I liked Gibby as soon as I met him. He’s got that casual ball player irreverence. That easy smile. That enviable ability to take the serious and make it not so serious by way of cowboy slang and self-deprecation. A wink and a giggle at the media beast, anxious to devour every defect in a bloody haze of fan insanity. He knows the media, and he’ll generate more than a few quotables this season, I’m sure. Hopefully they’ll all be under happy circumstances.
Recently, in an article by the Washington Post, Gibby was quoted on his plans to bring the team together to deal with the expectations ahead. A task much easier said than done.
Saying you want the team to work together is par for the course. Everyone wants the team to work together. It’s actually getting them to buy into something greater than themselves in a manner that isn’t scripted for television that’s the real trick. But can he? Can any manager for that matter? Can any person outside of a General make people fall inline and get the job—a job based on luck and projection. I don’t blame Gibby for saying it, but can he actually DO it? Or is it something all managers are better taking as an unspoken given and batting aside in favor of something concrete, like the opening day starter?
There will always be those players who respect their manager simply because they’re the manager. But there will also always be those players who respect no one because they are the star player, and they know it. Then there how those players feel about each other, how they feel they’re being treated, how their season is going, how they feel about how the other players are being treated in relation to how their season is going. It’s complicated, to say the least. Like herding cats. They’ll listen to you for a while, maybe, but in the back of their mind they know if it comes down to you or them, it’s going to be you.
I don’t envy Gibby’s role. There is a lot of pressure on his shoulders to bring a completely renovated Jays team together. And now that he’s made it public that he’s going to try, people will expect him to follow up, as if he has some magic formula for making it happen. His success will, of course, be unfairly judged by wins and losses. And possibly Ted Lilly style hallway brawls. But I think it’s important for fans to understand that there is no montage music that can be played to sync a team as one, even if the manager says he’s scouring Itunes to find it (I recommend this, FYI).
The best managers know their players better then those players know themselves. But even on that front, Gibby is at a disadvantage. A great deal of his players are going to MIA thanks to the WBBC this spring training. They’ll miss the manager’s speeches, the team building events, the developing inside humor. Those are just as important for a manager to use in evaluating his team (and how to best manipulate it) as seeing them on field.
Regardless of what happens, I know Gibby will meet these obstacles with that easy candor of his. But he’ll only be able to do it for so long if things go south. I’m not trying to be a defeatist, I’m just trying to be real. The season of Blue Jay is not guaranteed. The stakes are high, the task is great, and the players are all over the world.