The On Deck Circle

Where practice swings don’t exist

Mock Interview With John Gibbons

Posted by Blake Murphy on March 5, 2021

I’ve long thought Blue Jays’ bench boss John Gibbons was an idiot. So when MLB.com sat down to interview him as part of their spring training coverage, I couldn’t help but think I was better suited to answer those questions. So here is that interview in its entirety, with me pulling Gibbons’ strings (instead of Ricciardi).

John Gibbons is entering his fourth season as the Blue Jays’ manager. This time around, Gibbons is quick to say that the team he’s been charged with leading is the best group he’s had at his disposal. A strong pitching staff and a lineup that appears to be returning to full strength have Gibbons excited about the upcoming campaign, pushing any concerns about his job status or his actual job description to the back of his mind. “Just let them play,” is the philosophy for ‘08.

MLB.com: Watching this team for the first few weeks down here in Florida, they seem a lot looser and they’re having a lot of fun. Do you see that as a sign of confidence with this group?
Gibbons: It’s definitely a sign of confidence. Some of the best teams of all time were laid back; The Cleveland Indians from Major League, that team The Rookie coached, the Mighty Ducks, and last year’s Pittsburgh Pirates! The fact that these guys would rather goof off and joke around with each other than listen to me is a wonderful sign.

MLB.com: Earlier this spring, Roy Halladay made a comment about last year’s clubhouse, saying that it seemed like a sense of urgency was lacking in the room. How do you think some of these new additions — Scott Rolen and David Eckstein, for example — can help that?
Gibbons: Well, David’s legs are so small he has to run everywhere just to keep up, so that will definitely help the hustle and sense of urgency. Rolen has shown in two different battles with managers that he can create a real sense of urgency for (read: to leave) a team. The biggest influence here will be A.J. Burnett, who is no doubt trying to zoom through this season to hit the free agent market next winter.

MLB.com: Do you feel bringing in those guys who have World Series experience can help the younger players realize that attitude even more?
Gibbons: I’m not sure what you mean by ‘World Series.’ My focus has always been on 2nd place in the AL East, we don’t play for any more than that. I didn’t even know Rolen and Eckstein had a ring! Really, the Cardinals won the World Series? I’ll be damned, maybe we do have a shot…

MLB.com: You’ve said multiple times that this is the best club that you’ve had since being the manager in Toronto. What specifically makes you say that?
Gibbons: Well, I’ll be taking on less responsibility this year. I’m a big believer in addition by subtraction, and I figure the club can only get better the less I do. For example, I’ll no longer be giving the ‘don’t steal’ signal to our burners or sending out a ‘swing away’ signal to John McDonald with a man on second and nobody out. Oh, also, nobody seems to be hurt this year, which is a good sign. Then again, nobody told me BJ Ryan was hurt last year, that’s why I let him throw 37 pitches against Detroit in April.

MLB.com: A lot of the focus this spring and over the winter were on teams like the Red Sox and Yankees, as usual, as well as the Tigers, Angels and the Mariners, with the additions they’ve made. It seems like the Blue Jays have been flying under the radar. Do you like it that way?
Gibbons: Of course we’re flying under the radar, we haven’t done anything since 1993! We also don’t have a lick of personality on this team outside of JP’s scumbag look and Rolen’s awkward sense of humor. Rios still doesn’t speak English, Halladay and Vernon don’t really talk, and Burnett, well we’re still waiting for the day he pulls a Kenny Rogers. In 2009 we won’t be below the radar though; I’ll be fired and the stories will focus on the new manager.

MLB.com: If this team does succeed and does compete in the American League East, you won’t be surprised, though?
Gibbons: Definitely not. Looking at the career stats of all our guys, and that’s the only baseball stuff I did all offseason, some of these guys are real players. If everyone re-hits their career highs and nobody goes down, I wouldn’t be surprised to see us go all the way to the…what was it you called it, World Series? Wouldn’t surprise me at all.

MLB.com: If the team doesn’t meet its expectations early on, is it hard not to keep concerns about your job status or general manager J.P. Ricciardi’s status in the back of your mind?
Gibbons: Hey, I’m taking things one day at a time. To be honest, I can’t believe I’m still here. I figured when I got the job it was only so JP had a scapegoat while he re-rebuilt the team. My job status isn’t really in the back of my mind though, no. A guy with major league managing experience and 18 games of major league catching experience is a hot commodity on the minor league market.

MLB.com: As far as the pitching staff goes, how hard do you think it’s going to be for guys like Dustin McGowan and Shaun Marcum to repeat the success they had last year?
Gibbons: Oh, shit, I hope they repeat their success. I wasn’t really responsible for their success, and I didn’t monitor them over the offseason, so it’s just fingers crossed that they didn’t pull a Brandon League and do weights without the coaching staff’s input. Oh, Shaun Marcum? I’m hoping that extra muscle is steroid related…you don’t get overdeveloped right lat muscles from steroids.

MLB.com: It goes without saying that putting them behind guys like Halladay, who can sometimes be taken for granted because of how consistent he is, and a pitcher with so much potential in A.J. Burnett, you’ve got to be pretty excited about the possibilities for that staff this year.
Gibbons: I’m not sure if you can call Roy consistent. He didn’t have an appendectomy his entire career until last year, so that was an inconsistent injury from him. Dusty really looks up to Roy, right down to the bad facial hair, so he’ll at least learn that ‘hit this and I’ll kill you’ look from Doc. That should be good for a few extra strikeouts. And AJ, well, our kids who get their free agency rights soon probably want to lean on to him and examine how you go about having a contract year.

MLB.com: Are you surprised at all by the strides B.J. Ryan has made in his comeback from the Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery he had last May?
Gibbons: JP told me not to comment on BJ’s real status, sorry.

MLB.com: Even if he is ready by Opening Day, are you comfortable enough with Jeremy Accardo that he can get saves in April and kind of ease Ryan back into that closer role?
Gibbons: I think Accardo showed last year that he can handle the dual emerging-closer, emerging-heartthrob role. With BJ back, Jeremy probably won’t get many save opportunities. As you know, I’m perfectly comfortable leaving BJ in way too long, and I have no intention of easing BJ into anything. He’s our closer. Every game, every inning.

MLB.com: Like Ryan, you’ve got a lot of guys coming back from injuries: Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, Gregg Zaun, Brandon League and Rolen, to name a few. From what you’ve seen in these last few weeks, does it look like everyone’s responding well?
Gibbons: Well, Zaun is ahead of the bunch thanks to a well invested $500. Everyone else seems to be doing well enough, though League is yet to hit triple digits on the radar gun. I’m worried about Vernon, though. He hasn’t got a hit yet in spring training, so I’m going to have to jerk the lineup around for the next six weeks while he figures it out.

MLB.com: Is there one guy among that group of offensive players coming back from injuries who, while they’re all key to making the lineup work, is a guy you see as the most important piece to have back at full strength?
Gibbons: We need them all at full strength, that way I can accurately experiment and break my own personal record with 162 different lineups used in 2008. Luckily, we’re deep enough and versatile enough for me to do that. The most important cog there, though, is Vernon again, since I feel comfortable batting him anywhere from 1 to 9, which is flexibility every quick-to-make-rash-changes manager should have.

MLB.com: In the American League, it’s not a given anymore that the Wild Card will come out of the East. With that in mind, how important is it to get that offense back to where it was two years ago, when it was one of the best groups in the league?
Gibbons: Offense, offense, offense. Geez, you’d think I had watched batting practice this past week or something. We didn’t make the playoffs in 2006 because of our pitching, and we didn’t make the playoffs last year because of our hitting. I’ve been begging JP to make a trade, our 2006 pitching for our 2007 hitters, to complete the best possible lineup, but for whatever reason he doesn’t want to bring Shea Hillenbrand back. The key to the offense then and this year will be power, which is the only statistic I’ll look at all season.

MLB.com: Still, you’ve got to like the chances of your pitching staff up against a lot of those tough American League lineups.
Gibbons: Pitching, pitching, pitching. Geez, you’d think I’d been a real professional catcher before or something. See the above question, but the key for our pitchers this year will be for me to let them work through their problems at the big league level. It worked for McGowan last year finally, so I’ve deleted the Syracuse Chiefs from my speed dial and lavalife.com friends list. Any issues the pitchers have will be worked on up here, in the majors, in the game, regardless of the score. If you’re having control problems, you can rest assured I’m leaving you on the hill to work them out.

Note: These questions were actually taken from a bluejays.com interview, so all credit for them goes to Jordan Bastian of bluejays.com. You can see the original interview here.

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