Game 4 — When John Gibbons became a manager to contend with

In R.A. Dickey’s own post-game words, “I thought they were coming out to give me a pep talk.” But, with two outs and one on in the 5th inning, John Gibbons replaced the knuckler with presumed ace David Price. This was a bullet that hit two targets, simultaneously leaving the 20-year veteran just short of qualifying for his first playoff win and making Price unavailable for the decisive game 5. Speculations flew. Some felt this was consistent with Gibbons’ subpar managerial mantle. Others felt this was a slight directed at both Dickie and Price.

Even John Gruber, the uber tech pundit and unapologetic Yankees fan, threw in his two cents:

Here’s a gem from myself in the heat of the moment:

I was rather proud of myself for figuring this out so quickly: Devious Gibbons sacrificed Price in game 4 to ostensibly seal a blowout win but, in reality, wanted to make sure he could not start game 5. Maybe there is a small chance this was indeed the real motive. But that would make Gibbons as clever as the real reason, given by the manager himself after the game. Very simply, he didn’t want Dickie to face Shin-Soo Choo and Adrian Beltre, two left-handed batters who had two hits apiece already in the game. To boot, Choo has a lifetime .364 BA against Dickie. Sure, a 7–1 lead seemed secure. But he wanted to stifle a rally at the onset. The logical replacement was a left-handed reliever. Cecil and Loup were unavailable respectively because of a calf injury and family reasons. Rather than putting the game in the hands of rookie Brian Tepera, Gibbons called on his top lefty. He also reminded us in the post-game interview that Price was in fact up preparing to throw in game 3. So this was not some game 4 chicanery designed to cheat their hired gun out of starting game 5.

Gibbons admitted the pitching change “was not a relationship-building move”, but it was a move that worked. The Jays still have Stroman to start game 5, a situation that should worry no fan. Ironically, Dickie and Price gave no hint of being anything but understanding of the tactic. The only relationship that Gibbons managed to strain was with fans and media, who already questioned his street creds as a manager.

In view of the KC comeback against Houston, Gibbons made the right move for the right reasons that few understood in the heat of the game. It should be, already it won’t be, a move that informs Jays Nation that the team is in the hands of a tactically astute manager.