BALTIMORE – Hours before his Blue Jays dropped an 8-2 decision to the now-American League East champion Orioles, general manager Alex Anthopoulos was asked to clarify whether John Gibbons would return as manager in 2015.
Gibbons indicated on Monday he wasn't certain of his future.
"He's under contract," said Anthopoulos. "He's always under contract pretty much. I don't think there's anything to take care of. I think he's done a good job."
The Jays have lost three in a row and sit five games back of Kansas City for the second wild card spot. With 12 games remaining, the Jays' tragic number (the number of combined Toronto losses with Kansas City victories to produce mathematical elimination) is eight. The Jays must first surpass Cleveland and then Seattle before the Royals would be directly in their crosshairs.
The task, needless to say, is a tall one. Realists would suggest the postseason dream is dead, that a comeback is impossible. They're probably correct. Oh, the use of "probably" is only a hedge until the math officially eliminates them.
When the dust settles and the Blue Jays find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture for a second-straight season following high profile trades for the likes of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey, the club will have plenty of questions to answer.
This is a team that is ready to build around a young pitching nucleus of Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchison, with Daniel Norris waiting in the wings.
There must be a focus on improving the middle of the diamond. Second base, which was handed to Ryan Goins at the start of the year and then was played by Brett Lawrie, Munenori Kawasaki and Steve Tolleson, must be addressed.
The matter of second base is further complicated by the poor defensive season Jose Reyes had at shortstop. Perhaps he should be asked, or for $22-million per season, told, to move to second. Then, Anthopoulos could explore shortstop options.
There's also that matter of third base, which is Lawrie's if he's healthy. Given Lawrie's extensive injury history, it's not safe to assume he'll come close to 162 games next year. A contingency plan must be in place.
All of that and we haven't gotten to the outfield, where Anthony Gose appears poised to take over for Colby Rasmus in centre. Melky Cabrera should be retained but as an impending free agent, that matter is as much up to him as it is the team. If he goes, there's a hole in leftfield. Rightfield is the lone spot of stability out there unless Jose Bautista is dealt.
These decisions certainly would involve Gibbons who, at least, would be asked to provide feedback.
When asked whether he could assure that Gibbons would be managing the Blue Jays when players report to Dunedin next February, Anthopoulos didn't say "no." He also didn't say "yes."
"He's under contract," said Anthopoulos. "I mean, again, I've said this before too, I'm a big believer that no matter what position it is in the organization, grounds crew, administrative assistant, manager, coach, you support them until you don't support them. Until they're no longer in those positions, you support them. I mean, that position's going to be that way whether we're 100 games over .500 or we're struggling. You know, we always support our staff."
Gibbons is under contract, true. But Anthopoulos' statement doesn't give us any sense into which way he's leaning because Gibbons will remain under contract until well beyond termination. The way the skipper's deal works, if Gibbons is managing the Blue Jays on January 1st of a given year (say, 2015), his option for the following season (say, 2016) automatically vests.
"I wouldn't make anything more of this," said Anthopoulos.
Fair enough. But a firm 'Yes, he'll be our manager' would have gone a long way toward keeping the sniffing dogs at bay.