AA: Gibbons will return as Jays’ manager in 2014

Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos, right, talks with manager John Gibbons. (CP/Nathan Dennette)

TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays won’t make John Gibbons a scapegoat for the mess of 2013, with GM Alex Anthopoulos saying Tuesday that the manager will return next year and that there was blame to go all the way around.

Speaking for the first time since a dismal 2-8 road trip led to a spike in media calls for a managerial change, Anthopoulos replied “yes” when asked if Gibbons would unequivocally be back and added “there’s never been any thought in that respect at all.”

“The in-game managing and so on, I think he’s done a great job,” Anthopoulos said in explaining why. “It’s so easy to pin results on one person, it’s convenient. … When we’re playing the way we have, I just don’t think it falls on one person, I think it’s collective. …

“We’ve had three-fifths of our rotation in flux, whether it’s through injuries or performance … that’s not an excuse, that’s just a fact. That comes down to my chair, that comes down to the players, as well, it comes down to the staff, it comes down to the training staff, all of it. We’re all accountable to an extent. To sit there and say it comes down to one person and that’s the panacea, that just doesn’t make any sense. It’s just an easy out, to be honest with you.”

The Blue Jays are at the 59-74 mark after Tuesday night’s 7-1 drubbing from the New York Yankees and rather than being in contention for a post-season berth, as expected, they’re in the hunt for a top-five draft pick.

Given the expectations on the club after a bold off-season by Anthopoulos, the results have bordered on disastrous. Gibbons, a controversial pick to replace John Farrell due to his mixed track record, has been an easy target for fan discontent all year, and word of his return triggered the expected online venom.

The man in the cross-hairs took it all in stride.

“I’m not going to give that any thought, I can’t worry about that,” Gibbons said when asked for his reaction. “You go out there each day and try to win a game and play good baseball. It’s nice to hear but it’s not going to change my approach any.”

Said starter J.A. Happ: “As far as I know everybody in here is happy about that. I know I am. It’s good to know. The year we’re having is not his fault, but you understand sometimes changes are made. I think we’re all glad that’s not one of them.”

Anthopoulos said the coaching staff, all on one-year deals, would be evaluated at season’s end, which is standard practice, although scapegoating a dedicated and hard-working crew would be similarly unjust.

Change is coming one way or the other, with Anthopoulos repeatedly pointing at issues in the starting rotation, which ranks second last in the majors in ERA at 5.03 and quality starts at 40, and sits 27th in innings pitched at 730.2.

“I don’t know how much the manager can influence that aspect of the game alone,” Anthopoulos said.

“I think we all can get better, myself included. When we are where we are in the standings and the results are what they are there’s clearly a lot of room for improvement, and clearly we’re going to need to have some type of change. I’m not prepared to say what those are, we need to play out the season either way.”

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