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John Gibbons: genius or just lucky?

After guiding the Toronto Blue Jays to the teams’ first American League East title in over 20 years, there are some who believe John Gibbons should be in line for American League coach of the year honours. Others, however, may contend Gibbons simply had the best players to work with.
After guiding the Toronto Blue Jays to the teams’ first American League East title in over 20 years, there are some who believe John Gibbons should be in line for American League coach of the year honours. Others, however, may contend Gibbons simply had the best players to work with.

Last week, after the Toronto Blue Jays clinched a playoff berth, unleashing a frenzy of sporting fever normally reserved for the city’s bumbling hockey team after back-to-back wins, manager John Gibbons recalled his most recent stint in the minors.

“Mowing my lawn in the morning, and coming to the ballpark in the afternoon,” he told reporters of his days managing AA San Antonio not that long ago.

And now, here he was, just a few short years later, off to Major League Baseball’s playoffs. And depending on how far the Jays go into the post-season, Gibbons could be set for life.

Gibbons was fired from the Blue Jays back in 2008, but was given a second lease on life in Toronto three years ago.

You have to think he was walking a tightrope earlier this season, with the Jays floundering at 23-30 in early June.

But along come David Price, Troy Tulowitzki and Ben Revere and the Jays go 42-14.

Suddenly, Gibbons is a genius.

I’ve often wondered what prompts people to want to get into coaching sports at the professional level. For many ex-pros, they will tell you it’s the closest thing to playing.

Which is all well and good, but the idea of trying to create a winning recipe from ingredients handed to you from someone else is not always comforting.

Really, there’s not a lot separating many pro coaches and the tactics they employ within their sport. What it’s about, rather, is trying to work with what you’ve got.

And if you don’t have much, well …

Watch as many pro hockey practices as I have, not to mention as many games, and you quickly learn most coaches read from the same page (some, however, like Mike Keenan and John Cooper are a little different).

The difference between winning and losing, ultimately, comes down to the players, and which coach has the better ones.

Gibbons came perilously close to losing his job in early summer, and a second firing would almost have certainly spelled the end to a managing career in the big leagues.

With the Jays playoff-bound, chances are Gibbons will get another shot if and when the Jays decide to can him down the road. It’s what happens when you’ve coached playoff teams.

Never mind he was so close to being out of work before his lineup instantly became better.

It’s a strange business, indeed.

IN SHORT

There have been better and more notable athletic performances — I don’t know if anyone will ever touch the Gushue team’s Olympic gold medal — but there certainly haven’t been many locals who can touch Sean Cleary and his 2015 softball season. Cleary established himself as one of the world’s finest pitchers with gold medals at the world championship and Pan American Games, not to mention the senior men’s nationals (or so-called nationals). Locally, he was lights out … I hope Nic Blanchard lands a job with the St. John’s IceCaps … Wouldn’t it be great to see the Montreal Expos back in MLB? But who’s going to build a ballpark? And how do you get a team without first having a ballpark? … If I’m the owner of, say, the Florida Panthers, and I see what the Winnipeg Jets have done at the gate since the relocation from Atlanta, I have to be looking at Quebec City and its new Videotron Centre, which holds 18,000-plus … Wouldn’t it be something if Brad Gushue won the 2016 Brier, and curled as Team Canada in the 2017 event in St. John’s? … This is a make it or break it year for the Memorial Sea-Hawks men’s basketball team. Coach Peter Benoite has the horses to make a lot of noise in the AUS. The Sea-Hawks will be, dare we say it, contenders this season …

Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor.

He can be reached by email rshort@thetelegram.com

“Mowing my lawn in the morning, and coming to the ballpark in the afternoon,” he told reporters of his days managing AA San Antonio not that long ago.

And now, here he was, just a few short years later, off to Major League Baseball’s playoffs. And depending on how far the Jays go into the post-season, Gibbons could be set for life.

Gibbons was fired from the Blue Jays back in 2008, but was given a second lease on life in Toronto three years ago.

You have to think he was walking a tightrope earlier this season, with the Jays floundering at 23-30 in early June.

But along come David Price, Troy Tulowitzki and Ben Revere and the Jays go 42-14.

Suddenly, Gibbons is a genius.

I’ve often wondered what prompts people to want to get into coaching sports at the professional level. For many ex-pros, they will tell you it’s the closest thing to playing.

Which is all well and good, but the idea of trying to create a winning recipe from ingredients handed to you from someone else is not always comforting.

Really, there’s not a lot separating many pro coaches and the tactics they employ within their sport. What it’s about, rather, is trying to work with what you’ve got.

And if you don’t have much, well …

Watch as many pro hockey practices as I have, not to mention as many games, and you quickly learn most coaches read from the same page (some, however, like Mike Keenan and John Cooper are a little different).

The difference between winning and losing, ultimately, comes down to the players, and which coach has the better ones.

Gibbons came perilously close to losing his job in early summer, and a second firing would almost have certainly spelled the end to a managing career in the big leagues.

With the Jays playoff-bound, chances are Gibbons will get another shot if and when the Jays decide to can him down the road. It’s what happens when you’ve coached playoff teams.

Never mind he was so close to being out of work before his lineup instantly became better.

It’s a strange business, indeed.

IN SHORT

There have been better and more notable athletic performances — I don’t know if anyone will ever touch the Gushue team’s Olympic gold medal — but there certainly haven’t been many locals who can touch Sean Cleary and his 2015 softball season. Cleary established himself as one of the world’s finest pitchers with gold medals at the world championship and Pan American Games, not to mention the senior men’s nationals (or so-called nationals). Locally, he was lights out … I hope Nic Blanchard lands a job with the St. John’s IceCaps … Wouldn’t it be great to see the Montreal Expos back in MLB? But who’s going to build a ballpark? And how do you get a team without first having a ballpark? … If I’m the owner of, say, the Florida Panthers, and I see what the Winnipeg Jets have done at the gate since the relocation from Atlanta, I have to be looking at Quebec City and its new Videotron Centre, which holds 18,000-plus … Wouldn’t it be something if Brad Gushue won the 2016 Brier, and curled as Team Canada in the 2017 event in St. John’s? … This is a make it or break it year for the Memorial Sea-Hawks men’s basketball team. Coach Peter Benoite has the horses to make a lot of noise in the AUS. The Sea-Hawks will be, dare we say it, contenders this season …

Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor.

He can be reached by email rshort@thetelegram.com

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