It is time to end the debate about the 2012 American League Manager of the Year.
But none of these great men have achieved what Baltimore Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter has been able to achieve this year.
At 72-58, Baltimore’s surreal year is a testament to terrific leadership exemplified by this quiet, humble and at times fiery manager.
No matter the profession, anyone who has led an unproven team of journeymen will tell you: leading an unproven team of journeymen is difficult. This is especially true in baseball, where the level of parity is so close, the difference between good teams and great teams is razor-thin.
Applied to the Orioles, in the spring it seemed as if bird’s owner Peter Angelos handed Showalter the keys to a team rivaling an old, rusty subcompact car.
This, in an AL East Division rolling four deep with roaring muscle cars.
From the looks of Baltimore’s enigmatic lineup and patchwork pitching staff, many Orioles’ fans braced for another long summer.
Some even mourned the possibility of a 100-loss season.
But Showalter had a much different vision for this team—a vision many souls outside this once proud ball club failed to see.
Showalter saw a team of selfless, coachable men that burned with the will to improve. While true Showalter’s men had flaws, this manager was resolved to help each man in his clubhouse reach peak performance (even if that meant returning that man back to the minors to iron things out).
Thus, with a subtle grin and stout poker face, Showalter calmly plucked the keys from Angelos’ fingers, rolled that car into his garage and quietly went to work with his able staff of baseball mechanics.
Using spare parts (journeymen players), solid tools (strong convicted leadership) and a metric ton of faith and patience, Showalter and his staff tirelessly worked to boost his car’s performance.
Now near September, Showalter is the proud driver of an economical vehicle that is rolling toward its first winning season since 1997.
This club's success is a direct reflection of Showalter's strong leadership in action.
Showalter has demanded accountability. He has inspired confidence. And he has been a walking advertisement for the words, “resolve” and “resourceful.”
Sure Showalter is able to field talented players like Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Jason Hammel. Yes Showalter owns a pen properly dubbed, “the Iron Curtain.” And yes, Showalter has a future big league star in Manny Machado (and Dylan Bundy).
But Chris Davis pitching Baltimore to victory over the BoSox—in extra innings…at Fenway Park?
And Taylor Teagarden defeating the Detroit Tigers with a walk off home run?
Lew Ford making fantastic plays in left field?
Nate McLouth carrying Baltimore to victory with clutch-hitting?
And Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Tillman, and Zach Britton keeping the Orioles in the hunt for the AL East crown?
Who are these people?
Some say they are nobody’s; just passing characters on an Orioles team about to fade into the night.
To this, I say these men are anything but nobody’s. These men are a direct reflection of their manager.
While it is true players make plays, it is Showalter pulling strings behind the scenes. It is also Showalter who (with great dignity and respect) handles his ball club’s ups and downs behind closed doors. And it is Showalter who adamantly deflects credit to his players and falls on the sword like a leader should.
But most importantly, it is Showalter (and Dan Duquette) who has set these Orioles on a course for future success.
It is for these very reasons Buck Showalter must be the 2012 AL Manager of the Year.