I'll start this off by saying that I don't think that Buck Showalter deserves to be fired, and he won't be fired any time soon. He is one of baseball's best and is the right manager to take the Orioles back to being a successful team.
That said, things haven't gone as smoothly as hoped for Mr. Showalter. After stepping out of the ESPN studios and taking the reins from Juan Samuel, Showalter led the Orioles to a spectacular finish in 2010 that had many thinking that the Orioles could emerge as a sleeper. That didn't happen.
As the Orioles head into 2012, they are expected to finish last again, despite the efforts of Buck Showalter. Here are five reasons why Buck Showalter should give his team a little bit of an extra push.
It's not Buck's fault, but the Orioles have lost more games than they have won in 14 consecutive seasons. Each year, the rest of the division grows stronger, and the Orioles fade into the dust.
Showalter was expected to improve on the Orioles' 2010 season (which is not asking much) in his first full year as manager. In 2011, Buck gave the Orioles an additional three wins compared to the year before for a whopping 69 total wins. There were only three teams in the majors with fewer wins.
This is a problem that needs to be solved in 2012. There won't be excuses this time. The Orioles expected to have a strong young rotation in 2011, and Brian Roberts at second. They were not deep enough to cover when the rotation was ravaged by injury and Roberts was once again out for most of the season.
This year is different. Dan Duquette gave Buck too many pitchers, and he'll have his pick at which of the many make the rotation. Those that don't will be sent to the minors, which should provide some solid depth (Tillman, Bergesen, Berken, Galarraga). Brian Roberts will take his time getting back, which means that Robert Andino gets second base in the meantime.
There are no more excuses. Buck will have to coax strong performances out of the pitchers and help the Orioles win more games or face the restless fans that have grown extremely pessimistic.
This may not mean a whole lot because the two have seemed to get along well, but it was not Dan Duquette that hired Buck Showalter.
If you've noticed, Duquette has made a big impression on the Orioles' roster. The 40-man roster today looks nothing like it did last spring or even at the end of last year because Duquette has tossed out a lot of the non-essential parts.
The common thread on a lot of the roster casualties is that most were picked up by former President Andy MacPhail. Another MacPhail acquisition was Buck Showalter.
Buck is a very analytical manager and he wants to have some say in the player side of the club. This will not be the Dan Duquette show because Showalter will demand some power, and if the sides clash, it would be Showalter out and not Duquette.
It has been pretty well known for a while that the AL East is the strongest division in baseball, and it's not faltering. If anything, the division is only getting stronger as the Blue Jays have begun to push on the three-headed monster consisting of the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays. The extra wild card could just mean that the division has three teams in the playoffs.
As for the Orioles, it does not bode well that they are not growing. This team has fallen far behind its competitors, and Buck is expected to help the Orioles compete at the same level as their peers.
The Orioles must push harder on the top four to ensure Showalter's job security.
It's become pretty clear that Buck Showalter has a say in the player side of the Orioles by the number of former Texas Rangers on the roster. Add in the coaching staff that is all Buck's, and you can see that he has been responsible for a lot of things.
Responsibility is a funny thing. It can be awesome to have power, but the more you take on, the more blame comes your way if things go poorly. Things have gone poorly, and if they don't turn around, fingers will start to shoot to Buck Showalter.
It's a bit hard to believe, but of the higher-ups in the Orioles organization, Buck Showalter is one of the longest tenured. The coaching staff all came in much after Showalter took over, and Dan Duquette is fresh in the front office. Some key front office pieces have been with the Orioles much longer, but for his level of power, his tenure is relatively longer.
This could prove to hurt him because people like the new. It shouldn't happen because it is way too early into his stint with the team, but if things start to go south, expect the guy that has been a part of the losing for the longest time to go.