February 28, 2013
On the Beat
Not Fishing for Last Place
John Gibbons was strolling through the Blue Jays’ clubhouse when he spotted a reporter. He stopped, shook hands, exchanged pleasantries, and then said, “I bet this is the last place in the world you thought you would ever see me, huh?”
Rarely does someone get the chance to manage the same team twice, but Gibbons is the second recycled Blue Jays manager in the last four years. Cito Gaston came back for a three-year stint from 2008-10 after serving as the skipper from 1989-97 and winning back-to-back World Series in 1992-93. Gibbons didn’t have that kind of success in his first go-round north of the border with the Blue Jays—which is why he Gaston replaced him—posting a 303-303 record from 2004-08. However, in his first year back on the job after three seasons as the Royals’ bench coach and another as manager of the Padres’ Double-A farm club in his hometown of San Antonio, Blue Jays fans are talking playoffs.
“There are expectations on our club, and there should be,” Gibbons said. “I’m not going to downplay that. (General manager) Alex Anthopoulos did a heckua job of going out and getting a lot of talent over the winter. This team should win. It’d be a big disappointment to me and everyone else if we didn’t win.”
Anthopoulos did an extreme roster makeover after Toronto finished 73-89 last season. He took advantage of the Marlins going into cost-slashing mode and was able to acquire left-hander Mark Buerhle, right-hander Josh Johnson, shortstop Jose Reyes, and super utility player Emilio Bonifacio from them in a 12-player trade. The Blue Jays didn’t stop there, though; they also acquired last year’s National League Cy Young Award winner, R.A. Dickey, from the Mets, and signed second baseman Maicer Izturis and left fielder Melky Cabrera as free agents.
“It’s exciting,” Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista said. “We’re never the favorites to win the division or expected by anyone outside our clubhouse to go to the playoffs. It’s good that people are taking the Blue Jays seriously. It’s been a long time since this franchise has won. It’s been way too long.”
The Blue Jays have not been to the postseason since winning their second World Series in 1993. The only teams with longer current post-season droughts are the Royals (1985) and Pirates (1992).