Despite latest dip, Gibbons’ job not in jeopardy

After watching their division rivals celebrate a title win, the Jays continued to be shamed by getting swept by the Orioles.

BALTIMORE – Inevitably when a team trudges through the schedule’s final days to an unsatisfactory end in what was once a season of promise, as the Toronto Blue Jays are doing right now, the focus falls on the fate of the manager.

And in issuing a vague non-endorsement endorsement this week, general manager Alex Anthopoulos did John Gibbons no favours on that front. Despite an obfuscation gone wrong, all indications right now are that Gibbons’ job is not in jeopardy, and that he’ll be back to run the team in 2015.

Things of course could change, but beyond a perhaps inadvertently clumsy message by Anthopoulos aside, there’s nothing suggesting the Blue Jays are looking to make a managerial change at this point.

“I give it zero thought,” Gibbons said Wednesday, before a 6-1 loss capped an all but officially season-killing three-game sweep by the AL East champion Baltimore Orioles.

“To be honest,” he added later, “I’ve never been one of those guys to worry about it. I live in the moment, I don’t worry about the future.”

As is typical in baseball, there’s been no communication from Anthopoulos to Gibbons or any of his coaches about next year. Decisions of that nature typically come shortly after the season ends.

Still, Anthopoulos raised eyebrows Tuesday when he said Gibbons is, “under contract, he’s always under contract pretty much. I don’t think there’s anything to take care of, and I think he has done a good job.”

“I’m a big believer that no matter what position, grounds crew, administrative assistant, manager, coach, you support them until you don’t support them,” he added. “Until they’re no longer in this position you support them. That position is going to be that way whether you’re 100 games over .500 or we’re struggling. We always support our staff.”

Contrasted with his comments a year ago – last Aug. 27 Anthopoulos replied “yes” when asked if Gibbons would unequivocally be back and added “there’s never been any thought in that respect at all” – there was plenty of room left for conjecture, something the GM has long sought to avoid.

Anthopoulos structured Gibbons’ contract with a rolling option as a way to prevent him from ever being a lame duck manager. Every Jan. 1, his option for the following year is exercised with another added for the following season, meaning his contract never runs out until he is fired.

“New Year’s Day is more important to me than a lot of people, put it that way,” Gibbons said laughing. “I celebrate it a little harder.”

There’s nothing to celebrate right now for the Blue Jays (77-74), who after pulling themselves onto the fringes of post-season contention have lost four straight and five of their last six to submarine their pursuit of the second wild card.

They’re now six games back of the Kansas City Royals with a tragic number of six. Not good.

“It’s a terrible series for us, plain and simple,” said J.A. Happ, who allowed five runs, four earned in six innings. “We go into a place where we need to go and win some games and need to take advantage of the time we’ve got left. We’re still playing for something.

“We’ll do our best to put it behind us, but this was tough for sure.”

Steve Pearce, who rejected the Blue Jays to stay with the Orioles after being cut by them at the end of April, was in the middle of all the action, hitting a solo homer off Happ in the third to open the scoring and adding a three-run shot in the fifth that settled matters.

In the seventh, Pearce was at the plate when a 96 m.p.h fastball up and in from Aaron Sanchez hit off his bat foul, leading to warnings for both dugouts from home plate umpire Paul Schrieber, loud boos from the crowd of 37,537, and drawing Orioles manager Buck Showalter out to home plate.

Sanchez grazed Jonathan Schoop high on the jersey earlier in the inning, which added to the tension. Pearce stared down Sanchez after his close call, and the rookie right-hander “patted my chest and said, ‘my bad.’”

“I was kind of all over the place all night,” Sanchez said.

Bad feelings were already there after Marcus Stroman’s suspension earlier in the day for his pitch in the head area of Caleb Joseph on Monday, and Jose Bautista being hit on the backside by Darren O’Day on Tuesday. Umpires issued warnings in all three games.

Nothing developed further, and the clubs are set to meet again in Toronto to end the regular season, but Showalter didn’t seem to think Sanchez had any intent on his part.

“I try to look at things in reality and that kid Sanchez started in (double-A) this year, I don’t think he’s throwing at anybody but it still doesn’t make anybody happy,” he said. “Between Jonathan and Steve they almost wore one, and to hit those type of guys, you’ve got to get out over the plate and cheat a little bit with the barrel head now and then to get to him. We dodged another bullet, no pun intended.”

The up-and-down Blue Jays, on the other hand, certainly did not dodge any bullets this week, and their latest dip in a season of sharp ups and downs has all but officially sealed their fate. The fate of their manager, meanwhile, for now appears to be status quo.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.