I was 99 percent sure that Buck Showalter would win the 2012 AL Manager of the Year honor. Then I read Les Carptener’s outstanding piece about the Orioles skipper on Yahoo Sports and I’m positive Showalter is the hands-down winner.
Carpenter’s lengthy piece details how Showalter has changed and learned from his previous jobs. He’s been hired four times and fired three. He realizes how he wore out his welcome in New York, Arizona and Texas and has changed from the overbearing control-freak skipper to a player’s manager.
“I think the perception of him coming in was: It’s going to be Buck’s way or the highway,” Matt Wieters says in Carpenter’s story. ”We heard the stories on how intense he was going to be.”
He’s still the guy obsessed with game scenarios and outperforming his opponent with the knowledge he gets through scouting reports and statistics.
Here’s a Showalter thing: He likes to discuss situations. At random points during a game he will turn around, look at a player and ask what he’d do at that moment; say with one out and runners on first and second. Sacrifice? Swing away? There’s no wrong answer, just a demand that they are always thinking, forever ready.
“He’ll let you answer and respect your answer,” Wieters says. “We’re in a kind of school setting where he is the teacher and we’re trying to learn what he knows.”
But Showalter no longer holds the pre-game 45 minute meetings with his team that he did in New York and has allowed for a more loose clubhouse than he did with the Yankees, Rangers and D’Backs.
He seemed patient. He understood the growing a young team needed to have. He tried to build a personal relationship with each man on the team. They were stunned.
But not as much as the day he blew into the clubhouse during spring training, looked around and said: “Where is the Ping Pong table?”
Soon a Ping Pong table appeared in the home clubhouse at Camden Yards. And players took turns whacking the little plastic ball, laughing and shouting the way young men do when they are fooling around.
Hardy glances at two of his teammates playing Ping Pong and gives a small smirk.
“From what I’ve been told the old Buck Showalter would not have allowed a Ping Pong table in the clubhouse,” he says.
Letting go has what’s allowed Showalter so much success in Baltimore. He used to be the guy that slept on an air mattress in his office in New York. Now he goes home.
He’s learned to allow the game to teach his players in certain circumstances and balanced his obsession to detail in an even more advantageous way.