During a pre-game scrum before Tuesday night's 7-1 loss to the New York Yankees, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos explicitly told the media that manager John Gibbons will be retained for the 2014 season.
Not only was that a blunt declaration of confidence in Gibbons, but it was also the best decision Anthopoulos has made recently.
After Toronto's young GM spoke to the media and subsequently blew up every Jays fan's Twitter feed, there were mixed reviews. Some threw support Gibbons' way, while others, like Damien Cox, seemed confused by Anthopoulos' blind endorsement of his manager.
Alex Anthopoulos puts his future in John Gibbons’ hands: Cox http://t.co/To22mGNMYE— Damien Cox (@DamoSpin) August 28, 2013
Clearly Gibbons has divided the local media but the main theme occurring within the court of public approval is that the Jays' monumental disappointment in 2013 is hardly the manager's fault.
Ask yourself these questions:
Can you entirely blame Gibbons for Josh Johnson almost doubling his career earned run average?
Can you entirely blame Gibbons for J.P. Arencibia's embarrassing .248 on-base percentage?
Can you entirely blame Gibbons for the slew of injuries to the Jays' starting pitching staff?
The answer is undoubtedly no.
Sure, all of the problems the Jays have had this season—starting pitching, injuries, errors, lack of professionalism—lie at the feet of the manager. Ultimately, Gibbons establishes the mentality of his team if not the actual outcomes of games, and in that respect he has failed miserably.
However, the average age of the Jays roster is just over 29 years old. These are not rookies struggling to adapt to a faster and more intense game; they are professional athletes who have years of experience. Any lack of motivation or professionalism on their part is their fault, not Gibbons'.
Even still, that's not the real reason Gibbons should be back in the Jays dugout in 2014.
It's not because he's well-liked. It's not because it's the team's fault. It's not because of injuries or because the negative culture of the team starts with more than the manager.
It's because next year, the Jays have a chance to win.
2013 is irrelevant, Jays fans.
Anthopoulos made the decision when he traded for Reyes, Johnson, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey that 2013, 2014 and 2015 were going to be three years during which the Jays will have a legitimate contending roster.
Obviously, 2013 has not worked out the way most people envisioned it, but as Dickey said, "The real tragedy in the season will be if there's no growth out of what's happened."
Leave it to the smartest player in the majors to put it so perfectly.
With Gibbons remaining the Jays manager for 2014, there is the opportunity for real growth amongst the roster.
Due to salary restrictions as well as several long-term contracts, the Jays roster will look very similar next year and that is a good thing. The team is extraordinarily talented and has played well below their abilities.
Growth, as Dickey put it, needs to occur amongst this core group. The team needs to grow together and that means they need to grow with Gibbons as their manager.
It sounds romantic, but if a culture shift is going to occur, it needs to occur with Gibbons at the helm. This team needs to own their mistakes and their failures in 2013 in order to become both mentally and statistically stronger in 2014.
A new manager simply allows excuses to creep in. A new manager allows players to chalk up 2013 in the loss column and move on. A new manager removes the stain of embarrassment from the jerseys of the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays.
To be successful, a team has to own their losses.
It's because John Gibbons was such a large part of those losses that keeping him is the best decision the team could have made.