Co-ordinating The Defence of Gibby
If the Boston Red Sox had taken the approach many suggest the Blue Jays must now take, Bobby Valentine would still be the manager.
But would the Bosox be in first place?
Discuss amongst yourselves.
In a city where there's a lot more pressure for the baseball team to win, the Red Sox, and GM Ben Cherington, decided that one tumultuous year of Valentine was all they needed to see before moving on.
There was no "oh, this isn't fair, give him another year." None of this "what could he possibly have done" on a team that struggled with injuries and underachieving players and every manner of controversy.
The Red Sox just wanted to win. They made a massive, bold trade with the Dodgers to off-load salary and re-set the team. Then they decided Valentine couldn't help them win with their new roster.
So they moved on. And are now winning.
In Toronto, a team with some similarities but many differences with Boston, the defence of John Gibbons has become predictable, but at least the chorus is now singing the same song from the same excuse handbook.
Listen and read. You'll hear and see the same refrain everywhere.
"The starting pitching has been terrible. What could he have done about that?"
At least Team Defend Gibby (never heard a manager or coach other than Pinball Clemons referred so often in the media by his nickname, a dead giveaway) is organized and has found a rallying point.
The other rallying point is "well, you can't hang this all on him."
Well, of course you can't. This is a multi-faceted issue for which management and players share some responsibility.
As does the manager. Again, a share of responsibility, not blame for everything that has happened.
Are we clear on that?
Other changes will have to be made and are going to be made. Josh Johnson is, of course, at the top of the list. Some would say this is the time to trade Jose Bautista. There's lots of questions about J.P. Arencibia moving forward. Can R.A. Dickey really be an ace? Should Brett Lawrie stay at third? Can the team rely on Brandon Morrow? Will Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison contribute next season? Where's the grit on this team? Certainly a priority on finding and promoting players with some degree of defensive acumen is on the table, at the very least to try and get the embattled pitching staff some help.
No one is advocating the simpleminded, just fire the manager and all will be well approach.
You don't hang it all on Gibbons and nobody is suggesting that should be the case. Changing managers is just ONE of the things this team needs to do.
But a manager who was here before and didn't win much, and then was inexplicably re-hired by a GM who seemed to be looking for a path of least resistance after the John Farrell debacle, has returned and hasn't won.
Not all his fault. But the record is the record.
And it hasn't just been the starting pitching. It's been lazy, dumb baseball. Bad defensive baseball. Tons of strikeouts by players who won't change their approach. An alarming number of passed balls. Idiotic baserunning. An inability to move runners along and even bunt. Players more focussed on Twitter criticism than improving their game. Hitters staring down teammates at third base for falling to score on short fly balls and thus denying the hitter an RBI.
It's some of all of this, and if the manager couldn't impact any of it, why have a manager at all, for goodness sakes?
There are those who want to praise his handling of the bullpen, and suggest his approach was exactly what Lawrie needed and has helped turn his season around.
That's fine. Give Gibbons credit for those things, but if you're going to do that you can't just look at the team's shortcomings and say he couldn't have possibly impacted those areas.
You can't have it both ways.
There should be no second chance for Gibbons because this WAS his second chance, this time with what most everybody in baseball seemed to believe was a very talented team.
In the cold reality of pro sport, that's how coaches and managers lose jobs.
The underlying story here, of course, is that this is the flip side of the Ron Wilson effect. Wilson was a Leaf coach who was sent packing without a single media voice suggesting he should stay, largely because he'd been such a jerk to people.
Gibbons isn't a jerk to people, either because that's his nature or because he understands better than Wilson did how to work the media and how to cultivate support for when it is needed.
It's needed now, and he's getting it. That's not a shot at people in the media. We're human too. If a fellow treats you reasonably, you want to treat him reasonably in return, particularly if you get the sense that he's been undermined to some degree by the failures and shortcomings of others. You can bet that if the Jays start winning some games now with the season already lost, suddenly those who say Gibbons couldn't have changed anything will shower him with credit for everything.
I'm guessing GM Alex Anthopoulos won't be swayed one way or another by media opinion. He's watched the team all year. He doesn't strike me as an executive afraid to coldly cut bait on a manager when he knows it isn't working, but then again, he'll undercut his own credibility by having to axe a manager he handpicked.
Tough call for AA.
As I've said for a while, I can't see how Gibbons survives this unmitigated disaster of a season. But he might.
Valentine, by the way, won 69 games for the Red Sox last season.
Will this year's Jays win that many?