With all the buzz surrounding Buck Showalter’s Baltimore debut, the fair question to ask is: is this worth all the hype? Certainly there’s a large contingent of the Orioles fan base who believes that truly this will make a negligible difference. After all, a bad team is a bad team, and changing the manager doesn’t change the roster. It’s perfectly fair to say that Showalter doesn’t change the Orioles’ historically bad season and the Orioles will still experience that horrendous September swoon which turns away even the most loyal watchers.
I, however, disagree. I think that Showalter’s presence in the clubhouse will make a massive difference in the team. There is no question that the Orioles are far more talented than their performance has indicated—Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Felix Pie, Chris Tillman—all are tremendously talented. And yet they’ve underperformed inexplicably this year. Some might chalk it up to being overrated or just growing pains. I disagree, because there’s one other common denominator: none have experienced a winning major league environment and none have been coached by a man who commands experience and respect.
Buck Showalter possesses the elements that the Orioles need for success at this juncture. They are a team built on purely young talent—a misstep by management in composing this roster where there has been too much pressure levied too quickly. No solid base of veteran leadership. But that can be righted with a man who has the experience not only winning but winning with young players who have never been through it before. He did it with the Yankees. The Diamondbacks. The Rangers. At each stop he turned around the team and gained accolades for not only winning but winning with youth.
It’s easy to say that I’m just drinking the Kool-Aid and I get that. But baseball is a game of intangibles, more than any other sport. The mental aspect of the game, the grind week in and week out, cannot be avoided. When a team is mired in the culture of losing, how can we expect the players to not press when things aren’t going right? To not hustle when in a losing streak and the season playing the same old song? All teams go through rough patches, but when the culture is defined by losing you can’t reasonably expect the players to rise out of it. With Buck Showalter the Orioles have more hope than any time in recent history of changing the culture.
They have the talent and they have the leadership. It’s too late for this season, but there’s finally reason to think that they might be back on the right path. I’ll be watching closely this month, and I hope more fans do the same, because it’s a pivotal time for our franchise.