My initial reaction when the Blue Jays re-hired John Gibbons as manager this week was, why? Not that he was a good manager or a bad manager, just, why?
When we opened the phones throughout the day on TSN Radio 1050, the response was almost totally negative. Most listeners used the "been there, done that" logic.
After a couple of days of letting it all sink in, I've moved to the "Why Not?" camp. Gibbons has an infectious likable personality. He also managed a Blue Jays team that had decidely less talent to a .500 record, at 305-305 over the three full years and parts of two others that he guided the Jays from 2004 to 2008.
The one year the Jays did load up, 2006, when they brought in A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan, Gibbons got them to second place with 87 victories. Yes, he did have run-ins or dust-ups as he put it on a few occasions, but the two main ones which occurred that year, with Shea Hillenbrand and Ted Lilly actually seemed to spark the team. In both cases, though Gibbons may have gone slightly over the edge, he stood up for himself and the organization and made it clear in no uncertain terms who was running the team, and his way was the Blue Jays way.
Two things really sold me on Gibbons. One was the way that GM Alex Anthopoulos spoke so passionately about the hiring, saying he had more conviction about this move than any other he had made as general manager.
The second was hearing John McDonald on the Bryan Hayes show this week on TSN Radio 1050, saying how badly the players felt when "Gibby" was fired, how honest and straight forward he was and how he ran the clubhouse.
Anthopoulos also lauded Gibbons for his handling of the bullpen, which many would argue is a manager's most important task.
Clearly, if Bobby Cox had been willing to come out of retirement, he was the Blue Jays' first choice. Bobby guiding the Blue Jays to their first division title back in 1985 before heading back to Atlanta at the conclusion of that season to become the Braves GM and ultimately their manager for a second time. There are certainly things about Cox that you can see in Gibbons. Namely, his passion, his fire and his pure love of the game.
There are only a handful of players still in Toronto who actually played for "Gibby" the first time around. Casey Janssen debuted with the Jays in 2006. Adam Lind and Dustin McGowan are still under contract. Pete Walker, who pitched for the Jays in 2006, was the bullpen coach in 2012 and Gregg Zaun works in the television side of things now.
Knowing Toronto, being friends with Anthopoulos should allow Gibbons to hit the ground running with a team that is now expected to be an instant contender. After some initial trepidation, I've got a feeling this just might work.
I don't know if Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News knows something we don't know or if it is just wishful thinking. He is still predicting Ricky Romero and J.P Arencibia will be in Texas by the time the season starts. He also believes the Rangers can land Zach Greinke and Nick Swisher.
Not too many managers get a second chance at running a club. The only ones I can remember over the last 40 or 50 years to have multiple stints with the same club are Billy Martin (five times with the Yankees), Danny Murtaugh (four times with Pittsburgh), Bobby Cox (two times with Atlanta), Cito Gaston (twice with the Blue Jays) and now John Gibbons. Of those other three, Cox and Murtaugh both won World Series at some point after their return to their old clubs.