With Eric Wedge gone and Bo Porter likely to be soon, the Pirates have narrowed down their list of potential managers to five: Dale Sveum, Jeff Banister, Ken Macha, John Gibbons and Carlos Tosca.
Gut reaction: Gibbons stands out on that list. Sveum is a career coach and minor league manager who, for whatever reason, didn’t seem to be taken at all seriously by the Brewers after his short stint as interim manager at the end of the 2008 season. Macha was far more interesting to them, but they just canned him. Banister is a longtime organizational solider with the Pirates, but if anyone thought of him as serious managerial timbre, wouldn’t he have gotten a look sometime in the last decade or so? Tosca was just hired by the Braves to be Fredi Gonzalez’s bench coach.
I always got the sense that Gibbons was a decent manager — he led the Blue Jays to a rare second place finish in the AL East one year — but there is the question about the multiple run-ins he had with players. On the one hand, that’s not very cool and it speaks to a difficult personality. On the other hand, each of the guys with whom Gibbons locked horns — Ted Lilly, Frank Thomas, Shea Hillenbrand — have had other difficulties and are thought of by at least some folks as difficult guys. Who knows. The team seemed to side with Gibbons on each of those occasions, but then again, the guy in charge of the team at the time — J.P. Ricciardi — has a reputation for being something less than a people person himself.
At the end of the day I keep coming back to the notion that the last thing the Pirates need is yet another amiable organizational guy, so maybe it’s worth taking a gamble on Gibbons. Maybe he can shake some people up. Maybe he’ll do much better setting a disciplined tone for young players like the Pirates have than he did with veterans on the Jays.