It’s hard to argue with Alex Anthopoulos’ thought process when he completely overhauled the Toronto Blue Jays' lineup this past offseason. He had an opportunity to build around Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, two potential 40-home run hitters who were already under contract. He also had the chance to acquire premier pitching talent and a proven shortstop for relatively cheap.
It was also an optimal time to compete in the AL East. It appeared that the Yankees were getting older and slower, and the Red Sox were not the elite team that competed for the AL East pennant every year.
After the trade with the Miami Marlins that brought in Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and Jose Reyes, the team looked good. But in Anthopoulos’ mind, it was not good enough. He then traded for reigning Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey and catapulted the Blue Jays to odds-on favorites to win the AL East.
What went wrong? Since the season started, the Blue Jays have struggled in nearly every aspect of the game. Porous defense, weak starting pitching and untimely hitting have been the early-season headlines for this team. It may be a string of bad luck, but there may also be an underlying cause.
For starters, the supposedly weak AL East has been anything but this season. The Red Sox are currently 20-8 and own the best record in the MLB. The Blue Jays have also lost 11 of their 15 games within the division, which has made it extremely hard for them to contend for the pennant.
The last addition Anthopolous made this offseason was bringing back John Gibbons to manage his revamped baseball team. To many, myself included, it seemed like a questionable decision. On the surface, it appeared like Anthopoulos held nothing back while buying the team and then found his manager at the dollar store.
Gibbons managed the team from 2004-2008 and posted an even 305-305 record before being replaced midseason by Cito Gaston.
Speaking of which, where is Cito Gaston? Any chance the Blue Jays could lure him back? Or Ernie Whitt? Bobby Cox? At this point I'd take anyone. Someone get me Steve Bartman on the phone.
After his stint with the Blue Jays, Gibbons spent time as a coach with the Kansas City Royals, and then managed the San Antonio Missions of the Texas League. In other words, Anthopoulos pulled Gibbons out of relative obscurity to manage the team, or as I like to call it, the discount manager's aisle.
Gibbons has already had his share of blunders, such as pinch-hitting Colby Rasmus for Rajai Davis against the White Sox, only to see the move backfire twice at the plate and once on the field.
But when it comes time to play, it is hardly Gibbons getting the brunt of the criticism. The players are wholly accountable for their performance on the field. It is not Gibbons who has committed 18 errors this season. It is not him at the plate batting .228 or holding an ERA of 4.72. It is not he who has struck out 228 times.
Still, something's got to give.
Although the fans will never see what happens behind closed doors at the Rogers Centre, the Blue Jays' start this season raises some questions about the quality of managing.
It is Gibbons and his staff who are charged with ensuring the team is ready to compete every day from Opening Day to October. Given their sluggish start from day one and their tendency to fall behind extremely early in games, it is clear that something is amiss.
The manager is often the one to take the fall when teams struggle as badly as the Blue Jays have this season. Sometimes their firing is unjust, and other times it is deserved. There will always be differing opinions and frankly, no one's will be definitively right. In my opinion, Gibbons has got to go.
The Blue Jays need a new face in the dugout to get the team back on track. They have far more talent on their roster than their record would indicate, and they need someone who can bring out the best in them.
Has anyone been able to contact Cito yet?