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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Wake Me Up When September Ends

This article is my first posted on a Toronto Sports website I am now writing for. Visit tosports.ca for funny sports articles and the latest news in Sports. Enjoy...

Wake Me up When September Ends

Forget commandeering a multi-million dollar professional sports franchise, I wouldn’t even suggest John Gibbons be the manager of a McDonalds: the fries would always be left in too long and not a single burger would cross a plate when it actually mattered.

Baseball insiders have questioned the motives behind Gibbons’ hire and subsequent promotion through the ranks of the Blue Jays’ on-field management team. Gibbons made just 18 appearances in the entirety of his Major League career as a catcher before retiring in 1990. He spent the better part of 9 seasons in the minor leagues with a laundry list of injuries that makes A.J. Burnett look like Cal Ripken Jr.

Gibbons began his stay with the Blue Jays as a bullpen catcher in 2002; presumably a favor granted by former minor league roommate and current Jays General Manager J.P. Ricciardi. While rooming with Ricciardi, what sort of miraculous deeds did Gibbons perform to warrant a promotion from bullpen catcher to first base coach, and eventually, to team manager. Obviously J.P. and Johnny shared a close relationship, which is hard to believe, given the fact that Gibbons has notoriously butted heads with many people throughout his five year reign.

Gibbons’ relationship with his players has been volatile, beginning with Dave Bush in 2005. After an altercation with Gibbons, Bush was sent to the minors, and, following a trade in the offseason, the only thing “bush” that was left in Toronto was Gibbons’ management style. Since then, Gibbons publicly clashed with DH Shea Hillenbrand and starter Ted Lilly. No manager can be on good terms with every player coming through their clubhouse, but the departure of these players hurts when their absences are due, in large part, to the Jays management’s reluctance to rid the team of the standings anchor that has become John Gibbons. I think everyone could look past these squabbles except that the Jays are losing ball games as a direct result of their manager’s dumbfounded decisions.

In the end, baseball is just a pastime and for John Gibbons, bullpen mismanagement is the name of the game. It is no coincidence that no pitcher on the 1992 Blue Jays World Series winning team averaged more than 7 innings pitched per game. In fact if you remove the 21 game-winner, Jack Morris, from the equation, the rotation averaged just a tad over 6 innings pitched per game. Fast forwarding to the present, we see the likes of Jesse Litsch and A.J. Burnett going deep into close ball games to the detriment of the team. Maybe John Gibbons knows something that we, Cito Gaston, and a World Series ring doesn’t. I think Adam Lind getting on base is probably more likely.

While attending a recent game against the Chicago White Sox, I witnessed an example of Gibbons’ mismanagement. Shaun Marcum started that day, and to his credit, pitched a beautiful game that came dangerously close to being ruined because of Gibbons’ reluctance to go to his bullpen.

With two outs and slugger Joe Crede on deck, John “The Genius” Gibbons decides to leave his starter in to face the red hot Carlos Quentin. Marcum, although a brilliant young pitcher, had already given up five home runs in his previous five starts. In a two run baseball game with a homerun-susceptible pitcher on the mound and two bonafide home run hitters coming up, rather than turning to a fresh bullpen, Gibbons rolls the dice - leaving Marcum on the mound.

Based purely on statistics, if Quentin got on base, the game could be tied with one swing of Joe Crede’s bat. Though the Jays went on to win the game, this pivotal decision could have soured in a heartbeat. Decisions like these should be no-brainers for a Major League caliber manager, but unfortunately John Gibbons doesn’t, and will never fit that description.

Sadly situations like Friday are business as usual for the Toronto Blue Jays who, at the time of this writing, are flirting with .500 baseball. We have nearly all the tools to be a playoff contender and one very special “tool” preventing us from getting there. Mark my words; we will never make the playoffs with a wash out like John Gibbons at the helm. You can have the nicest, fastest, and most well put together car in the world, but at the end of the day you still need a license to drive it. How many times will the Jays crash and burn before someone checks this guy’s credentials?

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