Friday, July 30, 2010

Showalter is a Brave Man

William Nathaniel "Buck" Showalter is a manager again as he was hired to manage the Orioles starting Tuesday. The hiring was a loss for those of us who enjoyed Showalter's work on ESPN. The move also shows Showalter to be one of the bravest men in baseball. The Orioles have been one of the worst teams in baseball history. But, hey, at least Showalter has no where to go than up.

Buck Showalter has a history of taking struggling teams and making them better. He also has a history of losing his job a year before his team went on to the World Series. Showalter's history does put him in a better position for this type of job than say Lou Piniella did when he went down to manage Tampa Bay. But Showalter seems to have an even worse situation than those woeful Tampa Bay teams.

Showalter took over the Yankees in 1992 when the team was in a long period of drought. He inherited guys like Matt Nokes, Roberto Kelly, Charlie Hayes, Tim Leary and Danny Tartabull. The team came in fourth his first year. They improved twelve wins in his second year and they came in second. 1994 was the strike shortened season and Showalter got the team into first place with a record well over .600. He was the Manager of the Year that year. After the team dipped to second place the following year, he lost his job with the Yankees. Of course, the manager that replaced him was Joe Torre and the rest is history.

Showalter was then hired by the Arizona Diamondbacks when that franchise came into being. He was hired well before the team actually became a team and was in one of the most unique situations in history to mold his own team. The D-Backs inaugural year was 1998 and they lost 97 games which isn't bad for a new franchise. The following year, thanks to the addition of Randy Johnson, the D-Backs won 100 games. That was a 35 game improvement of the previous year and won Showalter his second Manager of the Year award.

The following year, the team slipped to third place and Showalter lost his job again. Naturally, the Diamondbacks won the World Series the following year.

Showalter was then hired by the Texas Rangers in 2003. The first year didn't go well, which we have seen has been his pattern. That year was mostly notable for his famous feud with Alex Rodriguez. The following year (again fitting his MO) the Rangers (minus A-Rod) added 18 wins, but still came in third. They fell back ten wins in 2005 but again came in third. And in 2006, Showalter's last with the team, they won one more than the previous season but came in third again. Those teams were famous as explosive offensive machines with equally explosive and horrible starting pitching. The Rangers hit 225 homers one year and 260 the next, but still couldn't get any traction as their pitching was abominable.

So now Showalter goes to a team that has neither hitting nor pitching. According to his track record, Showalter's Orioles will show modest improvement next year and significant improvement in 2012. But that will take miracles that are beyond our scope to see right now. To be sure, Showalter will give it all he has. Effort and focus have never been his problem. Plus, he won't have primadonna stars to anger with his disciplinary approach since the Orioles don't have any stars. But Showalter must like a challenge to get tossed into that mess.

You're a brave man, Mr. Showalter.

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