Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Rumble in Toronto

Other people have to be thinking the same thing I'm thinking about Blue Jays manager John Gibbons: fight one player, it's an isolated incident. Fight two players, it might be time for some anger management training.
Less than two months after challenging now-San Francisco Giant Shea Hillenbrand to duke it out, Gibbons reportedly did indeed duke it out with pitcher Ted Lilly after removing him from last night's game against Oakland.
The pair very obviously had words when Gibbons lifted Lilly from the game after an eight-run lead had all but melted away. Lilly went into the clubhouse tunnel, Gibbons shortly followed, and an few seconds later, every single person in the Toronto dugout jammed their heads into the tunnel entrance like high-school freshmen fogging up the classroom windows as the captain of the football team is about to take his frustration out on the president of the audio-visual club.
Gibbons reportedly bloodied his nose in the ensuing fisticuffs. Fortunately for the Blue Jays, Lilly didn't slam his pitching hand against anything hard, like Gibbons' skull.
Gibbons quasi-apologized for the incident in a radio interview Tuesday, saying he is a "passionate" individual.
Just like Mike Tyson. He's pretty passionate too. Just ask Robin Givens.
When Gibbons and Hillenbrand had their little who-can-piss-who-off-more contest earlier this season, we could chalk it up to a bad match of player and manager. But that sequence might have given us a peek into Gibbons' personality, and might have served as an early warning sign that he might be something of a loose cannon with his emotions.
Instead of trying to quell the situation with Hillenbrand, Gibbons made it escalate to the point that Hillenbrand wrote an anti-team message on a clubhouse bulletin board, which caused Gibbons to challenge him to a fight, and ultimately caused Gibbons to go to Toronto team management with a "he-goes-or-I-go" ultimatum.
Normally, such an ultimatum would be reserved for the most atrocious of offenses. If Hillenbrand was caught, say, dealing drugs out of the Blue Jays' locker room, I could see such a reaction. But for professionalism to go out the window because unchecked bickering led to a loss of tempers, that is not a great reflection on the stabilizing influence of the manager.
The mound confrontation with Lilly is another indicator of how the Toronto players might view their manager. Should Lilly have shown up his manager by arguing with him on the mound? Of course not. Is it another sign of Gibbons agitating a player until he finally loses it? Quite possibly.
The more I see of John Gibbons, the more I get the feeling that this is what Bob Knight would be like as the coach of an NBA team.
There will always be coaches who get under the collective skin of their players. That's part of a coach's job. A coach is supposed to be a leader, not an appeaser. Some of the greatest coaches of all time were abrasive and temperamental. Bill Parcells, Vince Lombardi, Bear Bryant and John McGraw would never be in line for a Mr. Congeniality award. But they unified their teams, provided great leadership and produced positive results.
That's a giant step ahead of Gibbons, who appears more and more to be a petty agitator who likes to pick fights with players if they cross him. Gibbons, it is probably needless to say, has produced unimpressive results as the Blue Jays' manager.
When a coach can't rise above the day-to-day things that make him angry and concentrate on the bigger picture of forming a winning team, it might simply be that he is ill-suited to be in his role.
If Gibbons' players can continue to tolerate the anger-induced sideshows that are now becoming a monthly occurrence, Blue Jays management might not be able to. Gibbons might want to keep that in mind the next time he wants to deck one of his players into next week.

1 comment:

Zach said...

And we thought Larry Bowa had problems.