Photo courtesy of Mitchell Layton/Getty Images.
Although the Baltimore Orioles’ season came to a crashing halt after C.C. Sabathia outpitched Jason Hammel in Game 5 of the ALDS a couple of weeks ago, this year was still a giant success for the team.
For the first time since 1997, the Birds finished with a winning record and advanced to the playoffs. As an Oriole fan, I was just hoping for a winning season. A playoff run was too much to ask for, I thought.
Well, behind mastermind skipper Buck Showalter, the Orioles were able to pull off one of the biggest surprises in all of baseball (arguably, right up there with the Oakland A’s magical season).
Fans are not only hoping, but now expecting a strong team for years to come since they have young talent bursting at the seams. However, Showalter’s contract is up at the end of the year.
That could spell trouble for the Birds if they do not re-sign him in the near future.
Check out these five reasons why the Baltimore Orioles need to extend Showalter ASAP.
Photo courtesy of Cooper Neill/Getty Images.
First off, his managerial record speaks for itself.
In his 14 years at the helm of four different teams, he’s compiled a 1078-1018 record. Although that’s not the most impressive mark (.514 winning percentage), you have to understand the types of teams he has taken on in the past. Not to mention, he has won two Manager of the Year awards and could be in line for his third this season.
When he came to Baltimore in August 2010, he led the misfits to a 34-23 record over his final two months of the season, and fans knew he was here to make a difference. Before he arrived in Baltimore on Aug. 2, the then-last-place Orioles had won just 32 games all year!
Showalter is the type of manager who understands how to build a team from the bottom up. He doesn’t worry about one particular season and how they fare that year; his goal is to build a strong, lasting squad that can prosper for years to come.
Last year, in his first full season as the manager, the Birds finished with a 69-93 record. This season, they finished with the exact opposite record, which is a 24-game win differential, as he led them to the first winning season since ’97 when they notched 98 victories.
Every team Showalter has managed, he’s been able to turn around that team within two full seasons. In his first career year as a manager with the Yankees in 1992, they went just 76-86. However, the following season, they improved by 12 games and went from fourth place to second place.
In the next two seasons, they finished in first and second place respectively, and as we all know, the Bombers won four of the next five World Series throughout the late ‘90s.
In his second go-round as a manager, he really did himself in as he undertook the newly formed expansion Diamondbacks in 1998. That season, they dropped almost 100 games as they finished with a dismal 65-97 record and last in the NL West.
It was their first season in existence. I’m sure he knew what he was getting himself into. But that’s the beauty of Buck. He welcomes a challenge, as he did in Baltimore in 2010.
The following year (’99), Arizona improved by 35 games as they notched 100 wins in just their second season in existence! Not to mention, they won the West and made a name for themselves. In his last year with the club in 2000, they finished 85-77, which was good for third place in the West.
As we all know, after he left, the Diamondbacks went on to win the 2001 World Series against the Yankees the very next season.
Finally, in his last tenure before arriving in Baltimore, he had the tough assignment of turning around the struggling Rangers. After finishing fourth in the AL West for three straight seasons from 2000-2002, he assumed the role of manager in 2003.
Although they struggled in his first year, he built them up for success, and they have been one of the best teams in the majors over the last three years. In 2003, they finished with a 71-91 record.
However, in his second year, they improved by 18 games, winning 89 games and finishing third in a very tough division. Over the next couple of seasons, they finished with 79 and 80 victories respectively.
He is definitely one of the major reasons why the Birds experienced success this season, and he has built a strong foundation for the future in Baltimore.
Photo courtesy of Rob Carr/Getty Images.
Since the Orioles went wire-to-wire with the Yankees in the ’97 season under now-Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson, the Orioles filtered through six managers over 13 years.
Ray Miller, the former longtime pitching coach for the Birds, took over after Johnson left in ’98. He led the Orioles to the best records they would have over the next 13 seasons as they finished with a 79-83 and a 78-84 record respectively in ’98 and ’99.
However, after Miller’s contract was up before the 2000 season, the Birds decided to bring in one of the most respected and well-known managers at the time to turn around the franchise and revert them back to their winning ways.
Mike Hargrove made a name for himself with the Cleveland Indians after he led them to the playoffs for five consecutive years from ’95 to his departure in ’99. They advanced to the World Series twice. However, they lost to the Braves in ’95 and the Marlins in ’97.
The former rookie of the year in 1974, Hargrove was unable to turn around the Orioles. He spent four seasons at the helm, and each season they finished in fourth place. In 2000, the Birds ended with a 74-88 record.
The next season was his worst in Baltimore as they dropped almost 100 games (64-98). The next two seasons were a bit better (67-95 in ’02 and 71-91 in ’03), but he still was never able to push the Birds back to .500.
Lee Mazzilli, former Yankees’ first base coach from 2000 to 2003, was the next manager in line in Baltimore. He had never managed before at the major league level, and he took over a struggling team in 2004—a recipe for disaster.
However, that season, the Birds finished with a 78-84 record and in third place for the first time since ’97; it seemed as if the Birds might have a promising season the following year.
In 2005, the Birds jumped out to a 42-30 record and spent 62 days in first place in the East. However, they went on a horrendous 9-26 run, and Mazzilli was fired by the front office after the Birds dropped to 51-56 on the year.
Orioles’ then-third base coach Sam Perlozzo took over for the remainder of the season and led the Birds to a 23-32 record and a 74-88 record for the season.
He returned as the skipper in ’06, and the team struggled again; they finished 22 games under the .500 mark with a 70-92 mark and another fourth-place finish.
For some reason, the Birds brought him back in ’07 and after 69 games (29-40), the front office finally called it quits. They fired him and brought in Dave Trembley, who had no previous MLB managerial experience. After he took over, the Birds continued to struggle.
They finished the ’07 season with a 69-93 record (40-53 under him and another fourth-place finish). In his first full year at the helm in ’08, the Birds dropped a game worse as they won just 68 games on the year and finished in fifth place (since the Rays finally climbed out of the cellar).
In his second full season as manager, they continued to slide. They finished with a 68-94 record and ended the year in the cellar for a second straight season. Once again, he returned in 2010 and lasted only 54 games (15-39) and was let go.
Then-third base coach Juan Samuel took over the team as the interim manager, who again never managed at the major league level. Over his 51 games, the Birds managed to win just 17 (and dropped 34), and that’s when they brought in Showalter to finish the season. They finished in fifth place that season as well.
Obviously, the Orioles have not had any luck with managers since Johnson departed after the 1997 season. Finally, the Birds have a winning manager at the helm, and there’s no way they can lose him a year after he led them to the playoffs.
Photo courtesy of Jim Rogash/Getty Images.
Another reason the Orioles need to re-sign Showalter as soon as possible is that he has brought such a great spirit with him to the club.
The atmosphere at Oriole Park was completely different this season. I have been an Orioles fan since the last time they went to the playoffs. Going to games was always fun, but there was something always missing.
This season, going to an Orioles game was an experience I will never forget. Even when they were squaring off against the struggling Jays in September, the ballpark was electric. You could feel the energy in the stands. It was a completely different feeling than ever before (well, over the last 14 years).
I have been to so many Orioles games in the past; I really cannot even remember how many. The stadium has never been that amplified and stimulating. It was like being in Yankee Stadium for the seventh game of the World Series; it seemed like everything was on the line.
Showalter brought back a winning team, finally. Yes, you have to give credit to the players and Dan Duquette for putting together a strong, young core. However, without Showalter leading the way who knows where the Orioles would have finished this season.
They probably would have finished a fifth consecutive year in the AL East cellar.
Not only is Showalter a winning manager, but he is a community activist and really believes in the Baltimore faithful. He and his wife Angela have teamed up with KidsPeace Trik-or-Trot 5K walk/run event this Saturday in Canton.
It’s obvious he wants to be a part of this community, as he has done other community activist events in the past and is always a supporter of the community around him. (He also has great appreciation for the fans.)
Showalter is a great manager, and not only that, he cares about the team. He has brought a certain excitement back to Baltimore that’s been missing for 14 years. Fans are excited to come to the ballpark and cheer on the Orioles because they know he cares.
Photo courtesy of Rob Carr/Getty Images.
Another reason the Orioles need to re-sign Showalter is that he does so well under pressure. He is one of the most-calm managers I have ever seen. He is very similar to Bruce Bochy, who is currently taking the San Francisco Giants to the World Series.
I have never seen Showalter become enraged in the dugout, and he seldom reacts to a bad call in the field. He will go out and argue with the umpire, but he rarely loses his cool. Of course, there has been a time or two where he has become angry at a horrendous call, but still, he’s nothing like a Lou Pinella or a Bobby Cox.
In the dugout, he never gives away his emotions. He is always very cool and collected. If his team commits a major error, you will not be able to tell by his face.
Showalter possesses a very stoic and quiet attitude. It seems like nothing bothers him, and he rarely expresses himself. He’s always very intense and into the game. He is very serious and always seems like he is thinking about his next move. Maybe that’s why he is usually one step ahead of the game.
He keeps his emotions hidden and away from the game. You never see him flinch or freak out. I think that is a great quality and one that every manager should possess.
I’m sure players feel the same way. It’s easier to keep your head in the game if you don’t have to worry how your manager will react if you have a bad game.
He is very understanding, and that shines through with his calm demeanor.
Even in the playoffs when the Birds were struggling to find a hit, he never lost his cool. He just continued to do what he always does. He goes about his business in a very professional way, and I think that permeates with his players.
That is the type of manager you want leading a team: someone who controls his emotions, doesn’t let the opposing team know what he is thinking and who understands the mind games in baseball.
Photo courtesy of Brian Kersey/Getty Images.
Finally, the last reason why Showalter needs a contract extension in Baltimore is because he commands the respect of his players.
He does not demand their respect, but he commands it. There is a big difference.
He does not have to ask for their respect. He is the type of manager who players want to play for. You can see in the players' eyes that they want to be on the field and they want to win. They want to go out there and lay everything they have on the line.
In years past, it was obvious that some teams just did not care to be out there. They did not play like they want to win. They just fielded a team and endured through losing seasons.
Under Showalter, there’s a different attitude. Everyone plays their hardest and leaves everything on the field. Showalter did not have to come to Baltimore and embrace a losing team who had lost 11 consecutive years at that point.
He knew the team had a long and storied franchise, and he wanted to restore that. He respects the players, and they respect him. It’s simple and works.
Showalter understands how to win, and if the Orioles want to continue to win in the years to come, they need a manager who knows what he is doing on the field.
Check out these eight leadership lessons that Showalter has employed to bring back a winning team to Baltimore. It’s just another reason why Showalter should be at the helm for years to come.
Don’t let him get away!
Follow me on twitter: @Alex_VanRees