Though he appeared in only 18 games in the big leagues, fans of the old Jackson Mets might remember that John Gibbons could play a little bit. The Toronto Blue Jays manager, a first-round pick by the New York Mets in 1980, was the regular catcher for the Double-A JaxMets in 1983 and batted .298 with 18 homers and 67 RBIs for a club that made it to the Texas League Championship Series. He was a standout on a team that included Billy Beane, Kevin Mitchell, Herm Winningham, Roger McDowell and Calvin Schiraldi. Gibbons was penciled in to start for the big Mets in 1984 before being injured in spring training. Soon thereafter the Mets traded for Gary Carter. Gibbons was up for a while with the Mets’ 1986 world championship club but didn’t play in the postseason. He was the bullpen catcher that October and got a ring, but, he told the Toronto Sun, “I didn’t really feel like I was part of that team.” He never got back to The Show as a player. Gibbons won two championships as a minor league manager in the Mets’ system but struggled in his first opportunity in the big leagues, a stormy tenure with the Blue Jays from 2004-08. Toronto gave him a much-questioned second chance in 2013, and now he has the Jays in the playoffs for the first time in 22 years. Gibbons is very much a part of this team, which many think is the favorite to win a ring. Maybe he can manage a little bit, too.
Eyebrows were raised when John Gibbons was re-hired to manage the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013. Here lately, eyebrows have been raised over how well the Jays have played under the former Jackson Mets catcher. As we approach the Memorial Day pole – always a key marker in the MLB season – Toronto has won 10 of 12 games and surged to the top of the American League East with a 28-22 record. Gibbons had a losing record in his first run with the Jays from 2004-08, and the club went 74-88 last season. Former Mississippi State star Buck Showalter has his Baltimore Orioles in third place in the AL East at 24-23. Ex-Jackson Mets shortstop Ron Gardenhire, who has endured three straight miserable seasons in Minnesota, is enjoying better days so far in 2014. The Twins, fueled by Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier’s big numbers, are 23-23, tied for second in the AL Central with Kansas City (24-24). The Royals, whom everyone keeps expecting to break out, are managed by ex-JaxMets catcher Ned Yost. Former JaxMets star Billy Beane, the GM in Oakland, has worked more magic in 2014. The A’s are 30-19, leading the AL West. In the NL, former JaxMets skipper Clint Hurdle, manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, has seen his club slide to a 22-26 start, fourth in the Central Division. The Bucs made the playoffs last year for the first time since 1992; they’ve got work to do to get back in. P.S. On the MLB transaction watch: Cincinnati has signed former Ole Miss left-hander Matt Maloney to a minor league deal. Maloney debuted with the Reds in 2009. He last pitched in the big leagues in 2012 with Minnesota and has a 5.74 career ERA in 31 games. … Pascagoula’s Joey Butler, who got only five at-bats during his brief stint with St. Louis, is off to Japan, where he will play for the Orix Buffaloes. … Ole Miss alum Phillip Irwin was designated for assignment by Pittsburgh, which took him off the 40-man roster. The right-hander may very well wind up back with the Pirates’ Triple-A team.