Bringing John Gibbons back as manager is…
Anthopoulos also addressed the acquisition of shortstop Jose Reyes, left-handed pitcher Mark Buehrle, right-hander Josh Johnson, catcher John Buck and utility man Emilio Bonifacio in the much-documented, 12-player megadeal with the Miami Marlins, finalized Monday evening, and the signing of free-agent outfielder Melky Cabrera for an estimated $ 16 million US over two years.
“The front office has put together a legitimate, contending-type team,” Gibbons noted. “Now it’s the manager’s job and the coaching staff’s job to pull it together as a team and get the most out of these guys — that’s our No. 1 job.”
“I wasn’t even involved in it,” Gibbons said, referring to Toronto’s managerial search. “You guys [the media] were way off.”
“I don’t know that there was anybody better in terms of managing a bullpen, connecting with the players, connecting with the front office, holding players accountable,” Anthopoulos explained. “Really, everything you want in a manager.”
“I’ve got more conviction in this transaction, in this hiring, than anything,” Anthopoulos said. “It’s my decision, it’s what I wanted to do.”
Gibbons’ first stint as manager was highlighted by an 87-75 mark in 2006, when the Blue Jays rose beyond third place in the American League East for the first time since winning back-to-back World Series in 1992-93.
“Players love playing for him… [and] he connected with the front office,” Anthopoulos said.
Perhaps so, but Gibbons’ long-held reputation as an affable coach was damaged that season in somewhat unprofessional confrontations with disgruntled veterans Shea Hillenbrand and Ted Lilly.
“Yeah, I had a couple of dustups,” he admitted.
“What happened with Shea Hillenbrand, he better be confronted,” Anthopoulos said, defending Gibbons in retrospect.
“I think it’s a strong suit. If you do push, he [Gibbons] will react and I think it’s important.”
Later that season, Gibbons reportedly shoved Lilly during a heated exchange in the tunnel leading to the clubhouse after removing the pitcher from a game in which he had squandered a healthy lead.
“That was kind of a black eye for me,” Gibbons acknowledged. “I wish it hadn’t happened, but it happened.
“I’m an intense guy, I play to win … I’m passionate, but I also believe everyone has to be pulling in the same direction.”
Too intense? Too passionate? Viewpoints at the time often varied on Gibbons, who, ultimately, failed to make the post-season and wound up fired in June 2008 and replaced by celebrated World Series-winning skipper Cito Gaston — by coincidence, the only other manager to be hired twice by the Blue Jays.