As the 2008 regular season opens, there are only two MLB managers – and none
in the American League – whose butts are on hotter seats than the Blue Jays’ John Gibbons.


Odds are 5-to-1 that Gibbons will be the first manager fired this season. The
oddsmakers have established two National League managers – the Philadelphia
Phillies’ Charlie Manuel (5-to-2) and the New York Mets’ Willie Randolph (3-to-1) – as the first
and second favourites for the axe.

Just behind Gibby on the odds list is Ozzie
of the Chicago White Sox, at 5.5-to-1. Guillen openly told
reporters recently he figured he’d be history as soon as his team slumped. Told
of Guillen’s insecurities, White Sox general manager Ken Williams said: “Truthfully, I’m far more concerned about what
the buffet spread will be for lunch today than what Ozzie thinks about his job

Gibbons, entering his fourth Toronto
season, has an expiring contract and is tightlipped in public about his job
status, but folks close to him tell us he knows he’s on shaky ground and is
feeling pressured about what is being perceived by MLB insiders as a do-or-die
season for both him and GM J.P.

If Gibbons is bounced in midseason, look for Jays bench coach Brian Butterfield, formerly their
third-base coach, to replace him.

• John McLaren, another
former third-base coach for the Jays, has a short leash, too, as manager of the
Seattle Mariners. The odds on him being the first fired skipper are 6-to-1.

Expectations generally were high for the M’s this season, but that was
before spring training. Since then, prized trade acquisition Erik Bedard of Navan, Ont. (a suburb of
Ottawa), has been
struggling lamentably.

The Mariners relinquished can’t-miss outfield prospect Adam Jones, reliever George
and three promising arms for Bedard, who’s allowed 23 earned runs
and nine home runs in 24 spring-training innings. While the left-hander has no
explanations – and has been alienating Seattle
reporters with confrontational and aloof behaviour – McLaren suggests the dry Arizona air at spring
training has been affecting his breaking balls.

At the Detroit Tigers’ camp, another lefty, also a prized trade
acquisition before spring training, is baffling his manager.

Dontrelle Willis, obtained in a
blockbuster with the Florida Marlins, has an 8.64 ERA, prompting manager Jim Leyland to question his style.

“I see too much funkiness in his deliveries,” Leyland
complained. “He has to sharpen up.”

And, for more baseball – including nuggets
about Rogers Clemens, Barry Bonds, Cliff Floyd, Kelvim Escobar and Len
Dykstra’s highly touted son -- visit
and check out my latest MLB Report.

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