Great players, or any players for that matter need to be brought back down to earth every now and again by someone who won’t hesitate when it comes to setting them straight. What happened earlier this week in New York where Josh Donaldson slammed his bat into the dugout railing after striking out, and the reaction it drew from manager John Gibbons is exactly what you’d hope to see a big league manager do in that instance. I don’t care if the player is Josh Donaldson or Josh Thole, superstar or bench warmer, speaking out against this sort of childish and overly dramatic behaviour is an absolute must unless a team wants its players acting out of line in this fashion more often.
Given that Gibbons is quite a bit older and presumably wiser than his players, often he’ll have a much better grasp of right and wrong. I’m not saying that Donaldson doesn’t have a good sense of right and wrong, but sometimes in the heat of the moment a player will forget about that sort of thing, and that’s where Gibbons needs to step in and give a friendly reminder of the behaviour he expects from his players. Just like Gibbons will pat them on the back for a job well done, the same thing goes if they do something wrong. Even the stars of the game, players beloved by millions need to be kept in check so that these kind of actions don’t become far too common an occurrence. Not only are these players setting an example for their teammates, but, and it might sound lame to hear, they’re on TV in front of millions of viewers who don’t need to be seeing their favourite players smashing a bat. Gibbons motivation to say something probably had mostly to do with the fact that what Donaldson did was wrong, that it wasn’t necessary, and that Gibbons doesn’t want to see his guys doing these useless things over one stupid strikeout. The fact that Donaldson chose to smash his bat a foot from Gibbons face probably didn’t help matters either.
As player-coach relationships go, what Gibbons and Donaldson have is incredibly rare. Often times they’ll be sitting next to each other on the bench chatting about the game…and this is the sort of thing that’s very rare in baseball, and not something you’d see between a coach and player who don’t have a large amount of respect for one another. Gibbons knows that Donaldson isn’t the kind of player who goes around smashing things often. Donaldson plays the game hard, but he’s no hot head. So when Gibbons sees him acting out of character doing something he shouldn’t be, you bet he’s going to call him out on it. Donaldson more so than most players plays the game the right way, so when Gibbons sees his best player and someone he’s very proud of acting inappropriately, he knows it’s in the best interest of everyone (especially Donaldson) to call him out on his actions.
Unlike most managers in MLB, Gibbons is open to the idea of listening to his players when it comes to making certain baseball related decisions. When the Blue Jays were struggling at the beginning of the season and several players approached Gibbons with the idea of placing Jose Bautista in the lead-off spot, Gibbons was all for it. That in itself goes to show how much respect Gibbons and his players have for each other. That kind of open discourse having to do with important decisions is exactly why when things do happen to get a little more heated, as they did this past Wednesday in New York, Gibbons isn’t afraid to hold anything back when it comes to letting his players know that they’ve done something wrong. Gibbons was right to scold Donaldson for breaking his bat…it was wrong of Donaldson to do it and he needed to hear it from the one guy on the team who could best get the message across. Josh Donaldson is one of the most gifted players in the game, and no one knows this more than Gibbons. Regardless of whether Donaldson’s actions have more to do with him as baseball player or as a person, it makes no difference to Gibbons, because all he wants from his players is for them to be every bit as good a person as they are a baseball player.