Alex Anthopoulos snuck old friend John Gibbons into Toronto for dinner Sunday night and the Blue Jays’ general manager stunned the baseball world by trotting him out Tuesday morning in front of a Rogers Centre press conference to announce that Gibbons would be returning to manage the Blue Jays.
Anthopoulos updated the Toronto media for the first time on his 12-player trade with the Miami Marlins — revealing that an inquiry about pitcher Josh Johnson led to the mega deal — and the free-agent signing of outfielder Melky Cabrera. Gibbons, meanwhile, used his trademark Texas drawl to reacquaint himself with the familiar faces in the corps of veteran Blue Jays beat writers.
What did Anthopoulos and Gibbons do next? They hit the Queen Elizabeth Way en route to Buffalo and stopped for lunch at Chef’s Restaurant, surprising Bisons officials who were having a similar sitdown there with Marty Brown. And they told them they’d see them up Seneca Street at Coca-Cola Field for their media gathering later in the afternoon.
Like parent, like child. The Bisons brought back Brown Tuesday and the Jays did likewise with Gibbons — their skipper from 2004-2008 — on a two-year deal.
“I never expected this to happen. This is so far-fetched,” Gibbons told The Buffalo News. “The reality of it is I had to pinch myself, to be honest with you. So I’m going to run with it and see what happens. How many times do you get a second chance, especially in a place you’ve been working at with good people?
Gibbons went 305-305 with the Blue Jays, topped by an 87-75 mark and second-place finish in 2006. He was replaced by Cito Gaston in 2008 and spent the next three years as Kansas City’s bench coach. He spent last year at home in San Antonio, Texas, managing San Diego’s Double-A team.
Anthopoulos was Toronto’s assistant GM when Gibbons was the manager and told The News he believes most managers are better in their second stint.
He was looking for someone with big-league experience to replace John Farrell.
“[Gibbons] has over 600 games in the AL East, is .500 at a time when our payroll had its challenges and the teams in the East were winning 95-plus games every year back then,” Anthopoulos said.
“He’s stepped back to be a bench coach, went to the minor leagues. We feel it’s a perfect package for our organization. It’s not about the best manager, it’s about the right one for our organization. John Gibbons may not be the best manager for somebody else, but he’s the right one for us. ”
Gibbons was at home watching his old friend Anthopoulos quickly remake the Blue Jays’ roster. Now he’s in charge of it.
“The ownership and front office have stepped up and done their job,” Gibbons said.
“Now it’s our job to put together what’s still a new group. Job No. 1 is to make them a team.”
“Players would run through a wall for him,” Anthopoulos said. “They loved playing for him. The only thing that made me pause was what would the perception be, what are the optics going to be? How would it look? Is it a bit of a downer because he’s already been here?
“But the decisions I’ve regretted are where I didn’t go with my instincts and was more concerned with optics. … The best ones I’ve made I did what I felt was right.”