Prior to the Blue Jays appointing John Gibbons as manager in 2004, they had the misfortune of going through six different managers over the previous seven years. In those days, Toronto was a team lost, and their record that season (67-94) was indicative of that.
Gibbons would only manage 50 games (20-30) in that first year as he was brought in to replace Carlos Tosca. The Blue Jays simply didn’t have a deep enough team back then. To top it off, it certainly didn’t help that most of their top players, including Roy Halladay, Carlos Delgado, Orlando Hudson, and Vernon Wells would all miss significant time due to injury that year.
To put things in perspective, only one Blue Jay on this years roster was in the big leagues back when Gibbons began his tenure as manager. And that was Curtis Granderson who was still a rookie and played all of 9-games for Detroit. As for how many players from that 2004 Toronto team are still in the big leagues, the answer is zero. Alex Rios was the last of the bunch, and he played his final game three years ago. Oddly enough, in Rios’ final season, he and Gibbons would face-off against one another in the 2015 ALCS between Toronto and Kansas City.
In the 14 years since Gibbons began what would be his first stint at the helm of the Blue Jays, it isn’t just the players on the roster that’s changed. The game itself has seen some dramatic changes. Keep in mind that the 2004 Blue Jays were the 12th worst offense in the American League. Yet their team AVG was still 16 points higher, and OBP 17 points higher than that of this years ball club. Probably the most glaring difference though is when you compare how many times each team struck out. In 2004, Toronto whiffed 1,083 times. Whereas this season, they’ve struck out 1,351 times. The 2004 Blue Jays strikeout rate was 17.5%, while in 2018 it’s 22.7%.
Despite all the changes that have taken place with the Blue Jays over the years, one of the few constants has been Gibbons. He’s managed three generations of Blue Jays during his 11-years as manager. He started by managing such stars as Delgado, Halladay, and Wells. Then during his second stint is where he really made his mark on the franchise with stacked teams led by Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, and David Price. Finally, in this, his final year as manager, the latest crop of top prospects got to cut their teeth in the big leagues as he made every effort to help in their transition to the majors.