Love or Hate Him, John Gibbons Will Be Missed by Toronto Blue Jays

John Gibbons
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 15: Manager John Gibbons #5 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on September 15, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Blue Jays defeated the Yankees 8-7. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Toronto Blue Jays Manager John Gibbons‘ final press conference was similar and ordinary. It could have been after a walk-off win at the start of the season, or a blowout loss in the dead heat of summer.

Even today as he said goodbye to the demanding Toronto media, the endearing qualities of Gibbons shined through, that have captivated Blue Jays fans during his last stint with the team. His smile was contagious. His southern drawl nostalgically unmistakeable. And that laid-back temperament is even more apparent today, as he closes this chapter with the team that has provided him with the most success.

Love or Hate Him, John Gibbons Character Will Be Missed by Blue Jays

He never won a World Series with the Blue Jays. He was hired, fired, re-hired and is now parting ways. But through the roller-coaster ride with the Blue Jays, it is clear Gibbons holds the special moments in the highest of pedestals. Gibbons will keep close the special connection he has had with Toronto for many years. “I am a Blue Jay for life,” exclaimed Gibbons.

Gibbons Baseball Journey Begins in Canada

John Gibbons and baseball have been a happy marriage for generations. It was in Canada when the Blue Jays manager first stepped up to the plate, playing little league baseball in Happy Valley, Labrador.

Gibbons became a catcher, selected by the New York Mets with the 24th pick in the 1980 draft. Like many baseball players, the catcher never made it to the level of the game’s greats like Johnny Bench or Ivan Rodriguez. But unlike many competitors in the big leagues, Gibby experienced what winning a World Series was like. As the bullpen catcher, he reveled in the joy and adulation of celebrating the Mets 1986 World Series with his teammates.

Gibbons Experiences Postseason Success in Second Stint

Former Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos took a gamble by bringing back Gibbons when John Farrell was fired prior to the 2013 season. There was a clear difference in the temperament of Gibbons. He wanted the players to develop and self-govern their own environment. His fiery edge would still be apparent; he is the manager with the most ejections out of any Blue Jays manager in franchise history. He was not afraid to challenge players, most famously demonstrated when he confronted Josh Donaldson in the dugout after the star player smashed his bat.

But Gibbons never actively sought to be the leader of the team. He was involved, he would inspire in a behind-the-scenes manner. However, it would be the players who would dictate the direction of the team. And Gibbons didn’t mind not being in the spotlight constantly.

“If you have to actively try to be the leader, that doesn’t work, that’s phony. People see right through that. I see right through it,” he said. “I think everybody understands that when you’re the manager, you are the leader and there are certain things you’ve got to do. If you don’t live up to that, you’re in trouble. But as a leader, it’s all right to be their friend, get along with them, have fun with them. Everybody’s got to recognize that fine line – we can’t cross that – because in the end, I make decisions that affect their careers.”

In 2015 and 2016, Gibbons finally took his teams to the postseason, as a result of trades made by Anthopoulos to bring in Edwin Encarnacion, Donaldson, David Price, and Troy Tulowitzki. Both times, the Blue Jays fell short in the American League Championship Series. Gibbons still reflects back on those years as positive overall, particularly on that memorable “Bat Flip” game against the Texas Rangers in the ALDS.

But there are moments he regrets and that still haunt him, including Game 6 against the Kansas City Royals in the 2015 ALCS. “We’re down a run, with a runner on third and we had our best contact guys coming up. Ben Revere and Dioner Navarro struck out. Then Josh Donaldson, our MVP, grounded out to end the game,” says Gibbons. 

“I regret we didn’t get to the World Series.  I thought we had the team (in 2015). That was a really good team. We exploded in the second half of the season.”

Gibbons Has Winning Swan Song

John Gibbons’ final home game as the Toronto Blue Jays manager would take place against the Houston Astros. In the context of the season, a meaningless game. The Blue Jays’ disappointing season is inching closer to its conclusion, the second consecutive year where they do not make the postseason. The Houston Astros, the defending World Series champs, are heading back to the playoffs with over 100 wins this year.

But the game meant so much more as it symbolized Gibbons’ send-off as the beloved and respected Blue Jays manager. With the 3-1 victory over the Astros, John recorded his 792nd win, second-most in franchise history. He would also finish his career as a Blue Jay manager with an over 50 percent winning percentage.

Who knows what is next for John Gibbons. He will probably head back to his dwelling in San Antonio, reflecting about his recent tenure with the team. He has never been one for the huge send-off or the emotional tribute ceremony. John Gibbons is who he is and wore his heart on his sleeve. Whether you loved or despised his amalgamating personalities, from being placid to outright bad-tempered, Gibby will have a special place in the annals of Blue Jays history.

“I’m proud of this organization. They gave me an opportunity. They put a lot of money in my pocket – that’s never a bad thing. People who have worked here for a long time, they care about the team and I’m one of those guys now. There’s a connection here. I will always be proud of this organization. I will always root for it.”

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