Twice in a month now, the Blue Jays have been more ready for Ultimate Fighting than a pennant race. They've answered the bell following the all-star break by cracking, and cracking badly, and no one looks worse than the manager John Gibbons.
|TONY BOCK/TORONTO STAR|
|They've handled it. They're moving on. Sure they are.|
The postgame reports out of last night's latest instalment focused on Ted Lilly's possible punishment for his insubordination (on Sportsnet, the team's propaganda arm, they've got a poll up this morning -- who won the fight, Lilly or Gibbons? Just the sort of thing BJs management wants to see over their corn flakes.) But that's more symptom than cause. Gibbons has been a focal point of first the Shea Hillenbrand confrontation and subsequent banishment in July, and now this with Lilly. Going over the replays this morning, here's a thought: Fire Gibbons. And hire Zinedine Zidane's lip-reader.
That must've been some choice epithet for Lilly to throw at Gibbons -- certainly the hardest stuff he's tossed all season, the way Gibbons dove down the tunnel after him. Most appropriate image to come out of it was Roy Halladay, almost alone in the emptied dugout. There's your Toronto pitching staff for you this season: Halladay and B.J. Ryan and four days of lyin'.
But back to Gibbons. What was most pathetic about this display was his postgame mea culpa: it's standard stuff in pro sports to do the "we've handled it, we're moving on" line of crap, to pretend that these things happen and there's no problem (it's usually about this time that some baseball sage trots out the Billy Martin-led Yankees, or the 25-cabs-to-the-ballpark Red Sox, or the mid-70s A's as examples of successful dysfunction -- hands up, anyone?) But to defend this as something that comes out of "athletic competition"? How about standing up and saying something about being responsible for your actions? When you're a manager, paid to think ahead, the "I just lost it" defence doesn't work. (UPDATE: Gibbons is finally taking some responsibility for overreacting. This morning).
Some scattered postgame comments, taken completely out of context, yes, and boldfaced for emphasis:
Ted Lilly, sounding somber and at least standing up for his actions, but stopping short of an apology (and mentioned that there's a month left in the season -- after which he'll be a free agent and no longer a Jay):
"I handled it in a way I think I'll regret."
"He said something to me that kinda triggered that. I said something I shouldn't have said to him in the first place. It kinda got out of control. It's an embarrassing situation."
"I've gotta be responsible for my actions."
|RON BULL/TORONTO STAR|
|Well, he shouldn't have thrown that curveball to Payton.|
Vernon Wells, surely headed out of this nuthouse at season's end, delivering the usual boilerplate:
"It's a situation where two guys were upset. That's what happens. It happens at home, it happens here. You gotta deal with it."
Shea Hillenbrand, in San Francisco with the Giants and no angel in all of this:
"They say I'm a cancer on the team and things continue to happen, so I don't know how you can make that statement. Things slowly come out when times get tough. All I know is, Ted Lilly is a great guy. I'm very surprised that confrontation happened with Ted."
On Gibbons: "He's an intense competitor and he doesn't know how to control that. He takes things personally. It's like, why would I want to fight you? Why would you say stuff to instigate a fight? That's not conducive to a ball team."
And finally, even though he doesn't deserve it, last word to Gibbons (and perhaps famous last words):
"I didn't get him. Nobody got hit. Everything's fine."
"We've hashed it all out. That's pretty much all there is."
"It's athletic competition."
"It happens. It happens rarely, but it happens."
In the Blue Jays clubhouse, it's happened twice in a month. But hey, at least nobody head-butted anyone.