Jays, Gibbons agree to extension
Toronto skipper's contract now runs through 2008
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons has insisted that his contract situation has been the least of his concerns. In the grand scheme of things, he didn't feel an extension needed to be a high priority for the Blue Jays, either.
"I mean, we're not talking about Joe Torre or something," said a smiling Gibbons, referring to the longtime Yankees manager who has led New York to four World Series championships.
Even though Gibbons wasn't worrying too much about his future with Toronto, the Blue Jays were willing to provide him with a little more job security. Toronto reached a preliminary agreement Monday with Gibbons on a one-year contract extension for the 2008 season, and completed the deal Tuesday.
The new contract will pay Gibbons $650,000 in 2008, representing a $150,000 raise over his salary in '07.
"I don't think it's a secret," general manager J.P. Ricciardi said on Monday. "I think we'll have it done by the time we leave Spring Training. I just don't think it's something we want to do in the middle of the season."
In fact, Ricciardi originally wanted to finalize Gibbons' extension at the end of last season. Toronto's GM said the club held off on the negotiations at that time so that Gibbons could head home to San Antonio, Texas, where his late father, William, was fighting a losing battle with cancer.
"He had a lot of things going on with his dad," said Ricciardi, who was a teammate of Gibbons' in the Minors. "We wanted to be sure he got through the winter with what was going on with him. [Spring Training is] just as good a time as any to talk to him, spend more time with him, and have a chance to just work things out."
Gibbons was named Toronto's interim manager on Aug. 8, 2004, after the Blue Jays let former manager Carlos Tosca go. Since then, Gibbons has led the Jays to a 187-187 record -- highlighted by an 87-75 mark last season. In 2006, Toronto finished second in the American League East for the first time since winning the World Series in 1993.
The fact that the extension is only for one more season raised some red flags among reporters, but Ricciardi didn't see it as a negative. Ricciardi viewed the deal more as a two-year pact, considering Gibbons was still under contract for the upcoming season.
Gibbons, who joined the Jays as a bullpen catcher in 2002, was fine with the terms of his new deal.
"He presented [the one-year contract] and I was more than happy with that," Gibbons said. "In this business, with good results, good things happen. If the team plays well, moves to the next level, maybe there's more there. We'll see."
Ricciardi insisted that the incidents that Gibbons had with former Blue Jays Ted Lilly and Shea Hillenbrand last season played no role in determining the length of the contract. The GM also said that waiting until this spring to finish the negotiations was not a result of the well-publicized confrontations, either.
"For us, internally, we knew what the incidents were all about," Ricciardi said. "I think the media made more of it than we did. If it was something that was more alarming to us, I think we would've had a different stance on the way we saw things. We never lost confidence in John. We never lost belief that he was the guy to keep leading us."
In July, former Jays designated hitter Hillenbrand and Gibbons were involved in a closed-door altercation in Toronto's clubhouse. During a players-only meeting, Gibbons entered the clubhouse and confronted Hillenbrand, who was then traded to the Giants a few days later.
Last August in Toronto, Gibbons and Lilly entered into a heated exchange on the mound that escalated into a shoving match in the tunnel behind the home dugout at the Rogers Centre. Lilly and Gibbons, who sometimes jogged together on road trips last season, both regretted what happened, and they each apologized for their actions.
"The Shea thing was a little more of a touchy situation," Toronto center fielder Vernon Wells said last month. "It was two personalities that are very fiery and very emotional and care about the game a lot. Something, unfortunately, did happen with Ted and Gibby -- something that was a totally different situation.
"Gibby's going to tell you how it is," he added. "I just call him a big country boy. He's going to protect what he believes in. He's going to protect his players, protect his team in whatever way he feels is necessary. For the most part, top to bottom, everybody loves him."
That's a main reason why Ricciardi believes the two altercations don't provide accurate depictions of how well Gibbons gets along with his players.
"You can talk to the players, they like playing for him," Ricciardi said. "Word gets out really quick. This is John Gibbons. His reputation is a good guy, easy to get along with. This isn't a guy who is looking to cause problems.
"He's done a great job for us. We like him a lot," he added. "Guys respect him in that clubhouse. He's respected by the other managers in the league. He's done a good job since he's taken over here."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.