Meet the manager with John Gibbons
John Gibbons sat down with reporters for his Meet the Manager session on Monday afternoon here at the Winter Meetings in Nashville. All managers across Major League Baseball will sit through a similar media session this week with Boston skipper John Farrell scheduled to talk on Tuesday afternoon.
A nice bonus of this session is that the full transcript is provided to reporters by ASAP Sports. You can find my article about this scrum on the main media site but here’s with the full transcript from the event:
Q. Your role this week is what? We know what Alex does when it comes to trade signings, but when you’re in the room with him, what contributions does a manager make?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, what we do in there, you might throw out a name or two you’re thinking about trying to acquire or those kind of things, and he might go around and room and ask our opinions on different guys, if we know them, what do we think, what does that do to the team. But one thing about Alex, he wants everybody’s opinion and he’s got to make the decision. Kind of slow today and not much happening, but that’s kind of what happens at these meetings, and then the managers do these things and you turn around and go home.
Q. What were your thoughts coming into today?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, I did that the first go‑around here, but it’s been a while. But yeah, it’s always a ‑‑ it’s an exciting time because I’ve been out of it a while. One thing, it’s always good to see some familiar faces that we have here.
Q. It’s a little different coming into these meetings, for the last couple years it’s been about what are they going to give up. Now you guys are coming in from a position of strength looking to maybe add some depth as opposed to what are we going to do.
JOHN GIBBONS: We’re feeling good right now, there’s no question about it. It was a big trade for us and signing Cabrera. So they’ve really done a nice job of bringing in some players. I said earlier when I got hired, now it’s a job that the manager and the coaching staff to pull it all together and get the most out of these guys. But it’s a good position to be in. This job came out of nowhere for me, and to be sitting there looking at some of the players that they acquired in doing that, makes it that much nicer. I would have taken the job if he hadn’t made that deal, but it makes it much nicer to take it now.
Q. Is there enormous pressure on you?
JOHN GIBBONS: There’s always pressure, no doubt about it, because a lot is expected in the baseball world and the country of Canada and Toronto specifically there. But yeah, that’s a good thing. That means you’ve got a good team. But there’s always pressure in this business to perform.
Q. Alex was saying he was blown away by how many free agents are interested now in being a Blue Jay. Do you get that sense in baseball, since the move how much of a popular distinction is now for players?
JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, everybody is excited about it. When you turn on the TV, you hear about the Toronto Blue Jays a lot because of what they did and what the potential is here. So it’s an exciting time. You’ve got to go out and do it. You can talk all the want, this time of year that’s what the game is. But come April you’ve got to perform.
Q. Have you gotten a chance in the last two weeks to talk to most of the guys you want to talk to?
JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, I’ve talked to most of the guys. I’ve had trouble getting ahold of some of those guys down in Latin America, but yeah, I’ve talked to just about all of them.
Q. What have you heard from the new guys especially?
JOHN GIBBONS: They’re all excited, too. A group of them came over, all played together last year so they all know each other, but there’s a lot of new faces. And the guys that have been here, they look at if the trade is good for them, too. You know what, our team got that much better and they’re excited about it. Everybody wants to win. And normally guys want to get to the Big Leagues and become everyday players and establish themselves, and once you do that, it’s time to win.
So they’re all ready to go. But I’m going to have to familiarize myself a little bit more when we get to Spring Training because these guys don’t know me and I’ve got to get to know them, and we’ve got to come together as a team. You just can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t play as a team or focus on the same thing, you don’t get anywhere.
Q. Do you like the idea of having a guy like Buehrle as a veteran of this team? Even when Doc was here, he was still growing with the team a little bit before he became that veteran guy.
JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, Mark has been around a long time, been very, very successful. Naturally he’s going to be a leader. And you don’t need to be a local guy. He’s the kind of guy that can lead by example. Those guys, when things get tough, you can always fall back on them. They have a tendency of pulling you through it and making a big pitching outing and getting a big hit to get a win. Veterans have been around a while and they’ve got that knock.
Q. Have you started looking at your roster and picture how you’d like the rotation to go or a batting order to do and utilizing what you have?
JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, I’ve tinkered with it from Day 1 when I got the job. It’s a pretty good lineup now. You’re not scrambling to jam guys in up at the top, but getting somebody who can hit at the top of the order. Now we’ve got so many guys that can do that, we’ll sometimes have to move some guys back. But it’s too early to say who’s going to hit where. I can probably tell you the top four right now, definitely Reyes, probably going to be Cabrera and then Bautista and Encarnacion, I can guarantee that.
Q. Alex was saying you talked about giving the opportunity to hit lefties. What gives you the belief that he can hit lefties?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, Adam broke in when I was there, I think there was a couple September call‑ups. After I got fired the first time, he got called up for good and really took off. From Day 1 in the Minor Leagues he could always hit. I mean, he was drafted as a hitter and he was always successful. Last couple years he’s fallen on some tough times, but he’s hit before, so I expect he’s going to get every opportunity to do the same because he’s got a chance to be a key part of this. And he hit before, he should be able to hit again.
Q. What other things are going to be your priorities?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, you know, I just sit back and kind of look at the team, just kind of dream, if you will. But right now with the new coaching staff, the new bench coach, we just kind organizing Spring Training because that’s the main thing in front of us right now, that’s basically it, and then finding a bullpen coach. Hopefully we’ll have something next week where we’re going to do with that. Other than that it’s been quiet and just enjoying the moment.
Q. Have you had a chance to talk to Brett? And what have people told you about him?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, you know, I had ‑‑ he’s a very aggressive kid with a ton of talent, got a chance to be one of the best players in the game. That’s what I’ve heard about him. I’ve heard, too, that he’s learned at this level on the basis he made some mistakes, that kind of thing. I read that, I’ve heard that. But he’s a kid ‑‑ from everything I’ve heard he’s the kind of guy you want on your team, he’ll run through the wall for you, and he’s got a ton of talent. That’s the bottom line. And with more experience, actually he’ll become a smarter player.
Q. Have you had a chance to chat with him?
JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, I talked to him a couple times on the phone, yeah, and he’s excited. He’s a gung-ho kid you can just tell by talking to him. Also a friend of mine was one of his hitting coaches when he was down in Double‑A with the Brewers, and he said, “You’ll love this kid. He’ll go through a wall for you.” I’ve heard nothing but good things to be honest with you.
Q. The common thread in describing you as a manager here is knowing how to handle a bullpen. In your mind what is it you do with a bullpen that makes it effective?
JOHN GIBBONS: You know, that would be tough to answer. First of all, you’ve got to have good guys pitching down there. You’ve got to have some talent, some fire power, then you just piece it together. With a good starting rotation that always makes a bullpen better because those guys are working less, and then you’ve just got to identify the roles and run with it, know who can do what. And you’ve still got to protect those guys. You don’t want to kill them down there. You piece it together like a puzzle in a lot of ways.
Q. Do you go into Spring Training in that regard with an open mind in terms of roles?
JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, because they threw some things at me. I know Janssen, he had a great year and he took over as a closing role. We’ll find out about Sergio, see where he’s at, find out whether coming out of the gates he’s healthy enough. It make take him a while to get going. But guys like Delabar and Lincoln, good arms, see how they fit. Luke, the lefty, it’s always valuable to have a good lefty that can get lefties out. A lot of guys can’t. We’ll piece it together. But I’ve got to learn these guys. And you can’t judge everything off Spring Training because you know how that is sometimes, so I’ll rely on these other guys to tell me some of that.
Q. Is part of it letting them know when they’re going to be used and not getting them up too often?
JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, that’s where it takes its toll on the bullpen is you get them up and you don’t use them. If you get them up and you get them in the game, everything is fine. There’s ups and downs that really take their toll on these guys. You can’t always do that, but if you’re conscious of it and say ‑‑ especially with your late‑inning guys, you’ve really got to guard those guys because if things are going well they’re going to be in a lot of games, so you’ve got to be conscious of that.
Q. Is Mike the second baseman as far as you’re concerned or could Emilio Bonifacio win that job?
JOHN GIBBONS: As of Thursday he’s signed to do that, but he’s very versatile. He can play several positions. Bonifacio can also play the outfield. We do have to figure that out, but it’s a good problem to have because they’re both very talented kids, men. So we’ll see.
Q. Update on Sergio Santos?
JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, we don’t know anything about Sergio really. Well, we know ‑‑ we don’t know how far along he is. You’ve got to be conscious of that.
Q. Regardless of that, what Janssen did last year, would you give him the chance to keep the job because it’s his to lose?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, that’s tough to answer right now, but I’m a big fan of Casey’s because I had him before, I know what he’s capable of doing. Any time you come off a surgery, you’ve got to be ‑‑ you don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t want to get ahead of myself. But it’s nice to have both those guys and maybe can do that. Casey had a little minor procedure himself, so you’ve got to be conscious of that, of both those guys.
Q. Can you compare how you’re looking for a place in this division?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, I still think it’s the toughest division in baseball. That first go‑around, it was tough. You were looking up at Boston and New York all the time. Tampa was on the verge of really coming into their own. You could see some young players ‑‑ in Baltimore at that time they scored runs; on the nights they pitched they were very tough. I followed them over the years, and New Yorks and Bostons, they’re always going to be ‑‑ Boston had a down year last year, but that’s not going to last. And Baltimore gets into the postseason. Tampa is right there. So it’s a tough grind, tough division to play in, but that’s why we feel with the trades we made and signing of Cabrera gives us a shot. But you’ve got to go out and do it, but it gives us a lot of excitement.
Q. How do you feel about the starting rotation?
JOHN GIBBONS: Very good. Very good. You know, I think every team in baseball is looking for five guys they can count on, and through this trade we added two pretty good ones. So that was a question mark coming in before they made that trade. Yeah, we feel pretty good.
You’re going to have your ups and downs throughout a year, guys are going to get banged up, there will be some injuries. That’s just part of it. Now the thing is you’ve got to focus on depth. So one of these guys or two of those guys go down for any length of time, can we cover it. That’s where teams get in trouble. Same thing with the bullpen. Hopefully you have a guy sitting down in Triple‑A that can come up and maybe has a little experience and he’s not just a BP arm out there.
Q. How much do you know about Happ? He pitched in the National League. And what do you expect out of the fifth starter in terms of performance?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, you want a guy that’s good and competitive that can keep you in a ballgame, give you a chance to win. The thing I remember most about Happ was a Spring Training game the last time I was here and we played the Phillies over there, and he just blew us away for five innings or whatever his stint was. I can remember talking to J. P. about that afterward. Who’s this guy right here? I kind of lost track, but he’s got a good arm. He strikes out ‑‑ he’s a big strikeout guy, and he’s be a perfect fit. Here’s his opportunity over here to do it, and lefties are always valuable. Some of the best hitters in the game are lefties.
Q. It seems like there’s a special window for the Blue Jays who have been shut out for a long time. Is this your time?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, we hope so. But I mean, it’s still early in the offseason. The Yankees are going to be good. They won it again last year. You know, the Red Sox, there’s too much pressure on them not to do something to strengthen their team after what they went through last year. That’s a given. And Tampa, they come at you and they’re one of the better teams in baseball every year the last few years. And Baltimore.
I don’t know if this is our window. We think we’re very competitive and we can compete in this division now, but we’re hoping this is our time.
Q. Is it going to be strange at all playing in your division after managing another team?
JOHN GIBBONS: No, because I don’t really know them. If I knew them, it might be a little bit different, but I know he’s a fixture there in Boston. They really wanted him back. After all those years of being the pitching coach there. I did get a chance ‑‑ I was in town with Kansas City a couple years ago and got a chance to meet John, but I really don’t know him, but I’m sure he’ll do a great job over there.
Q. He knows your players fairly well.
JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, but you know, to get him out or hit him, you’ve still got to execute, and we like our guys.
Q. What else do you think this team needs to finalize the roster?
JOHN GIBBONS: To be honest with you, I like the way it sits now, but you’re always looking to strengthen it in whatever way. I think the big thing now is depth, to overcome some injuries, what have you. But you know, they put together a pretty good group of guys. You can’t have everything. Nobody has a perfect team. You’re never going to ‑‑ we sure like the way it’s shaping up right now.
Q. Have you had conversations about what went wrong last year, what things have you heard?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, just from what I’ve heard and what I’ve read and things like that, baserunning was an issue, running into needless outs. I can’t comment on a lot of that because I wasn’t here. That’s not fair to anybody that was. I guess this would be my chance because I don’t know most of these guys. To get to know them, make my own judgments. You know, throw my philosophies at them, that kind of thing, my style of play.
So I can’t worry about that. It’s a new start for them. It’s a new start for me. But this team has got very good team speed. We’ve got power. We’ve got the pitching. So we need to play smart baseball is basically all I can tell you right now.
Q. On the running game….
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, you know, you’ve got guys and that’s their game and they’ve been very successful about it and they do it, you don’t want to shut that down. That’s why we got them, because they can do those things. So go for it, but be smart, too. Because we have some hitters sitting in the middle of that lineup that are ready to drive you in and hit home runs and those kind of things. So be smart about it. We don’t want to run unnecessary outs or ‑‑ still, you’ve got to be successful at a high rate, you know, when you’re stealing. But hey, that’s your game, go for it. That way you come up against tough pitching on a given night, low run scoring game, those guys can generate the runs for you and that’s how you can win those games. But they’re getting paid a lot of money to do those things and we’re not going to get in the way of that.
Q. Which coach will handle the running game?
JOHN GIBBONS: Luis will handle that, and Murph, and then me.
Q. When you were interviewing with Alex on the weekend in Toronto, since then when you’re talking with players on the phone, has anyone mentioned the clubhouse situation late in the season, especially the players? Have you talked to them about it?
JOHN GIBBONS: No. I had heard some things and read it, but I didn’t want to approach that. You’re going to get guys, different views on what’s going on in there, and you’ve got ‑‑ I’m sure you run into guys that weren’t fond of somebody that might have been here, that kind of thing, so you’re going to get different stories and that kind of thing, so I didn’t want to approach that.
I’m taking over, so this is my chance to kind of shape the clubhouse the way I think it is. I think they’ve got some good guys on the team, but there’s going to be a bunch of new faces, so you’ve still got to come together.
Q. You mentioned your approach and philosophy. How would you describe it?
JOHN GIBBONS: My personality or ‑‑
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, I think any smart manager, you’ve got to take a look and see what you’ve got. Like I said a minute ago, we’ve got really good team speed, we’ve got guys that can hit the ball in the seats. And you’ve got to remember, too, in our division, it’s a good division for hitting home runs, too. We’ve got guys that can do that, some guys that are just good hitters.
We’ll turn them loose when we need to and then it’s just pretty much just running the pitching staff is where everything comes into play. Getting the most out of your players. You’ve got to get the most out of who they are. That’s what I think successful managers do. I’ve said before, and I don’t want to minimize things, but baseball is different from other sports where it’s not all Xs and Os because most teams bunt at the same times, whatever the situation might be. They’ll hit and run, steal and all that, depending on who’s on the mound. You know what I’m talking about. Fastball, play calling, Xs and Os is everything, so baseball is getting the most out of what you’ve got, and the guys that are successful in this business do that. Your top managers, that’s what they do. And then they’re smart enough, I believe, to get out of the way and let those guys ‑‑ you can’t control everything in this business. That’s why you see talented teams win and less talented lose. Turn them loose and let them use their skills.
Q. A lot of times when you bring good players together, they don’t always match.
JOHN GIBBONS: No doubt, yeah.
Q. So that’s part of the job, too.
JOHN GIBBONS: That’s a big part of it, yeah. A lot of new faces. Everybody has got to be looking for the same goal, and that’s to win. You’d like that to always be the case, but different teams that’s not always the case.
So we’ve got to make sure we get that out of them, and I think we will. But it should be fun. But there’s no substitute for talent in this business, and so going in we’ve got a lot of talent. That’s why we feel really good.
Q. Is it going to be tough on you not having at least Lawrie and Reyes all Spring Training because of the World Baseball Classic and maybe some other guys?
JOHN GIBBONS: Yeah, you’d rather have it the other way, but it’s been very successful. It gives them a chance to represent their countries. But you’d rather have it the other way because you want them doing their normal routine instead of going off and just playing games. But nothing you can do about it.
Q. Would you have anything to say about Bautista, whether he plays or not?
JOHN GIBBONS: Well, I know the team’s, the ballclub’s, talked to him about it might be smart not to. But if you get a chance to represent your country, that’s kind of tough to get in the way of that. But you’re still ‑‑ your player is still your number one responsibility. So whatever that means.
Q. There’s been a lot of talk about expanding instant replay after some of the things that have happened. What’s your view on that?
JOHN GIBBONS: You know, I wouldn’t get carried away with it because I think that’s one of the beauties of the game is the human element. The umpires, they don’t miss a lot. Maybe fair or foul balls down the lines would be something I would look at to go along with the home runs. But as far as trapped balls and things like ‑‑ I don’t know, now you’re getting ‑‑ expanding it any more than that, I think it would mess up the game too much.
Like I said, these guys are pretty good at what they do. When you slow those things down and actually see it. But we all make mistakes out there. That’s one of the beauties of baseball. The human element can get in the way sometimes.