John Gibbons said he wasn’t going to cry, but the veteran manager struggled to contain his emotions in his final home game with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays gave Gibbons a winning home send-off Wednesday with a 3-1 win over the Houston Astros, who broke out the bubbly anyway.
The World Series champion Astros actually clinched their second straight AL West title when Oakland lost in extra innings at Seattle well past midnight Tuesday. Several of the Astros partied at a hotel meeting room, but they held a more traditional clubhouse celebration — complete with rain jackets and goggles — despite this loss. Houston opens their best-of-five Division Series matchup against Cleveland at home on Oct. 5.
“This is a great moment, a great moment for the Houston Astros organization, myself, all my teammates,” ace Justin Verlander said. “This is something to cherish.”
Before the game, Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins announced that Gibbons will not return next season. The 56-year-old Gibbons has one season left on a two-year contract extension he received in April 2017.
“We are going to have a new voice. We are going to have a new approach,” Atkins said.
After getting the final out, Blue Jays closer Ken Giles gave the ball to Gibbons and the Rogers Centre crowd of 22,828 rose for a standing ovation.
“I’ve been here a long time,” said Gibbons, who first joined the Jays in 2002. “I’ve had some great times and I’ve had some tough times. It’s sad in a way, but it brought back a lot of good memories. I never cry, I’m not going to cry, my lip might shake a little bit.”
Gibbons was in the midst of a postgame interview on the field when outfielder Kevin Pillar came out and doused his manager with a cooler.
Randal Grichuk hit a two-run homer and rookie Reese McGuire added a solo shot as the Blue Jays won with only three hits.
Grichuk said he was happy to be part of a winning effort for Gibbons.
“He rightfully deserves it,” Grichuk said. “Great manager, easy to talk to, goes about things the right way. He definitely can help young guys and he’s there for the veteran guys. He’s definitely going to be missed here.”
Pillar, the longest-tenured Blue Jays player, stood at the back of a packed news conference to hear Gibbons’ pregame announcement in person.
“What I learned from being in that interview room was that he was four games above .500 for his career and if we could get one win he’d finish his tenure here as a winner,” Pillar said. “You want to come through that line and give your manager a handshake after a win and it was extra special knowing it was his last one at home.”
Atkins said Gibbons can decide whether to take a new role in the organization. Gibbons didn’t rule that out, but also said he’d like to manage in the big leagues again.
“These jobs are hard to come by,” Gibbons said. “But we’ll see. It’s not going to destroy me if I don’t. But time is on my side, age-wise, I think. I’d like to try it again.”
Gibbons is 791-787 in 11 seasons during two stints managing Toronto, his 1,578 games second only to Cito Gaston’s 1,764. Gibbons also trails Gaston (913) in career wins with Toronto.
Gibbons replaced Carlos Tosca in August 2004, was fired in June 2008 and returned ahead of the 2013 season.
Two years later, the Blue Jays won the AL East and ended a 22-year postseason drought, buoyed by the addition of slugger Josh Donaldson. They lost the AL Championship Series in six games against Kansas City, which went on the win the World Series.
“We finally became relevant in baseball again,” Gibbons said. “It had been a long time.”
A wild-card winner in 2016, the Blue Jays lost to Cleveland in a five-game AL Championship Series.
Gibbons feared me might lose his job when former GM Alex Anthoplouos left the Blue Jays at the end of 2015 and Mark Shapiro became president, bringing Atkins on as GM.
“To be honest with you, I thought I was probably gone then,” Gibbons said. “I can’t thank (Atkins) enough for keeping me around. That doesn’t always happen. He put a lot of money in my pocket. That’s not bad, either.”
Grichuk connected off right-hander Chris Devenski in the first, his career-best 25th home run. McGuire led off the fifth with a blast to right, the first of his big league career.
Joe Biagini (4-7) pitched 1 1/3 innings for the win and Giles, the seventh Toronto pitcher of the game, needed just five pitches to wrap it up in the ninth, earning his 25th save in 25 opportunities.
Devenski (2-3) allowed two runs and one hit in two innings.
Atkins said he will discuss the future of Toronto’s coaches this the weekend as the Blue Jays finish the season with three games at Tampa Bay.
In between his stints with the Blue Jays, Gibbons served three seasons as a bench coach with the Royals, working alongside managers Trey Hillman and Ned Yost. Gibbons also spent one season managing his hometown team, the Double-A San Antonio Missions, a minor league team in the San Diego Padres organization.
A first-round draft pick by the New York Mets in 1980, Gibbons hit .220 with one home run and two RBIs in 18 career games as a catcher, eight of them in New York’s World Series-winning season in 1986. He became a minor league instructor in 1991 and got his first managerial job with the Mets’ Appalachian League team in 1995.
Gibbons is the second big league manager to lose his job this month. Texas fired Jeff Banister last Friday.
GOODIES FOR GIBBY
Before the game, Toronto Mayor John Tory issued a statement declaring Sept. 26, 2018, to be ‘John Gibbons Day’ in the city. Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan honored his sporting colleague too, sending a jersey with Gibbons’ name and number 5 to the departing manager.
Astros: SS Carlos Correa returned after missing six games because of a sore back and started as the designated hitter. He went 1 for 4 with three strikeouts. His hit was an RBI single in the fourth. … RHP Lance McCullers Jr. (right elbow) struck out one in one perfect inning, his first career relief appearance in the regular season. McCullers Jr. last pitched Aug. 4 at Los Angeles against the Dodgers.
Blue Jays: 2B Devon Travis (left knee) will miss the rest of the season. Toronto selected INF Jon Berti from Double-A New Hampshire and transferred INF Brandon Drury (broken left hand) to the 60-day DL. Berti made his first big league start at second base and batted ninth. He is the 63rd player used by Toronto this season, extending a club record.
Astros: RHP Gerrit Cole (15-5, 2.92) starts Thursday in the opener of a four-game series at Baltimore. Cole has won five straight decisions. RHP David Hess (3-10, 5.14) starts for the Orioles.
Blue Jays: Toronto is off Thursday. LHP Thomas Pannone 94-1, 3.58) starts Friday in the opener of a three-game series at Tampa Bay. Pannone has won three straight starts, including a victory over the Rays last Saturday. RHP Tyler Glasnow (2-7, 4.23) starts for the Rays.
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