Toronto not worried about Gibbons' past 'dustups'
Manager had pair of incidents with players during first tenure
TORONTO -- After a forgettable 2012 season, Toronto followed its blockbuster trade with the Marlins and signing of Melky Cabrera by bringing back the fiery John Gibbons to manage the much-hyped '13 version of the Blue Jays.
And, provided Gibbons leads this talent-laden Blue Jays team like he did during his first tenure with the club, he will have the support of general manager Alex Anthopoulos. With expectations soaring, Anthopoulos turned to the man who guided Toronto to an 87-win season in 2006, the club's most since winning 88 in 1998.
Gibbons, who managed the Blue Jays from 2004 until he was dismissed in June 2008, returns to Toronto with the same colorful personality. The 50-year-old manager also brings with him some regret, too, after a pair of memorable confrontations.
"I had a couple dustups with Shea Hillenbrand and Ted Lilly," Gibbons said at his introductory news conference at Rogers Centre on Tuesday. "First of all, we are in the entertainment business, fans come out here to watch baseball games.
"There is really no room to get physical, that shouldn't happen. That was kind of a black eye for me. The organization didn't look real well after that, plus I'm too old to be getting physical. In all seriousness, I wish it didn't happen, [but] it happened."
In 2006, Gibbons reportedly challenged Hillenbrand to a fight after he wrote "This ship is sinking" on a clubhouse whiteboard, and he had a physical confrontation with Lilly that spilled into the dugout tunnel after removing him from a game later that season.
"I'm an intense guy, I play to win. When you confront things head on, good or bad, there is a right way and a wrong way to do that," Gibbons said. "So, I regret that happening. It really didn't show who I was as an individual.
"I don't expect any problems, I've rarely had any problems in my career with those things. Those were isolated incidents. They were unfortunate, but I think we have moved on past that."
But while Gibbons wishes those incidents never happened, they are part of the reason why he finds himself back in Toronto. Anthopoulos, who was the assistant general manager at the time, felt Gibbons' passion was a reflection of his true character, and it's that type of personality the GM wants steering his current ship.
"We've talked about that ... I don't have a problem with it. I actually looked at it as a strong point," Anthopoulos said. "The reason being, what happened with Shea Hillenbrand -- he better be confronted. Sometimes, I think the manager at times -- it needs to be done in front of his teammates. I don't know any other way to deal with that. Obviously it didn't reflect who he was, but I think it's a strong suit.
"It is not something that defines him, but I think it also shows that if you do push and he has to react, he will react, and I think it's important."
The incidents may or may not have defined his time in Toronto, but, for better or worse, it's what many have come to remember him for. One thing that is clear, however, is that Anthopoulos never harbored any ill-will toward Gibbons. In fact, the Blue Jays GM showered him with compliments as he re-introduced Gibbons on Tuesday.
Several names were reported to be in the mix for Toronto's vacant managerial position, but Anthopoulos ultimately circled back to someone he had a previous relationship with and someone he thinks will hold the players in the clubhouse accountable.
Gibbons, known as a player's manager, demonstrated during his first stint in Toronto that he's not afraid to put his foot down when lines are crossed, and he also has the baseball smarts and intangibles that Anthopoulos was looking for in his new skipper.
"He's someone that always had a ton of ability, ton of talent, manages a great bullpen, as good as I've seen. He's a good evaluator of talent," Anthopoulos said. "That's my experience with him for five years. He was right about a lot of players, and as a general manager, having a manager that can evaluate players really helps you do the job."
The GM said his biggest regrets have come when he has made decisions which were influenced by optics, outside perception and media reaction.
"Those are the decisions that have bothered me the most," Anthopoulos said.
But Anthopoulos is done working that way. At a time where the Blue Jays have undergone their biggest makeover in years and are turning the page on the John Farrell era, he knew he had to trust his instincts and get this hiring right.
"I'm in this chair to do what I believe is right," Anthopoulos said. "I would say that I'm not ever going to be swayed on what the perception might be, good or bad.
"I have more conviction in this transaction, this hiring, than I have had in any. I can sleep like a baby at night because I know it was the right decision. It's my decision, it's what I want to do. I obviously appreciate [president and CEO] Paul [Beeston] having the support of me, ownership having the support of me, to give me the autonomy to do these things. If I'm going to be wrong, I'm going to be wrong doing what I believe in."
Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.