MLB: Chicago White Sox at Toronto Blue Jays

Maybe It’s Time for a Blue Jays Managerial Shake Up

I’ve defended John Gibbons for a while. I’m of the opinion that some managers are bad at their jobs, some are extraordinary, but most are just there – not having a huge impact on their teams either way. Until this season, I’ve put Gibbons into that last category. He did some things well, and some things poorly, but they seemed to even out over the course of a six month season. Recently, however, I’ve taken a 180 degree turn and have no faith in Gibbons at all, thinking he is part of that first group of managers who actively hurt their ball clubs.

This season hasn’t started out well for Gibbons. First, he made the peculiar decision to stick Kevin Pillar in the leadoff spot despite all evidence suggesting he should do something else. Predictably, the man notorious for swinging at anything thrown at him struggled immensely in that role, batting .188/.235/.271 in his 12 games in the leadoff position before being demoted back to the bottom of the lineup. Gibbons then inserted Michael Saunders into the top of the lineup where he has thrived, batting .310/.375/.448 in seven games played. However, the results here don’t actually matter; the process is most important, and the process was flawed from the start. When the player with a career walk percentage of 3.9% (defined by the FanGraphs glossary as worse than awful) was put into a position where he had to see pitches and get on base, something went wrong.

Then, there was the dress controversy. A manager is at his best when he doesn’t make the news, and “Gibby” has failed at that this season for much more than his shoddy bullpen management. He became the topic of conversation when he couldn’t control his tongue after a Blue Jays controversial loss a few weeks ago, saying, “maybe we’ll come out wearing dresses tomorrow.” That was bad enough, but it was at least a heat of the moment slip. However, when given the opportunity to apologize the next day, he doubled down and told everybody to ‘lighten up’. Instead of apologizing and trying his best to make sure the stories surrounding the team were about baseball, he couldn’t give up his pride, and did the wrong thing. Again.

Then there has been John Gibbons’ actual on field management, which is the easiest part of his job to dissect. It could just be recency bias, but it feels like there have been a lot more opportunities to second guess the manager this season than in years past. There are too many examples to run through them all, but if you have been following the team, you’ve surely seen a few of them. However, Wednesday night’s game was the final straw, and the reason I am writing this piece, so let’s break down exactly what happened.

Marco Estrada was throwing a gem, but the Blue Jays could not do anything on the offensive side of the ball. After six innings, Estrada had thrown 90 pitches, and the score was still 0-0. The obvious move here was to keep him in for the seventh, right? 90 pitches is a lot, but still a small enough total that Estrada should have been able to pitch one more inning. On most nights, that would be right, but yesterday Estrada was seen grabbing his right shoulder throughout the game – between pitches, between batters, and in the dugout. A pitcher with a sore shoulder should have his night ended at 90 pitches, if not before, let alone one who has just recently recovered from a back injury. Instead, John Gibbons kept Marco Estrada in the game, and he promptly gave up two runs by allowing three of the first five batters to reach base. That would end up being all the White Sox needed to win, as they wound up taking the game 4-0.

It’s not the loss that is at issue though. Estrada threw 118 pitches on a night where his shoulder was pretty clearly bothering him. Maybe part of why that happened would seem to be because Gibbons didn’t want to go to the bullpen. As you probably noticed, they’ve been rather poor lately. Unfortunately, that would be another example of Gibbons trusting a small sample of data because of its recency, rather than opting for the conventional move.

That may not be the reason though, as John Gibbons apparently didn’t even know that Estrada’s shoulder was hurting him.

What? How could a manager not know that his pitcher was hurting? Estrada even came out late for the start of an inning because he was being treated in the clubhouse. Joel is right. It is odd. That’s something a manager needs to know. Now perhaps Gibbons did know and is simply choosing not to discuss it with reporters. But if that’s the case he is not excused; he is simply negligent instead of ignorant, neither of which is a good quality for a man at the helm of a major league baseball team.

Overall, it seems like nothing has gone right for John Gibbons this season. The process behind his bullpen management has been poor, his lineup construction has been questionable at best, and it seems he’s lacking some basic communication with his players. Then, in addition to everything on the field, he created a story and refused to end it by doubling down and not apologizing.

I doubt that firing John Gibbons is a cure all. That won’t fix the Blue Jays relievers allowing everybody and their uncle to score. But maybe it would lead to the relievers being put into better positions where they can succeed. And it won’t stop the Blue Jays from striking out at historical levels. But it might lead to a change in approach by some players, and that could get this offense back to where it should be.

Josh Donaldson is right; this the “get it done league,” not the the “try” league. But in order for something to get done, you have to try first. Maybe it’s time to try somebody new at the helm of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Lead Photo: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

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17 comments on “Maybe It’s Time for a Blue Jays Managerial Shake Up”


Awful, awful, awful article. Estrada was throwing a 1 hitter through 6 innings. A 1 hitter and you think he should have been pulled at 90 pitches? Marco Estrada is a grown man – if he wasn’t healthy enough to pitch he could have (and would have) pulled himself. If he ever pulled a pitcher throwing a 1 hitter after 90 pitches and they lost, I can only imagine the article you would have written.


I have to agree with Stumpy, Estrada was pure dominant, he was a strike away from 7 shutout innings, and probably should’ve gotten a called strike on 3 Brett Lawrie anyways. Gibby didn’t go to his bullpen because his main setup guys Cecil and Storen have been garbage. Can’t blame the man. Also Estrada is not a young pitcher that will force himself to pitch if he is hurt.

Citing the Gibbons dress “controversy” non-controversy is also weird. The dude said he had no bad intentions, and mentioned that his own Mother, Wife, and Daughter found it funny as well, no need to get offended on behalf of them.


That’s fair. I’ve been extremely frustrated with Gibbons, and thought he should have pulled Marco, but you’re right that we would have castigated him either way.

MovieJay (@MovieJay)

It’s been my longstanding view that we need to fire Gibbons. For me it’s not about the second-guessing stuff about when to insert a reliever where. It’s about the overall style of play. A team’s play is a direct reflection of their manager, and we have a manager who’s more of a Jason Statham type when what you need for a manager is a Tom Hanks; a thinking man’s manager.

Gibbons is like an old-time, cigar-chomping, “Just go out there and swing real hard” kinda guy and it shows in our one-dimensional offense.

Our playoff opponents and our opponents so far this season have been pitching us very carefully, out of respect. Meanwhile, our hitters are being trained to wait around for a mistake pitch that isn’t coming because opposing pitchers are pitching more carefully. So we’re walking more than any other club in baseball, but we’re also striking out the most because we dig ourselves into a hole 0-2 and then can’t get out of it.

Last night we had runners on 2nd the first 3 innings with less than 2 outs and that lazy approach continued where everyone is standing in the batter’s box waiting for their fat home run pitch that isn’t coming. We’re cutting off more than half the field by doing that and we’re actively opposed then to manufacturing runs by hitting what they’re giving us by shortening our swings when needed and taking the ball the other way for base hits. The Royals were great at that last year and killed us as a result. Meanwhile, we’re still up there wishing and praying for a bad pitch and another 3-run HR while not taking hold of opportunities that are staring us right in the face, and for the buck stops with Gibbons.

A bad Cito team is better than a stacked Gibbons team because Cito had his guys working like a machine out there. They were a unit, not a 9 individuals hitting for themselves. They had the awareness not to get in the way of a stolen base attempt by fouling off pitches. He instilled the little things in his teams and I just don’t see that with Gibby. We need brains badly but all we’ve got is an obnoxious Texas redneck who doesn’t inspire much confidence in me. Everything’s a crapshoot to that guy. It doesn’t have to be that way. We should’ve easily been up 3-0 after 3 last night by playing sound, fundamental baseball.


I would agree IF we had a lineup of base hitters and speed. We DO NOT. How many stolen bases did we have last year? What was our hit and run success last season? We do NOT have hitters that slap the ball. We have a lineup of long ball hitters who can hit a ton of home runs but not a lot of singles and doubles. The problem is not with Gibby it is with the hitting coach and upper management . Everyone knew we needed help in the bullpen and where is it?? Where is that power arm that can come in and get batters out with strikes? Do we put Sanchez back in the pen and suffer starting pitching? If you look at the other contending teams they all shored up their pen with power arms and our great GM did NOT. Once the hitters start hitting for a better average and stop striking out as much they will drive in more runs which will help the pitchers. BUT Jays still need pen help and that is the GM’s problem not Gibby.


I’ve never been a fan of Gibbons, but this article is just unfair to the guy. He’s playing in the context of a cosy clique of Cleveland cast-offs, doing the best with the bullpen arms an incompetent GM was able to provide him.

Shapiro is waiting for Gibby to make a major enough mistake to justify replacing him with another piece of Cleveland dross, Eric Wedge. When that happens — and I’m expecting it to be in May — this team’s going to completely crash and burn.


Gross article! All around bad

terry mesmer

Baseball Prospectus now deleted from my RSS feed. Too many writers suffering from fecal cognition syndrome.


Your comment appears to exhibit a level of incisive thoughtfulness that indicates you’re very familiar with said syndrome, and not just from the perspective of a reader.


It seems as if the key factor with respect to Gibby is the degree to which he has the players’ confidence, which is difficult if not impossible for fans to assess.

Robert John Findlay

Gideon you need to stay on your day job looking at teeth and fixing them, your comments lack teeth.
The start of the problem last night was Martin he made a stupid stupid call with Navarro and he clobbered it, high heater gets him out he’s like Yogi Berra put it low and it’s gone…..Estrada gets Navarro and he’s out of the inning……Yes the bats stink…Tulo looks looking at strikes, seems like a competition to see who can strike out the most…. maybe they should shut down batting practise for a couple of days…maybe it might loosen them up…

Mike Slobogan

Never liked Gibbons before as our Mgr, like him less now. Judging by the comments on the article people are missing the pbvious on Estrada’s condition. He is arguably our best pitcher and most valuable asset. Any mgr in MLB would have noticed hom favouring his arm so many times and would have pulled him immediately. You try to protect your pitching assests at all costs even with precautions regardless how useless your bull pen is. Its early in the season and you want to take a chance on losing him for the whole year? You people know nothing about baseball just like Gibbons is clueless about managing. Great article.


Insulting people’s knowledge of baseball is a great way to prove, albeit only to yourself, that you know much more than they do and that any opinion you disagree with is invalid.


I’ve never been a huge fan of John Gibbons either, but I’m not sure about this article’s assessment of him. Regarding the Estrada situation: it doesn’t necessarily surprise me that a mediocre manager might not pick up on a pitcher’s discomfort owing to the many other aspects of the game that need attention. Assuming that Gibbons really wasn’t aware that Estrada was hurting, shouldn’t Pete Walker have alerted John Gibbons as well? Walker is, after all, the pitching coach. In that case, wouldn’t Pete Walker also deserve some blame? What about the Jays’ trainers? Aren’t they also supposed to keep management updated about players’ conditions? In light of all this: if Gibbons really didn’t know about Estrada hurting then either: (1) Estrada’s condition was good enough to the extent that Jays’ support staff didn’t report it to Gibbons, or (2) there are some serious communication problems among Jay’s field management staff.

It does seem unlikely that John Gibbons didn’t know that Estrada was hurting, so let’s assume that Gibbons did know. I can’t help but feel there’s quite a bit of hindsight bias in the article in this regard, though. Yes, in hindsight it’s easy to say that Estrada was hurting so he should have been removed before 90 pitches, especially since the Jays’ lost. Yet, I can also sympathize with Gibbons. His bullpen blew recent games even when they had the lead, so keeping his starting pitcher in (in spite of some pains) could have made sense at the time as a way to try something new. Perhaps Gibbons’ intent at the time was just to leave Estrada in for a little while longer, hoping that his offense will come alive in the meantime. Perhaps he knew Estrada was hurting, but felt he was strong enough to hold on just a little longer. “90 pitches” is a rather arbitrary number anyway; it’s less of a standard, more of a convention, and every pitcher is different.

To put this another way: if Estrada were removed from the game at 90 pitches, and the bullpen came in and blew the game as usual, I’m sure people would be fixated on how Gibbons keeps bringing in relievers just to have them lose the game time and time again. I can just imagine people saying, “why does that ignorant, incompetent field manager keep resorting to the same failing tactics? Estrada was throwing a gem; he should’ve stayed in the game, etc.” Alternatively, if the Jays won despite Estrada remaining in the game past 90 pitches, I’m sure few would question the move even though his shoulder would just be as sore.

I’d say the only way to truly assess the quality of field management decisions is to actually be there alongside the manager and assess them in real-time with the limited information, time and other resources available to them in those moments.


This place needs a Like button.


In addition, Estrada could have spoken up if he was feeling badly enough to think he should come out. Presumably, he didn’t, which suggests while he may have been feeling some discomfort, it wasn’t to the level of “hurting”.

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