By Bob Elliott
KANSAS CITY _ The Kansas City Royals No. 1 post-season fan (San Antonio chapter) watched the American League unfold from inside the Gibbons compound.
If his Blue Jays couldn’t enjoy this October, why wouldn’t manager John Gibbons, Royals bench coach from 2009-11, have a rooting interest watching KC steamroll the Oakland A’s, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Baltimore Orioles in a historic post-season run of eight consecutive wins?
Gibbons served under manager Trey Hillman for one season and part of the next year. Then he worked the remainder of the 2010 and the next year under current manager Ned Yost.
Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Greg Holland, Mike Moustakas, Jarrod Dyson, Danny Duffy, Tim Collins, Aaron Crow and Salvador Perez were all Royals when Gibbons was.
With the Jays, Gibbons managed current Royals Jason Frasor and Erik Kratz and had Omar Infante on the Arizona Fall League when the infielder was a teenager.
“That’s a special group over there,” Gibbons said from inside the compound. “A lot of those guys came up around the same time and won in the minors together. It’s really a unique, tight group.
It’s focussed, selfless, group, more so than I’ve ever seen.”
Is it because the team came up together as young bucks?
“Maybe, I know Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stoman and Drew Hutchison are very similar in make up — they’re always rooting the other guys on.”
The Royals were not big winners under Hillman or when Yost first took over: 65, 67 and 71 wins, mostly due to a lack of pitching.
“We hit well, play great defence,” Gibbons said. “What they’ve done doesn’t surprise me, they added pitching.”
KC had Jason Kendall, John Buck, Miguel Olivo, Bryan Pena, Matt Treanor and Manny Pina behind the plate until one night at Tropicana Field when Perez arrived.
“What a debut, he caught five foul pop ups — a catcher might get three in a month — he picked a runner off first, off third and he had the guy at second, but the ump missed the call,” said Gibbons. “He almost had the hat trick at three different bases in his first game.”
Major leaguers — players and managers — have special abilities but memories are not always great. We looked up Perez’s first game Aug. 10, 2011. Sure enough he picked Casey Kotchman off first, Sam Fuld off third, had nine put outs (KC pitchers fanned four and didn’t throw anyone at the plate. Perez had a single and knocked in a run with a fly ball as the Royals bullpen.
“Perez is the best catcher in the AL,” Gibbon said. “He controls the pitching staff. With that big body he has as quick as a release as any catcher I’ve seen.”
Gibbons described the post-season as a personal showcase for centre fielder Cain, the ALCS MVP winner, obtained along with Alcides Escobar, Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi from the Milwaukee Brewers for Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt.
“Our scouts told us not to worry watching (Cain) during batting practice because he gets jammed, pops the ball up but was a game-type player,” Gibbons said. “Sure enough in the game he’s firing rockets all over, You could tell he had all the talent in the world.”
Gibbons on a few other Royals:
Hosmer: “You look at him and think he has a chance to be MVP, he hits right-handers and left-handers, plays both sides of the ball, is well spoken. He’s the face of the franchise, an All-American boy.”
Butler: “is an old country boy from the Florida panhandle, but when you talk hitting with him he’s an Ivy Leaguer, he takes it to a new level.”
Dyson on the series not returning to Baltimore: “He didn’t mean anything bad by that. He believed it and he was right.”
Frasor: “He showed up every day to do his job, took the ball any time, any inning and never complained. He’s a pro’s pro,”
The most impressive thing Gibbons noticed during his time in KC was what transpired in the dugout. You can see it on the field when a pitcher will turn and tip his cap as Gordon, Cain, Moustakas or Dyson will make a diving catch.
“You’ll see one guy go to another and say ‘you can do this, we’re right behind you,’ and it’s genuine,” said Gibbons. “I’ve been on a lot of teams. I’ve never seen a group pull together like those guys.”
Another interview for D. Hale: The Minnesota Twins have interviewed Blue Jays bench coach DeMarlo Hale for their vacant managing position.
The Twins asked Oct. 7 for permission and had this week to interview Hale.
Hall of Famer Paul Molitor is considered the early fave. Already interviewed by general manager Terry Ryan are internal candidates Gene Glynn, Doug Mientkiewicz, Terry Steinbach and Moltior.
Ryan has also interviewed Boston Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, Joe McEwing Chicago White Sox third base coach and Hale.
The other candidates are coaches Sandy Alomar Jr. (Cleveland Indians), Dave Martinez (Tampa Bay Rays), Jose Oquendo (St. Louis Cardinals) and John Russell (Baltimore Orioles.)
A year ago the Washington Nationals interviewed Hale before hiring Arizona Diamondbacks third base coach Matt Williams as did the Blue Jays after Cito Gaston retired. Hale was one of four finalists before Alex Anthopoulos hired John Farrell.