In John Gibbons’ office, just down from the Blue Jays clubhouse, there’s a message scribbled onto his whiteboard which has been there for over two years: “Good luck on the season. We love you Dad”.
The message was written by Gibbons’ daughter, Jordan, as Ian Harrison noted in his Vice Sports piece from October of 2015. Those words of encouragement have remained on that whiteboard ever since.
Now, that message may stay on the whiteboard in Gibbons’ office for another two more seasons … if not longer.
Late yesterday, details trickled down about a contract extension for John Gibbons. It seemed like more of a “when” and not “if” Gibbons would garner a contract extension from the Blue Jays’ brain trust. Ross Atkins even described contract talks with John Gibbons as “fun”.
Now, the man affectionately referred to as “Gibby” will be the Toronto Blue Jays manager for the foreseeable future. It’s a much more stable environment for the man who was veritably in the hot seat for most of 2013, 2014 and the first half of the 2015 season.
Writers often declare that managers are hired to be fired; in no way does this absolutely guarantee that Gibbons will stick around until the end of the 2019 season. But at the very least, he’ll be paid through 2019.
Last year, John Gibbons took a bit of a gamble as he opted to remove the January 1st rollover clause out of his contract – a stipulation put in place by former Blue Jays GM: Alex Anthopoulos.
It was really more of a PR move to combat the lame-duck manager questions which arose from the John Farrell debacle, but Gibbons took some job security out of his hands in exchange for a slight pay raise.
Now, he’s been rewarded with a decent contract extension (the financial terms which have not been disclosed).
In retrospect, it’s pretty remarkable John Gibbons made it this far with the Blue Jays.
After a disappointing 2013 campaign and an equally depressing 2014 season, things were looking grim for Gibbons’ future with the Blue Jays organization. Thanks in part to the team’s mid-season turnaround in 2015, Gibbons bought himself some good will and opened up many eyes to his potential.
And then when a brand new President and General Manager were announced last year, Gibbons was in the hot seat once again. Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins had absolutely no loyalty to John Gibbons, and they didn’t need to keep him around … but they did.
In a year when there was so much turnover in the Blue Jays’ front office, the “Cleveland suits” could’ve easily brought in their own guy and shown the door to John Gibbons. After clinching a playoff spot and guiding his team to a berth in the ALCS, Gibbons raised his profile as a manager.
Atkins and Shapiro have shown a tremendous amount of faith in Gibbons, a man they never hired in the first place, a man they inherited from the previous regime. At first glance, John Gibbons runs counter to Mark Shapiro’s approach to the Blue Jays – which is ultra corporate, analytics-focused and data-driven.
But Shapiro and Atkins speak very highly of Gibbons and his ability to manage the Toronto Blue Jays. It may have been an arranged marriage at the beginning, but so far, this new regime is in love with the way John Gibbons takes care of this team.
Even to this day, John Gibbons flies under the radar as one of the most unheralded and underrated managers in the game. Despite managing the Blue Jays to two consecutive ALCS trips, Gibbons doesn’t always come to mind when ranking baseball’s best managers.
But in the mind of John Gibbons, that’s probably okay. He portrays himself as the “simple man”, a strategy which has actually worked out in his favour. Instead of a reputation as a keen tactician or hard-nosed skipper, Gibbons is instead revered as a player’s manager; a guy who knows when to step in, but more often than not, a guy who knows when to let his team police itself.
During Gibby’s first tenure as manager of the Blue Jays, J.P. Ricciardi famously said “If you can’t play baseball for John Gibbons, you can’t play for anybody”. These last few years, it’s difficult to imagine the Blue Jays playing for anyone else but John Gibbons.
In the end, Gibbons took a risk by betting on himself and taking the rollover clause out of his contract. He gambled and won some added job security. But will it win Gibbons a championship? At least he gets the opportunity to keep trying.