Heads Roll in Toronto: Blue Jays Fire Manager John Gibbons

Max IasconeSenior Analyst IJune 21, 2008

According to several reports from ESPN and the Associated Press, The Toronto Blue Jays have fired manager John Gibbons, along with first base coach Ernie Whitt, third base coach Marty Pevey, and hitting coach Gary Denbo.

Gibbons will be replaced by former Toronto manager Cito Gaston, who helped the Jays win back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993.

The Blue Jays have been the epitome of mediocrity during Gibbons' tenure in Toronto. They are 305-305 with Gibbons as their manager.

With the exception of an 87-75 2006 season, the Blue Jays couldn't finish any better than 3rd in the AL East in Gibbons' 5 years with the team.

Then again, a .500 record in some cases is not justification enough to fire a manager.

For instance, former Patriots head coach Dick MacPherson was actually considered by some to be a viable coach-of-the-year candidate after leading a woefully untalented Patriots team to a 6-10 finish in 1991, a five-game improvement from 1990's 1-15 season under Rod Rust.

Gibbons' real problem was that unlike MacPherson, Toronto had some very talented players for Gibbons to work with, such as Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, Roy Halladay, Jesse Litsch, Sean Marcum, Aaron Hill, etc.

Despite always fielding a relatively talented team, Gibbons' Blue Jays have usually been chronic underachievers.

Furthermore, Gibbons has often been maligned for his poor handling of his lineup, strange late-game managerial moves, and other similar blunders for much of his career.

Gibbons has also failed to motivate the players on his roster due to his flaccid persona.

Anyone who watched Gibbons regularly (and some people who didn't) can easily conclude that he was often palpably over-matched as a manager.

He was playing checkers while everyone else was playing chess.

It will be interesting to see how the Blue Jays respond to their new manager.

Ciro Gaston has brought this team success in the past but the Jays have dug themselves too deep a hole to make any real move towards the postseason this year.

The Jays are currently mired in a five game losing streak, and at 35-39, they are last in the AL East standings, 10.5 games behind the first place Boston Red Sox.

Gaston's task, that is, turning around the Blue Jays, will be an arduous one to say the least.

Despite the fact that Toronto has a rotation that includes Halladay (8-6. 2.90 ERA, 5 CGs, 114 IP), Sean Marcum (5-4, 2.65 ERA, 98.3 IP), Jesse Litsch (7-3, 3.70 ERA, 82.3 IP), Dustin McGowan (5-5, 4.15 ERA, 89 IP), and AJ Burnett (6-7. 5.42 ERA, 91 IP), the Jays have struggled their way to the aforementioned 35-39 mark through 74 games.

However, Toronto's offense as awful as the pitching staff has been great, hence their below .500 record.

Toronto's offensive struggles have also accounted for the seemingly pedestrian records of Marcum, Halladay, and Litsch in relation to their fantastic ERAs.

The Jays have a team batting average of .257, which is good for 11th in the AL and 22nd in baseball.

However, even that number is deceptive in relation to Toronto's recent struggles.

This month, the Jays are hitting at a woeful .231 clip, which is the second worst average in the American League.

Only Rod Barajas (.289), Vernon Wells (.277), and David Eckstein (.278) have a batting average better than .275 in more than 100 at-bats.

The Blue Jays have also been bereft of any legitimate power production from any player not named Matt Stairs (eight homers) all season. Toronto's 49 home runs are 13th in the American League and 28th in Major League Baseball.

While watching Toronto's at-bats, it is easy to see that the players often seem listless, and disinterested, as if they are trying to finish their at-bats as quickly as possible.

This lack of enthusiasm may be a reflection of Gibbons' generally passive personality and measured demeanor around his players and the media

However, if Gaston can help this team become a more cohesive unit over the remaining MLB season, Toronto could field a decent team next year in the surprisingly deep AL East.

With Gibbons gone, the blame will now lie on Blue Jays general manager JP Ricciardi in the event of a continued lack of results since Gaston will have no pressure on him, due mostly to the fact that he is a new manager who was hired halfway through the season.

In a related note, should Ricciardi's team not produce results, any large scale overhaul will be nigh impossible, despite the fact that team owner Rogers Communications Inc. has given Ricciardi the green light to spend as he sees fit.

Nine players are signed with the team until at least 2010 and it will be difficult for Ricciardi to unload any of these contracts.

It is unclear how this whole mess will be resolved. If all goes well, Gaston will have a home in Toronto and Ricciardi's job will be safe.

However, Gaston's job will be "evaluated" at the end of the season if he can't turn the team around and Ricciardi could come under some heavy scrutiny as soon as the end of the season.



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