, but it brought back a lot of good memories. I never cry, I’m not going to cry, my lip might shake a little bit.”
Gibbons was in the midst of a postgame interview on the field when outfielder Kevin Pillar came out and doused his manager with a cooler.
Grichuk said he was happy to be part of a winning effort for Gibbons.
“He rightfully deserves it,” Grichuk said. “Great manager, easy to talk to, goes about things the right way. He definitely can help young guys, and he’s there for the veteran guys. He’s definitely going to be missed here.”
Pillar, the longest-tenured Blue Jays player, stood at the back of a packed news conference to hear Gibbons’ pregame announcement in person.
“What I learned from being in that interview room was that he was four games above .500 for his career and if we could get one win he’d finish his tenure here as a winner,” Pillar said. “You want to come through that line and give your manager a handshake after a win and it was extra special knowing it was his last one at home.”
Atkins said Gibbons can decide whether to take a new role in the organization. Gibbons didn’t rule that out, but also said he’d like to manage in the big leagues again.
“These jobs are hard to come by,” Gibbons said. “But we’ll see. It’s not going to destroy me if I don’t. But time is on my side, age-wise, I think. I’d like to try it again.”
The Blue Jays are 72-87 this season and in fourth place in the AL East.
“I will always be a Blue Jay,” Gibbons said. “But I get how this business works. When things start sliding it’s just the way it goes. Big league sports is about winning.”
He signed a two-year extension in 2017, and he still has a season remaining on that deal worth $1.7 million.
After managing the Blue Jays from 2004 to 2008, he was let go and became a bench coach with the Kansas City Royals before returning to manage Toronto in 2013. He guided the Blue Jays to the AL Championship Series in 2015 and 2016, losing to Kansas City and Cleveland, respectively.
“We finally became relevant in baseball again,” Gibbons said. “It had been a long time.”
Gibbons feared we might lose his job when former GM Alex Anthopoulos left the Blue Jays at the end of 2015 and Mark Shapiro became president, bringing Atkins on as GM.
“To be honest with you, I thought I was probably gone then,” Gibbons said. “I can’t thank [Atkins] enough for keeping me around. That doesn’t always happen. He put a lot of money in my pocket. That’s not bad, either.”
Toronto mayor John Tory issued a proclamation declaring Sept. 26, 2018, as John Gibbons Day, thanking “Gibby” for his contributions to the Blue Jays and the city.
Thank you John Gibbons for leading our @BlueJays and for all the great memories. I want to wish you good luck in the future! Toronto will miss you, Gibby! Proud to proclaim today as John Gibbons Day in Toronto. #BlueJays pic.twitter.com/ZwtJuJjTD9
— John Tory (@TorontosMayor) September 26, 2018
Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan also honored his colleague, sending a jersey with Gibbons’ name and No. 5 to the departing manager.
A first-round draft pick by the Mets in 1980, Gibbons hit .220 with one home run and two RBIs in 18 career games as a catcher, eight of them in New York’s World Series-winning season in 1986. He became a minor league instructor in 1991 and got his first managerial job with the Mets’ Appalachian League team in 1995.
He is the second big league manager to lose his job this month. Texas fired Jeff Banister on Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.