We haven’t reached the post-season yet. But people are already talking about Alex Anthopoulos getting a contract extension even though the Blue Jays have not won the World Series. In that sense, why not give the same recognition to manager John Gibbons?
Gibbons has outmanaged the likes of Buck Showalter, John Farrell, and Joe Girardi this season, the latter two managing World Series winning teams. But there has been calls from fans and media that Gibbons should be fired. Like I said, the playoffs have not begun yet but if you want to talk about whether Gibbons should be dismissed, I’ll talk about why he should stay. Gibbons for years has had good teams only to lose some of their key players to injuries. This season Gibbons finally has personnel that can a) perform well and b) stay healthy. Aside from Troy Tulowitzki, there have been no serious injuries and Gibbons has been able to write up the same line up each and every day. Gibbons also has been able to give the guys in the bullpen definitive roles. Roberto Osuna is the closer, Aaron Sanchez and Mark Lowe are the set up men, LaTroy Hawkins is the bridge between those three and the starter, and Brett Cecil comes out to get lefties. In addition, Gibbons has been able to deal with the number of egos in the clubhouse.
This story could easily be called It’s About Time Cito Gaston Gets His Due. That’s because 23 years ago Gaston went through what Gibbons is going through now. You are the manager of a team that is expected to win the World Series. Gaston’s Blue Jays knocked off an Oakland Athletics team managed by Hall of Famer Tony LaRussa in the 1992 American League Championship Series. Gaston later beat out his former mentor Bobby Cox as the Blue Jays beat the Atlanta Braves for the World Series. Gaston was able to repeat that feat the following season but there were those in the media that wanted to see Gaston fired. Yes, the same ones that scream outrage about blacks not getting any respect.
Even with the Blue Jays already securing a playoff spot and are close to clinching the American League East, people will scrape the bottom of the barrel to convince you and I that Gibbons should be replaced as manager. They will point out that the New Jersey Devils fired Rob Ftorek, replaced him with Larry Robinson prior to the end of the NHL season, and the team went on win the Stanley Cup that year. But I would argue there were factors that led to that firing other than wins and losses.
No matter what happens to the Blue Jays this post-season, Gibbons should get his due whether it is a contract extension or a promotion to the front office. He has taken the heat for the tough times over the last few seasons, it’s about time everyone give him kudos for putting the Blue Jays ahead.
A disappointing series for the Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend as they looked to pad their lead in the American League East. Losing two of three to the last-place Boston Red Sox is a tough pill to swallow. Some are pointing to Roberto Osuna’s inability to close out the game on Saturday or John Gibbon’s handling of the bullpen as reasons for the late-inning collapses. Sure the bullpen could have been managed better but I think it should not have gotten to that point. I believe two factors led to the two losses: a lack of patience at the plate and shoddy defense.
Now to be honest, the Red Sox had some help from the umpiring. No way Wade Miley and Rich Hill can pitch like Cy Young contenders overnight. And I don’t think they ingested something to enhance their performance the day before their respective starts. Both Alan Porter on Sunday and Dan Iassogna on Saturday did a brutal job calling balls and strikes behind the plate. Iassogna especially missed the swinging third strike by Brock Holt that eventually led to Holt getting a lead-off double three pitches later and Boston winning the game on Saturday. Both he and Porter owe us big time.
But you can only blame the umpires for so much. And while Porter and Iassogna will continue to be in the crosshairs of Blue Jays fans, the players need to put that out of their minds and get back to where they were successful. First off, the hitters are swinging at too many pitches outside the strike zone. Being patient at the plate meant taking close pitches and waiting for the right one to hit. Hill did not give up a walk in his outing on Sunday. Miley surrendered 4 free passes in his start on Saturday but only one came around to score. The Blue Jay hitters were not patient enough to get a big hit at a critical time even when they were ahead on the count. Even if some pitches were out of the zone and called a strike, they let those calls get into their heads and they began to swing wildly afterwards.
Second is the defence (you know, the area where some “experts” consider overrated). Again, it is easy to point to the number in the error column but defence is also measured by the ability to get to a batted ball and make the play even if it is ruled a hit. Mark Buehrle got a lot of ground balls in his last two starts but the defense behind him were unable to get to those batted balls and they made its way out of the infield. And those that the infielders did get to were not turned for outs. There is no reason those ground balls are hits unless your defence is losing its range and like I said before about the Boston pitching, it did not change overnight.
The New York Yankees are in town for an important series. It is perhaps a good thing the Blue Jays will have David Price starting game one of the series as he has performed well when the team is coming off a loss. But the Blue Jays can’t expect to remain a contending team if they can’t be patient at the plate and play air-tight defence. As the Red Sox proved over the weekend, you can’t get away with that even to a last place team.
The headline maybe a bit of a stretch but I would argue it is not farfetched. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is by far ahead of the other 3 including the boss of the so-called best sports league in the world, Roger Goodell.
Goodell’s latest defeat, Deflategate, has many questioning his ability to execute his role as NFL Commissioner. In exonerating New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the judge presiding the case basically compared Goodell to Joseph McCarthy. And perhaps with good reason. Despite media reports, there have been no concrete evidence to link Brady to the underinflated footballs. The case against Brady was a sham from the beginning and was destined to fail. Anyone who goes on a fishing expedition gets what they deserve and those who buy into it just helped raise former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s IQ by 30 points. Add to that his botching of Ray Rice, bounties, and concussions and the results see Goodell take a nosedive on the commissioner depth chart.
Adam Silver of the NBA and baseball’s Robert Manfred are rather new to the sports commissioner biz. Some would say Silver gets brownie points for his handling of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. But I would advise Mr. Silver that pandering to groups that could less about your business is not a sign of good leadership. Manfred came on board just as the Biogenics case wrapped up and Alex Rodriguez was handed a season-long suspension. So in this case, he has not been tested yet.
Bettman meanwhile has been playing it cool in the heat of scrutiny. You can question some of his ideas but his approach to the game both on and off the ice has been close to being pure genius. For better or for worse, the game of hockey has grown in popularity during Bettman’s tenure especially in non-traditional markets. Bettman has resisted calls for change in the game from both traditionalists (i.e. those who care about the game) and the politically correct crowd (i.e.: those who could care less about the game). He has also stood tall in labour disputes with the NHLPA. It is like sending stiffs to go up against a heavyweight champ. Bob Goodenow, Ted Saskin, and now Donald Fehr, all have tapped out to the little man in the end. Bettman continues to get plastered with bullets from the media but manages to dust himself off in the end. That or sports journalists are simply bad marksmen.
We could debate whether Bettman is the best commissioner in sport but there is no doubt that he is looking good while his counterparts are either sitting on the sidelines or getting beaten up in the courts or in the media. Perhaps it is time to give Bettman his due. Goodell would do himself some good by calling Bettman and getting some pointers.
The Blue Jays loss to Cleveland on Monday was their second in their last 10 games. Nothing really to get upset over but there is one common denominator in their last two losses: errors.
Take the one by Josh Donaldson in the 8th inning of Monday’s game. He had trouble scooping up the batted ball and out of the corner of his eye tried to get the runner who was rounding 3rd base. But his throw sailed into the stands and allowed the Indians to score an insurance run. It was only one run but that took away any momentum the Blue Jays had to come back and win it in the end. Bautista also bobbled a batted ball in the outfield that allowed Carlos Santana to score from first base with the tying run. There previous loss was in Texas 4 days before where Bautista allowed a ball hit into the outfield to go under his glove allowing 3 runners to score.
Giving away outs was one reason the Blue Jays faltered down the stretch late last season. And it was the reason why Alex Anthopoulos acquired Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, and Ben Revere. They are good with the glove as they are at the plate.
Let’s take this to hockey. Fans in Toronto are so obsessed with offence that they believe the only thing that matters is scoring goals. But goaltending has been sub-par especially since James Reimer suffered a concussion that hampered his ability to perform in net for the Maple Leafs. If defense doesn’t matter why all the fuss over the play of Dion Phaneuf? Also, let’s not confuse defense with the neutral zone trap. One is an appropriate measure that requires physical contact, the other relies on standing in the player’s way.
The two losses the Blue Jays suffered hasn’t caused them to go into a slide. The New York Yankees have still not been able to catch the Blue Jays for the American League East lead during that span. But the Blue Jays can’t afford to be lackadaisical if they want to be taken seriously heading into the final month of the regular season. They better make sure they brush up on the “D”.