Gibbons gives his thanks to Jays
Ex-skipper will be headed home on Saturday after dismissal
PITTSBURGH -- John Gibbons answered his phone on Friday morning and Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi, the manager's close friend for more than two decades, was on the other line.
It might've easily been business as usual, but this particular call, whether it was anticipated or not, was one that Gibbons didn't want to receive. In light of Toronto's lackluster performance this season, Gibbons was dismissed from his seat as the club's manager.
As crushing as the move might have been for Gibbons, there's no denying that delivering the news was also tough on Ricciardi. The pair roomed together in their days in the New York Mets farm system and it was Ricciardi who gave Gibbons a chance to manage in the big leagues years later.
Ricciardi, who hired Cito Gaston to take over as Toronto's manager, has let go of three managers during his tenure as the Jays' general manager. This one stung a little more than the others.
"Obviously, this one takes on a different aspect," Ricciardi said. "I've known Gibby for close to 25 years. He's not only a co-worker, but he's a good friend. But, any time you work with friends, the first thing you should always put on the table is that this day may come.
"It doesn't take anything away from your relationship, but it was a very tough day in that standpoint."
Gibbons, who will likely leave Pittsburgh for his home in San Antonio, Texas, on Saturday, took time to hold a conference call with reporters to discuss his dismissal. Toronto hadn't lived up to expectations through the season's first three months, so he said he understood the decision.
Even though the news hurt, Gibbons said he had no hard feelings toward Ricciardi.
"I'm fine," Gibbons said. "You're always disappointed, but that's the reality of these jobs. A lot of good things happened while I was in Toronto, but nothing really great. And by 'great,' I mean postseason. That's what the organization was looking for."
"I've got nothing but thanks to the organization for giving me that opportunity -- particular J.P. He stuck by me, gave me a shot. There's not going to be anything but fond memories. There's a lot of good friends I've met up there.
"It's a disappointing end on the baseball level but life goes on."
The part that was most frustrating for Gibbons was that, in hiring Gaston, the Blue Jays also relieved three coaches of their duties. Hitting coach Gary Denbo, first-base coach Ernie Whitt and third-base coach Marty Pevey were all shown the door to clear room for a staff picked by Gaston.
"That's the toughest part of it all," Gibbons said. "If it just effects me, that's one thing, but when other coaches are involved -- that's their livelihoods. That's what bothers me.
"But, sometimes you bring a new guy in you have to give him a chance to bring his own guys in. I feel more for the guys who were let go on our staff than I do for myself."
Gibbons said he made sure to talk to the coaches who were let go on Friday.
"I spoke with all of them," he said. "I thanked them and I apologized to them -- that it came down to this. There were a lot of great friendships that I forged with those guys and they worked awful hard."
The 46-year-old Gibbons assumed Toronto's full-time managerial position in 2005 and went on to compile a 305-305 record at the helm. Prior to being named the Jays' ninth full-time manager, Gibbons served as a first-base coach and a bullpen catcher prior to that in 2002, when he joined the staff.
Gibbons said he owes Ricciardi for the chance to coach and manage in the Majors.
"I owe him everything," Gibbons said. "He brought me in and gave me a job in Toronto and then gave me an opportunity to manage in the big leagues. I've got nothing but appreciation and gratitude.
"Regardless of what happened, we know it's a business and we're still great friends. Our friendship doesn't enter into that -- it's a business."
The issue was that the Blue Jays, who entered this season with lofty expectations, have labored offensively and currently sit in last place in the American League East. Entering Friday, Toronto had lost five games and six series in a row, posting a 4-13 record over its past 17 games.
A frustrating aspect for the Jays has been that, while the club has boasted one of the game's better pitching staffs, the offense has struggled to produce much support. Toronto led the Majors with 20 wins in May, but has been unable to build upon that strong showing.
Gibbons was asked if he believed the team had the ability to turn things around under Gaston.
"I sure hope so. Who knows?" Gibbons said. "Cito's got a great reputation. His record speaks for itself with what he's accomplished in the game. If anyone can do it, it'd be him. I'll be pulling for these guys."
Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells noted that Gibbons was well-liked in the clubhouse and, as laid back as the former manager can be, Gibbons also made sure to hold players accountable.
"If we had guys not running balls out or things like that," Wells said, "trust me, Gibby would let you know about it. There's a handful of times already this year where there'd be a closed door and something would be going on and he wouldn't be happy about it.
"He demanded the same thing that Cito is going to demand: be on time and play hard."
Gibbons said that the only plans he has now is to head home to spend time with his family. As for possibly coaching or managing again, Gibbons said he doesn't know any other way.
"I'm sure I'll stay in baseball," Gibbons said. "I grew up in this profession. In what capacity, who knows? We'll see. It will be enjoyable to have a couple months with my kids. I haven't done that since they were born. Heck, I haven't done that since 1980.
"There will be a void in my life -- there's no question -- for the time being, but life goes on. That's for sure. These jobs are short-lived basically anyway. You enjoy them while you can and try to get the most of them while you can."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.