My coworker and I were having a conversation about our disappointing baseball teams. He’s a Mets fan, so he knows disappointment just as well as we Orioles fans do. We then took some time to compare the Mets to the Orioles and I got some real perspective on how poorly this team has performed so far and how far they’ve both fallen from 2014-2015. Then I started to think more, isn’t this was Buck Showalter teams always do?
Buck Showalter undeniably deserves a ton of credit for turning the Orioles organization around since his arrival as the Orioles’ third manager in 2010. The Orioles won 34 of their last 57 games upon Showalter becoming manager in 2010, but came back down to Earth the next season. Since then, the team has followed a trajectory very well known to Showalter along his career. He took an underachieving team, brought them back to relevance, then to championship contention, and then…nothing. This pattern is discernible at each stop in his career.
His first managerial job was with the New York Yankees. In 1992, Showalter’s first year, the Yankees went 76-86, which is around par for the course for their performance in that era. Slowly but surely, Showalter turned the Yankees into a real contender, finishing first in a strike shortened 1994, and reached the playoffs in 1995. Then all of a sudden, Showalter was out the door after a confusing contract dispute. The Yankees won the World Series the next year (that’s all I’ll say about that). Showalter was gone after building the franchise and had nothing to show for it.
Showalter’s next stops in Arizona and Texas followed similar paths. He built the Diamondbacks, an expansion team, into a championship contender in 1999, but was fired after a disappointing season in 2000. The Diamondbacks won the World Series in 2001. In Texas, he got the most out of a team that traded away Alex Rodriguez, but again was fired after another disappointing year. The Diamondbacks and Rangers were both promising teams that regressed heavily in Showalter’s final seasons.
Take another look at the Orioles during Showalter’s tenure. He took the Orioles from cellar dwellers to contenders, to the brink of a World Series appearance, and now, disappointing regression. It is eerily similar. So should we have foreseen this decline from the Orioles? Is it possible his luster has worn off in the clubhouse? I don’t think that’s necessarily the case, but this is not a new phenomenon for Buck Showalter teams.
His loyalty to veterans is admirable, but may have cost the organization. The organization and fan base latched onto his phrase “I like our guys”, but has that gone too far? The Orioles very clearly have a flawed, veteran-filled roster, and we haven’t seen any real steps towards a rebuild with younger players. Though there is talent on the 40 man roster, the current parts don’t seem to add up to a competitive sum.
Buck Showalter brought competitive baseball back to the Orioles and he rejuvenated a baseball town longing for a contender. One of his flaws may have been being too loyal to his guys, so maybe the front office shouldn’t make the same mistake with him. Showalter will eventually transition to a front office role with the Orioles, but maybe that’s some of the same loyalty that got us here in the first place. Should a rebuild go beyond loading up the farm system, and try to load up the front office and coaching staff too? To me, it’s fairly clear that we’ve seen Showalter’s history repeat itself for the fourth time now. Maybe we should have seen this coming.
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