One of the most popular managers in Toronto Blue Jays history will be back in a major-league dugout for the first time in six years. The opportunity to return to where his MLB career began was too much for John Gibbons to pass up, and he’ll be a bench coach for the New York Mets in 2024.
Gibbons is best known for his two stints as the leader of the Jays, especially the second time around, highlighted by a pair of appearances in the ALCS. Previously, “Gibby” was a first-round draft pick of the Mets back in 1980 and was a 1986 World Series-winning club member as their bullpen catcher. In recent years, the skipper started a podcast and co-wrote a book with Greg Oliver, “Gibby: Tales of a Baseball Lifer.”
There was plenty of speculation that Gibbons’ time in the game may have been over, and as much peace as he seems to have made with that possibility, this opening was ideal. In a Q&A with Will Sammon of The Athletic (subscription required), Gibbons discusses his feelings about returning to the majors, things he missed, other aspects he doesn’t, and how he got his latest assignment.
"When you’ve been in the game as long as I have, we grow old in this game. So it’s just who we are. It’s a big part of your life and once you’re removed from it, there’s that void. I still miss the game, but I did enjoy some time away because there’s a lot of BS that goes with it, too." Gibbons said.
Carlos Mendoza was hired as the Mets Manager in November, and as this is his first MLB managerial employment, having an experienced baseball man like Gibbons at his side will only help his development. Surprisingly, the two hadn’t met before the recruitment began but hit it off quickly after former Jays coach DeMarlo Hale connected them.
"Then, sure enough, my old bench coach DeMarlo Hale — he’s been around forever and now he’s back in Toronto — called me and he said he was talking to Carlos. He asked me if I wanted him to give my number to Carlos. I said I’d love to. And that’s kind of how it all started."
Gibbons explains the differences between working as a bench coach and a manager: "A bench coach is really a sounding board, but it all depends on who the manager is and what they expect out of them. It’s not like you have one job description. The guys who get those manager jobs are pretty sharp. A lot of times you don’t need a lot of help outside of the sounding board type of thing and maybe some affirmation, stuff like that — that can go a long way."
On how he plans on getting Mendoza acclimated to his new role: "I’ve been a manager for 10 years in a big city, Toronto. (Mendoza) has done it in the minor leagues and he has coached a few years in the big leagues. It’s a different game because it moves faster. You need more eyes and ears."
He also scoffed at his reputation as an anti-analytics guy, that he likes to use available data and the eye test to make decisions on the field. " I think I got an unfair reputation of being anti-analytics, and that’s not true at all. I just never took it to the extreme" Gibbons remarked.
John Gibbons is a straight-shooter. It's great to see him back in the big leagues. Jays fans will get a chance to welcome Gibby back when the Mets come to Rogers Centre for a three-game series September 9-11.