TORONTO - Blue Jays manager John Gibbons sat down with TSN.ca before Saturday's game against the Kansas City Royals to discuss his status, the degree to which leadership matters in baseball, and whether he'll make significant adjustments to next February's spring training schedule.
Listen to the interview here or read the transcript below.
TSN.ca: Some heat around here, John, the hot seat is a little warm. Look, it's been a tough year. I'm giving you an opportunity to say your piece. You're on the hot seat. Is it fair? Is it unfair? Does fairness matter?
GIBBONS: Scott, fairness doesn't matter. That's the business we're in. It's the entertainment business but it's serious sports. I don't get caught up in all of that to be honest with you. Yeah, it hurts, nobody likes to be ripped and things like that but on the flip side of that, I'm responsible for what happens with this team on the field and it hasn't been a good year. You just grind it out. I've said before, I show up every day and it's a new day. You go out there, I love competing. You go out there and try to win that game and do the best job you can. At the end of the day, you know, all the decisions you make, do they all work? Of course not. Some of the best decisions you make backfire on you. Some of the worst ones you make, you come out smelling like a rose. That's just the way the game is but you deal with it, you learn to deal with it, you expect it and if you can't handle it, you're in trouble.
TSN.ca: You look at this team heading into the offseason, and Alex has said you're going to be back next year so you have that security, the support of your general manager, which we knew that you had. Can this team, as currently constituted, come back in spring training and head into next April and be a winning group?
GIBBONS: Scott, we like the core group of this team. There's no question, we liked it going into this year with all the big moves made and we still like it. But we have to make some additions to upgrade some areas, that's no secret. In saying that, that's not always easy. Alex, we've talked about it, I think everybody understands it's pretty obvious what we need to do and he'll attempt to do that. It's not easy because you go around to most teams in the game, they're basically in a lot of ways. One thing about Alex, he's tireless, he's not afraid to make some things happen and he'll put his best foot forward. It's still a good group out there but there's no question to be a better team we need to make a few changes.
TSN.ca: When you assess this season, John, that 11-game win streak stands out obviously as the high point and there have been some down points both before that and after that. So let's talk about that 11-game win streak. Does that tell you that there's something in there that we just haven't seen enough of or was that an outlier? Because a lot of teams don't win 11 in a row, not even the best.
GIBBONS: No question about that. What really happened there is it all came together for that period of time. We pitched well during that stretch, you know we played good, solid defence and the bats, we were swinging the bats. It was one of those stretches when everything was clicking. You don't always get that over the season. Some stretches you pitch well and you're not hitting and the defence, the defence needs to be the constant. You're going to have some bad games but that's one thing you can control a little bit of. That needs to be there every day. Pitching and offence can be hit or miss but for that stretch, it all came together for a length of time there. Everybody goes through those ups and downs but you know what those good teams do, they may not have the 11-game streak but there's more consistency throughout the year. The best teams in baseball go through their down stretches where they'll lose five, six, sometimes seven games in a row, something like that. That's because maybe they're not pitching good, their bats went silent or whatever it is. Over 162 games, that's the norm but the better teams, they do it better and they generally, their pitching day in and day out gives you a shot. When we talk about good pitching, it doesn't mean you have to go out and throw shutouts every night but it's really, they keep you in the game and give you a shot and let your offence maybe take over. In fairness to our pitching also this year, we haven't played good enough defence at times and they've suffered for that. I'm not just talking about errors and things like that. I mean, there are some balls we haven't gotten to that you really need to at this level. Some double plays you need to turn at the big league level to bail you out of a tough inning that we haven't always done. Let's face it, at the big league level, you have to take away hits, too. You need the routine play made but you know what, you still need to take away hits because that's what the better teams do.
TSN.ca: In hockey, there's a player on each team that wears a 'C' and that denotes leadership. What value do you place on leadership in such an individual sport like baseball?
GIBBONS: That's a good question that will always be debated. First off, you're not going to win anything without talent, in any sport, that's just a given. But still there needs to be a couple of guys, they have to be guys with credentials, those are the guys they look to, and you've got to be able to snap somebody back in place, snap a team back in and say, 'Listen, we're not doing this well, let's go guys, let's pick it up' and things like that. If it's always got to be the manager or the coach, I mean it's not going to work. Sooner or later, if you talk too much, they tune you out. It's just like your own children or your teacher at school, whatever it might be, talk is cheap and if you have to do it too often, apparently somebody's not listening. It always helps to have a couple of guys on a team, they take that role whether they like it or not and it's not always talking, it's how they carry themselves and their actions. That can be very valuable. That point will probably always be debated because I've been on some teams where you have a bunch of renegades, you know talented teams but it can be a mess but yet they play as a team, they show up to win and that usually overrides the day.
TSN.ca: The kids that have come up have injected, I guess, some refreshing air into the environment here. What have you seen, I guess you take your pick on who you want to talk about but what have you seen from Goins, Gose, Pillar and Sierra?
GIBBONS: I've been really, pleasantly surprised. They've all helped one way or the other and they're doing a nice job. Like I've said before, some guys never get opportunities in this game so when you get it, you know you may only get one so take advantage of it. They're all showing us something right now. Goins has been in the spotlight lately with some great defensive plays and some big hits. He's really doing everything right now. You know, Gosey, (Friday) night had the big triple to set up an inning in a tight ball game to plate a big run for us and he's playing great defence and throwing his hits in along the way. Pillar, it's been kind of hit or miss for him, he hasn't really settled in offensively but you look, he's been a good base runner, he's been good in the outfielder and things like that. Sierra, he's starting to heat up a little bit. When he keeps his swing under control, there's a lot in that bat. He's a good, solid outfielder with a great arm. He can be a difference maker with that arm. They've all, one way or another, done some things to benefit us and you get excited about that and you're happy for them because, like I said, there are only so many opportunities you get in this business so it always helps to make that good impression and they're all doing that.
TSN.ca: Next year can't be this year with the record. The expectations were high coming in and you haven't lived up to them this season. Do you change your approach at all heading into spring training next year? Do you make some adjustments next season based on what you've seen out of the group this year to give yourself a better chance to have a better record?
GIBBONS: What you always do, game-to-game, you reflect on the game and from a manager's standpoint, what might have I done different that might have affected the outcome, this and that. You're constantly doing that and of course, at the end of the year and we're getting there, you always reflect and think you know what, maybe we need to do this, more of this, less of that, what have you. Going into spring training, there will be some adjustments that will be made. We'll look at the personnel and we'll deal with that. We were ready coming out of spring training, no doubt in my mind, we just didn't play well. We just didn't handle expectations well, whether we were a little bit tight, what have you, that's just the way it went. But you need to make some adjustments and do some things to change some things because there's no question that, you know, you need a better year next year. A lot was put into this team and we were really hyped up, as we should have been, everybody liked all the moves and there were a number of them. We like the group that we have, of course there needs to be some additions, but you know we're always optimistic. Like I've said before, the fans have turned out this year. They've done their part of it and this place will explode with a winning team out there and we don't think we're that far off and this city and this country deserve that.