David Alter. 30th August, 2006 - 1:49 pm
When John Gibbons had the "interim" banner removed from his managerial title in 2005, it was widely regarded as a good move. "Gibby" was seen as a different kind of manager in the clubhouse; a players' coach and a manager who could do no wrong to his players. In 2006, some wrongs have moved to the forefront and have caused baseball observers to question whether or not Gibbons is the right fit for this up-and-coming Jays squad.
Much has been said about the Shea Hillenbrand incident from last month. When the dust settled, Shea was shipped off to San Francisco and the issue from that point going forward should have been long forgotten.
It is important to remember that Gibbons reportedly challenged Hillenbrand to a fist fight in front of everyone in the dressing room. Despite Hillenbrand's poor conduct, it's hard to take someone in Gibbons' position seriously when he prompts such a spectacle. There are many things about that altercation that we will never know but I digress.
Fast-forward about a month later and Gibbons finds himself in another battle with one of his players. After pitching poorly, starter Ted Lilly is relieved from the game and begins a heated public debate with Gibbons. Lilly continues to argue all the way to the dugout and into the tunnel.
Everything seems to have blown over until Gibbons makes a profound mistake. Instead of leaving Lilly on his own to blow off some steam and keep his focus on the rest of the game (a game in which the Jays ended up losing after blowing a big lead), Gibbons follows Lilly into the tunnel where a minor scuffle ensues and the players need to get in there to separate it?while the cameras are rolling!
Call it what you will, a lack of maturity on Gibbons' part or his lack of experience as a manager in the majors, but I call it a lack of common sense which should see a new manager step in if his tirades continue. If you make a mistake the first time which is as unprofessional as challenging one of your players to a fight, it is on you to be more careful and learn from your mistake. The right way to handle the Lilly incident would have been for Gibbons to simply speak with him after the game and keep his players focused on the game at hand.
If I were in charge, I would fire my manager immediately for a second incident such as this in one month's time. Unfortunately, when you are strapped for cash and competing in a division that has big spenders like New York and Boston, you need to budget your money wisely. So in this case, instead of "Never make the same mistake twice", which is one of my favorite mottos, the Jays organization may be, perhaps more appropriately, practicing the motto of "three strikes and you're out".
Right now, Gibbons' contract expires at the end of the 2007 season. If he wants to get an extension, he'll have to think quickly because the count is currently 0 and 2 and the next strike will most certainly be his last.