Blue Jays manager John Gibbons not bothered by critics
Veteran relaxed as some call for managerial change in Toronto
Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons leaned back in his chair Monday afternoon, spat some chewing tobacco juice into a cup and smiled as he answered questions from the dozen reporters gathered in his office for a pre-game media availability.
Gibbons knows most of the scribes by name and is quick with a joke and a laugh. He seemed as relaxed as ever even though the optimism that reigned here last spring is long gone.
The Blue Jays are mired in last place in the American League East and are playing out the string on what playoff-starved Toronto fans had hoped would be a turnaround campaign.
Some columnists have written the time is right for a managerial change while calls to the local all-sports radio stations have been getting angrier by the day. Gibbons has been an easy target given that his club took a poor 58-73 record into Monday's series opener against New York.
The 51-year-old manager still has the same laid-back demeanour that he had back in April when Rogers Centre was abuzz after an expensive off-season roster overhaul.
Naturally Gibbons is disappointed that his team has underperformed. But he doesn't seem the least bit bothered by the stories or calls for him to be replaced.
"I don't get into what's fair and what's unfair," Gibbons said in his friendly Texan drawl. "It's a tough business man, and you're in the arena. So it's open season. So have at it, I guess you could say."
His supporters point to the fact he has been hamstrung by an injury-riddled roster throughout the season. His critics question his team's ability to execute basic fundamentals on a consistent basis.
Toronto struggled out of the gate this season and never really recovered. The much-hyped starting rotation was largely a disappointment, making things all the more challenging in one of the toughest divisions in the major leagues.
Gibbons previously managed the Blue Jays for parts of five seasons before being fired in June 2008. He said he doesn't fear the possibility that a managerial change could be made again.
"My life is good. I enjoy competing every day out there," he said. "You play to win that game and in the end, people make decisions on things like that. I mean really, what's there to fear?"
The Blue Jays struggled mightily over a 2-8 road trip that wrapped up Sunday. The team is back home for a six-game homestand at Rogers Centre, beginning with a three-game set with the Yankees.
New York is fighting to stay in the American League wild-card hunt. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, have to settle for their usual late-summer role of spoiler.
Gibbons, who is reportedly signed to a two-year deal with options, is expecting his players to step up and play hard over the last few weeks of the season.
"It's easy when things go bad to tuck your tail and run, no question about it," he said. "And it's easy to play when things are going good. It's tough to play when things are going bad, you're feeling the heat and everybody is breathing down your neck.
"But you're a professional, getting paid good money, a lot of people are still coming to watch and they expect a good effort."
The manager can be an easy scapegoat when the results aren't there. The calls for the Blue Jays to make a change will only get louder if the losing continues.
Gibbons doesn't pay much attention to it.
"I don't read a whole lot [of reports], occasionally I might," he said. "I watch highlights and stuff on TV. But that goes with the business. Everybody gets fired in this business sooner or later. You really haven't done anything if you haven't."
The Blue Jays still have a decent foundation in place and some solid prospects in the system. Many of those minor leaguers will get a look over these last few weeks.
"We think this team could play better in the future," Gibbons said. "We're banking on that."