16 Nov

select company

It’s a very exclusive club that Buck Showalter joined on Tuesday when the former Mississippi State standout claimed the National League Manager of the Year Award. He is one of just three managers to win the top manager award four times — and the first to do it with four different teams. “Very humbling, very honored,” he told mlb.com. Of course, four-time winners Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa have something that Showalter still lacks: a World Series ring. In his first season with the New York Mets, Showalter guided his club to 101 wins, a 24-win improvement over the previous season. However, they squandered a big division lead to Atlanta, lost a late showdown for first place in the National League East and made the postseason as a wild card, where they lost to San Diego. Showalter’s postseason record is 10-16 over six appearances. The BBWAA voting, which doesn’t take into account the postseason, was close in the NL race. Showalter got eight first-place votes, same as Los Angeles’ Dave Roberts and just one more than Atlanta’s Brian Snitker. Showalter’s total points were 77 to Roberts’ 57 and Snitker’s 55. Showalter became the first Mets manager to win the award; somehow, Davey Johnson, the ex-Jackson Mets skipper, did not prevail in 1986 despite winning 108 games with the team that went on to win the World Series. (Houston’s Hal Lanier won the ’86 award.) Showalter will be back with the Mets in 2023 for his 22nd season as an MLB manager.

11 Jul

it’s on: mets-braves

New York Mets vs. Atlanta Braves. Three-game series at Truist Park. Mets lead the Braves by 1 1/2 games in the National League East. This is going to be so much fun to watch, especially for Mississippi baseball aficionados. The Mets, after a late collapse in 2021, have been reinvigorated by manager Buck Showalter, the former Mississippi State star from the 1970s. The Braves, world champs in 2021, are back in championship form, led by former Mississippi Braves manager Brian Snitker and an armada of ex-M-Braves stars. All three of Atlanta’s scheduled starting pitchers for the series cut their teeth in Pearl. All-Star Max Fried (9-2, 2.52 ERA), who goes tonight, pitched for the M-Braves in 2017 and briefly in 2018. Flame-throwing Spencer Strider (4-2, 2.60, 102 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings) pitched at Trustmark Park just last season, going 3-7, 4.71, but fanning 94 in 63 innings. And veteran Charlie Morton (5-3, 4.21) helped the 2007 M-Braves reach the postseason in the Southern League. Atlanta has five players picked for the All-Star Game, including M-Braves alums Ronald Acuna, William Contreras and Dansby Swanson. Former Braves star Mark DeRosa said on MLB Central today that it’s “a sin” that Austin Riley didn’t make the Midsummer Classic. The third baseman out of DeSoto Central High, also a former M-Braves standout, is batting .282 with 23 homers and 56 RBIs. DeRosa marveled over Riley’s at-bats in Sunday’s win against Washington; Riley went 3-for-6 with a homer and three RBIs, including the game-winner. The Braves, whose Double-A club has been in Pearl since 2005, have plenty of followers in the Jackson metro. But there are some Mets fans around, too, holdovers from the Jackson Mets era (1975-90) that produced so many big league stars and three Texas League pennants at Smith-Wills Stadium. P.S. The Braves have traded M-Braves alums Drew Waters, C.J. Alexander and Andrew Hoffman (who just joined the team on July 8) to Kansas City for the 35th pick in the upcoming draft. Waters, who was at Triple-A Gwinnett, won the Southern League batting title in 2019. Alexander was one of the best players on the current M-Braves club.

21 May

hot and cold

You won’t find a hotter team in pro ball than the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. Jackson native Stan Cliburn’s club in the independent Atlantic League is 21-4. After having an eight-game win streak snapped on Thursday, the Blue Crabs bounced back Friday with a 13-2 win against Long Island. Ole Miss product Braxton Lee had an RBI and scored a run in that game, and ex-Southern Miss standout Bradley Roney pitched a clean inning in relief. Forest Hill High alum Cliburn, a longtime minor league manager, was the Atlantic League’s manager of the year in 2021 and appears to have another strong team this season. The Blue Crabs lead the loop in runs and have outscored their opposition by almost 70. Lee, a Picayune native who also played at Pearl River Community College, is one of the few players on the roster with major league experience (Miami, 2018). The outfielder is batting .278 with nine RBIs, nine runs and four steals in 22 games for the Blue Crabs. Roney, who reached Triple-A in affiliated ball and spent parts of three seasons with the Double-A Mississippi Braves, has a 3.48 ERA in 11 appearances. P.S. Buck Showalter’s New York Mets still sit atop the National League East with a 26-14 record, but the ex-Mississippi State star saw ace Max Scherzer land Thursday on the injured list, where he joins fellow pitchers Jacob deGrom, Tylor Megill, Trevor May and Sean Reid-Foley. Not sure what kind of omen this might be, but the Mets were greeted Friday by a snowstorm in Colorado.

24 Feb

firmly in the mix

There are more heralded players in the New York Mets’ minor league camp in Port St. Lucie, Fla., but Jake Mangum is commanding his share of attention. “(N)obody is going to outwork him,” Mets director of player development Kevin Howard recently told the New York Post. “He’s got a lot of natural ability.” Mangum, 25, the former Mississippi State and Jackson Prep star, had a breakout 2021 season, using a rebuilt swing to bat .285 with nine homers and 47 RBIs (plus 14 steals) at the High-A and Double-A levels. He is also an excellent defensive outfielder. Howard suggested Mangum may have been underestimated by the folks who do the prospect rankings. The switch-hitter, coming off a tremendous career at State, had a sluggish start to his pro career, batting .247 with no homers in 2019 after being drafted in the fourth round. Last season appears to have been a sea change. Mangum told the Post he is excited about having another ex-MSU star now in charge of the Mets’ big league team. “Buck Showalter is a legend,” Mangum said. “His name just speaks for itself.” P.S. Disappointing to see that John Rhys Plumlee, the ex-Oak Grove and Ole Miss two-sport star, won’t be allowed to play baseball at Central Florida this season. The NCAA denied a waiver asking that the recent transfer be immediately eligible for the spring sport. Plumlee, a highly regarded prep player, batted .224 in 60 games over a couple of seasons with the Ole Miss team.

19 Dec

it’s show-alter time

The New York Mets last won the World Series in 1986, when former Jackson Mets manager Davey Johnson and a bunch of ex-JaxMets players crushed Boston in a memorable Fall Classic. Since Johnson departed in 1990, the Mets have been through 11 managers — not including Carlos Beltran, who never managed a game — and experienced nothing but disappointment at season’s end. They finished 77-85 last season, collapsing down the stretch after leading the National League East much of the year. Division rival Atlanta went on to win the World Series. Steve Cohen, who became the Mets’ majority owner a little over a year ago, wants a winner. Now. He has thrown a lot of money at several big-name free agents, including Max Scherzer. And on Saturday, in a move that’s being widely hailed — and which he announced himself on Twitter — Cohen hired Buck Showalter to manage the club. Former Mississippi State All-America Showalter has done a lot of things as a big league manager, winning over 1,500 games in 20 seasons with four teams, claiming three manager of the year awards, making postseason appearances with three different teams. But Showalter hasn’t won a World Series, or even been in one. A ring would be the capper on a great career. Can he do it with the Mets? An ESPN article describes Showalter as “wired tight but with a sense of humor.” New York is a tough place to manage, but he’s been there with the Yankees, knows what he’s getting into. The Mets must contend with the Braves and Philadelphia in what figures to be a tough NL East in 2022 and beyond. The heat is on. Already. And for those of us who just sit back and watch, it’s going to be fun.

16 Jan

into the breach?

Buck Showalter has 1,551 managerial wins — 24th all-time in MLB — and claims three manager of the year awards. What the former Mississippi State star doesn’t have is a World Series ring. He might get a chance – a good chance, actually — to pick one up in 2020. Showalter has interviewed for the Houston Astros job and would appear to be one of the top candidates to replace A.J. Hinch, fired this week in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal. The Astros, 2017 world champs and 2019 American League champs, still have a loaded lineup and rate as one of the early favorites to win the 2020 Series. Showalter, 63, has managed four different teams and had success at each stop. He took three of the four to the postseason, making five trips all told in 20 years. His 2014 Baltimore club reached the AL Championship Series, falling to Kansas City. Showalter is the second-winningest manager in Orioles history – behind only Earl Weaver – but his nine-year tenure in Baltimore ended with a crash in 2018; he was fired after a gutted club finished 47-115. … John Gibbons, the former Jackson Mets catcher and ex-Toronto Blue Jays manager, is also a candidate for the Astros job. He has a 793-789 career record over 11 seasons, the last in 2018.

28 Sep

good and … other

Atlanta ended a four-year playoff drought under Brian Snitker, the former Mississippi Braves manager, and ex-Jackson Mets skipper Clint Hurdle kept Pittsburgh in contention well into September. That’s the good. For the other five Mississippi-connected managers in the big leagues, 2018 was mostly bad – if not downright ugly. Toronto, two years removed from a playoff berth, collapsed, and it has already been announced that former JaxMets catcher John Gibbons won’t be back as skipper in 2019. Ole Miss alum Mickey Callaway’s first year as New York Mets manager was undermined in large part by injuries. Long out of contention, the team is 75-84. Ex-JaxMets infielder Ron Gardenhire, a veteran manager but new to Detroit, kept an undermanned club afloat for a while, but the Tigers (64-95) ultimately sank. Then there’s Ned Yost. Yost’s Kansas City club is a ghastly 57-102 in the former JaxMets catcher’s ninth season at the helm. Yost is the franchise’s all-time winningest manager and won the World Series just three years ago. He survived a terrible fall from a tree stand last November, and he apparently will survive the team’s plummet in the standings this season. No team has fallen harder than Buck Showalter’s Baltimore Orioles, and the former Mississippi State star won’t be back in 2019, according to several credible reports. The second all-time winningest manager in Baltimore history, Showalter watched the Orioles tumble – and tumble and tumble — to 46-112. This is his ninth season with the O’s, the fourth team he has managed. His contract expires next month. He said in a session with the media on Thursday that he hasn’t been told anything about his future, isn’t thinking about it right now and is simply grateful to the organization for the opportunity he’s been given.

22 Jun

bad times in birdland

At the outset of the 2018 season, a sports betting agency made Baltimore’s Buck Showalter the odds-on favorite to be the first manager fired. That dubious honor went instead to Cincinnati’s Bryan Price. Showalter, the former Mississippi State star in his 20th year as a big league manager, hangs on despite what has been a truly awful first three months on the heels of a bad 2017. The team Showalter brings to Atlanta for an interleague series starting tonight is 21-52, worst record in MLB. That’s a .288 winning percentage. Showalter’s previous worst finish was a .401 in 1998 with Arizona, which was playing its inaugural season. And these Orioles figure to get worse: Stars Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Zach Britton, pending free agents, are expected to be traded. Showalter, 62, is also in the final year of his contract, as is Dan Duquette, the O’s VP for baseball operations. As bad as things are in Birdland, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of hue and cry about firing Showalter. Perhaps ownership is just going to let him go out with a whimper, a relatively dignified end. The Orioles are the fourth team Showalter has managed, and he was fired from the previous three jobs though he had good years at each one. This is his ninth season with Baltimore, far and away his longest stint. He has won over 1,500 games – 643 with the O’s — and three manager of the year awards. Despite a lack of postseason success, he should get Hall of Fame consideration someday. It would be sad to see his career end with such a dismal season, but it may be headed that way. P.S. At the start of the season, few would have bet Atlanta would be in first place in the National League East in late June. Yet Brian Snitker, the former Mississippi Braves skipper and another of the seven Mississippi-connected managers in MLB, has steered this young club to a 43-30 mark. They’ve shown no signs of slowing down. M-Braves alum Sean Newcomb, an emerging ace, starts tonight. He is 8-2 with a 2.70 ERA; O’s starter Alex Cobb, one of team’s biggest disappointments, is 2-9, 7.14.

08 Nov

on the ballot

It’s not the ballot people are talking about today, but, hey: Mississippi State alum Buck Showalter is a candidate for Manager of the Year in the American League. He is a finalist, along with Terry Francona and Jeff Banister, for the award given by the baseball writers. The winner will be announced next Tuesday. Showalter, who has won the award three times (including 2014), steered Baltimore to a wild card berth out of the hyper-competitive AL East, exceeding the expectations of virtually every preseason prediction. Showalter has been with Baltimore for seven seasons, longer than he stayed at any of his previous three managerial stops. With 547 wins, he trails only the legendary Earl Weaver on the Orioles’ list of winningest managers. Showalter hasn’t had a lot of playoff success, but in the current state of MLB, just getting in is a big deal. P.S. Former Southwest Mississippi Community College star Kade Scivicque is batting .346 (9-for-26) with three RBIs in the Arizona Fall League. Scivicque, acquired by Atlanta from Detroit late last season, finished 2016 with the Mississippi Braves and could be back with the Double-A club next spring. The 6-foot, 225-pound catcher batted .282 with six homers in high-A for the Tigers. … David Goforth, the Ole Miss alum from Meridian, is pitching for Lara in the Venezuelan Winter League. Goforth, who has made 30 MLB appearances with Milwaukee the past two years, had a 4.91 ERA in Triple-A in 2016.

04 Oct

all in

You can argue that the win-or-go-home wild card game isn’t fair – but it sure is fun to watch. Former Mississippi State star Buck Showalter, still seeking his first World Series appearance in his 18th season as an MLB manager, takes his Baltimore Orioles into Toronto’s rowdy Rogers Centre tonight with this one shot at moving on in the postseason. The Blue Jays, managed by former Jackson Mets star John Gibbons, were widely regarded as a favorite in the American League East heading into the season. Showalter’s O’s weren’t supposed to be here. Sports Illustrated in its preseason preview ranked Baltimore 14th in the 15-team league. But a power-hitting lineup and a great bullpen carried the club to an 89-73 record and into the playoffs for the third time in Showalter’s seven years at the Orioles helm. Showalter has won 52 percent of his games – over 1,400 all told — and three manager of the year awards. He’s a Hall of Fame candidate. But his resume is missing a ring. He’ll try to take a step in that direction tonight in an elimination game. Note, too, that there is a history of testiness in this rivalry. As a fan, what more can you ask for?