MONTREAL â€” The Toronto Blue Jays rewarded manager John Gibbons for making back-to-back American League Championship Series appearances by extending his contract through the 2019 season with a club option for 2020 on Saturday.
Gibbons, who has spent parts of nine seasons as Toronto’s skipper, helped the franchise end a 22-year post-season drought in 2015. He guided the team back to the playoffs last year and his 644 wins as manager rank second on the all-time Blue Jays list behind Cito Gaston’s 894.
“As far as success on the field, ultimate goal is win a championship, and hopefully more than that,” said Gibbons ahead of Saturday’s exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Montreal. “We’ve come close to get to the World Series the last couple of years and that’s what you want to do.”
Catching Gaston’s franchise record for wins as a manager isn’t a priority for Gibbons, but now that he could be with the team for a few more seasons he’s turning his mind to it.
“Amount of wins is sometimes a thing of longevity, but to be here long enough, you gotta win some games, obviously,” said Gibbons. “I haven’t really thought about that, maybe someday I will. Cito is front runner and a buddy of mine. And he’s got two World Series rings, it’s tough to top.”
Toronto won the East Division title in 2015 with a 93-69 record and went on to reach the ALCS. The Blue Jays defeated the Texas Rangers in the AL Division Series before falling to the Kansas City Royals.
Last fall, the Blue Jays finished with an 89-73 mark and beat the Baltimore Orioles in the AL wild-card game. Toronto beat the Rangers again in the ALDS but fell to the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS.
Gibbons and general manager Ross Atkins talked about a deal briefly after last season, and renewed discussions at spring training. Although he’s happy to get the deal done, Gibbons wasn’t concerned with losing the players in the clubhouse if he didn’t have an extension.
“I always hear about the lame duck status,” said Gibbons. “I don’t know if it really changes anything in the room. But as an individual, if you have that in the back of your mind, I don’t know if you’d do things differently.
“Security can be a good thing, but it can be a bad thing. Some take that for granted and back off. I certainly don’t plan in doing that My family is happy, put it that way.”
Gibbons’s contract was restructured before the 2016 season by team president Mark Shapiro, who replaced the retired Paul Beeston at the end of the 2015 campaign.
The old deal, put in place by former GM Alex Anthopoulos, had a unique rolling option that became guaranteed each year on the first of January, with another option year added annually. The new deal gave Gibbons a slight pay raise while guaranteeing his salary through 2017 with no option for 2018.
His extension was applauded by veteran catcher Russell Martin.
“The guys love him,” said Martin. “He’s easy to work with.
“He keeps the guys level-headed. He knows how to work with the different egos on this team and he does a fantastic job of that. He’s almost a father figure to us.”
This is the second managerial stint for Gibbons in Toronto.
The 54-year-old from San Antonio, Texas, previously served as full-time manager from October 2004 to June 2008. Gibbons spent three seasons as a bench coach with the Royals before he was re-hired by the Blue Jays in November 2012.
The Blue Jays initially struggled after his return. Toronto finished last in the East at 74-88 in 2013 and was third in 2014 at 83-79.
Gibbons, who first joined the Blue Jays’ coaching staff in 2002, posted a 305-305 record in his first stint as manager. He has a 250-236 mark in his second stint.
Gibbons spent parts of three seasons as a catcher with the New York Mets after being drafted by the team in 1980. He later worked as a coach and manager for a number of teams at a variety of minor-league levels.
The Blue Jays will kick off their 2017 regular season on April 3 at Baltimore. Toronto’s home opener is set for April 11 against the Milwaukee Brewers at Rogers Centre.
With files from Frederic Daigle and Bill Beacon in Montreal
The Canadian Press