After a historic turnaround during August and September of the 2010 season, manager Buck Showalter and his Orioles are desperately fighting to avoid 100 losses on the year, and it seems pretty safe to say that Buck Mania has worn off.
That's not to say he's hated around Birdland. Quite the contrary; most fans seem to be on board with Buck still, and understand that the lack of talent in the organization isn't his fault. A manager can only do so much on the field, especially with an oft-injured, underperforming group of youngsters.
Even still, Showalter's gotten his share of critique from Orioles fans, as does any manager of any sports team. It's only natural, as not everyone is going to agree on every matter.
One thing about Buck, though, is that he doesn't care what other people think. He'll always do what he feels is right for his team and puts them in the best position to win on a nightly basis, no matter the criticism.
And from what I've gathered, the following topics have received the most criticism from O's fans during the 2011 campaign.
Throughout much of the season, Robert Andino, who entered the season as the O's utility infielder, has become the starting second baseman, as regular second baseman Brian Roberts and his concussion symptoms have been limited to only 39 games this season.
And for much of the season, Orioles fans have lit up the comments sections of online blogs, complaining about how Andino has been playing so much and saying he's "Showalter's buddy."
During rookie Ryan Adam's first stint in the majors earlier this summer, he hardly got to play at all, and fans were calling to see what the kid with the above-average bat in the minors could do at the MLB level while Roberts was out. To his fortune, he's been getting a shot to play daily over the last few weeks.
Many fans, including myself, just simply don't like Andino as a player. I see him as a player who has more potential than he's shown, a bit arrogant and a little lazy. To me, he just seems like he feels entitled to a spot on the 25-man roster.
However, he's done all that can be asked of a utility player filling in on a full-time role for most of the season, and has pretty much earned himself the utility spot on the Orioles' 2012 Opening Day roster. A good bit of those fans who bashed Andino for so long have seemed to recognize that, and aren't calling for his head anymore as they give him his due praise.
Good for him, and I wish him the best.
When Nolan Reimold came back up to the major league level, he was pretty much used in left field against left-handed starters only.
Unfortunately for him, the O's had a pretty long stretch during the summer where they didn't face many left-handed starters, leaving Reimold as a bench warmer.
With the failed five tools of Felix Pie playing pretty much daily, many fans took to the comments sections of blogs to complain of Reimold's absence when they believed he was clearly the superior player (and has since proven to be).
When Showalter finally started giving Reimold a consistent chance, he pushed Pie onto the bench. It's not like Reimold took off though; his power was showing, but his average and OBP were both significantly lower than any fan would like. However, they were still better than Pie's, and with his hustle out of the box and awesome threat of power, he took over left until now, with Showalter offering more time to the September call-ups.
Now, fans tend to be debating whether Reimold will ever show the consistent form he put on display during his rookie campaign in 2009.
When Vladimir Guerrero was signed by the Orioles, fans were drooling at the thought of having such a threat batting in the middle of the order, supplying protection for the likes of Nick Markakis and Adam Jones.
Now, fans just want him and his mediocre numbers (.282, 12 HR, 51 RBI) out of the batting order.
Yet, Buck continues to bat Vlad right in the heart of the order. Vlad's been in the cleanup spot much of the year, with Buck's biggest argument that the respect Vlad has gained over his Hall of Fame career has earned him the right to try and turn things around in that spot.
It makes sense, but how long does a player get to turn things around before it starts to become a little bit ridiculous?
While it may be true that the O's don't have a true No. 4 hitter, there are still better options than what Vlad is bringing to the table at this point in his career.
I think it's safe to assume that every Orioles fan has been calling for Vlad to be moved down to the sixth or seventh spot in the order. And until recently, Showalter had been ignoring the need.
But over the last week or two, Vlad's been hitting in the five spot, behind center fielder Adam Jones. That's not as far down as some people would like, but at least that offers the possibility of one less at-bat for him per game, and in crucial run-scoring situations.
There have been many instances throughout the season where Showalter has made bullpen moves that fans haven't liked. Some of their comments:
"Why did he bring in this left-handed reliever instead of this other left-handed reliever?"
"Why is this young kid pitching with a slim lead late in the game instead of this veteran late-inning guy?"
"How come the starter wasn't allowed to go back out for the seventh?"
And the most popular:
"Why is Kevin Gregg pitching?"
Buck Showalter doesn't have very good bullpen options outside of setup man Jim Johnson, especially now that crafty righty Koji Uehara was traded to the Texas Rangers just before the July trade deadline.
Not to mention the fact that it's easy for us fans to question a bullpen decision while sitting on the couch instead of standing in the dugout, and even more so after how the move plays out.
One thing that brought about Buck Mania in Balmer at the end of the 2010 season was Buck's hard-nosed, no-nonsense attitude.
Players were playing for their jobs, and Buck wasn't making excuses.
Now it seems, at least to many a fan, that Buck has lightened up, lost his edge and has gone back on some of the things that made him so appealing to the fans of the Orioles to begin with.
For example, when Buck came in, he stated that he didn't believe in the "save rule." He believed in the "win rule." And though Koji Uehara pretty much took over as the closer at the end of the season a week or two into Buck's time with the club, it was still pretty evident that Buck was playing the hot hand to close out a ballgame.
However, this year, Kevin Gregg and his 4-plus ERA have been trotted out there when the game is close in the ninth to see how many blown saves he can rack up.
In addition, a good bit of fans have complained of Buck making excuses for his players at times during postgame press conferences. They claim he never states the problem head-on and calls out whatever player needs it.
While that's true, us fans also don't know what happens behind closed doors. The last thing a young player needs is to be publicly humiliated by his manager.
Even still, it'd be nice to see Showalter get a little more "omph" back, maybe get thrown out of games more often. Who knows, it could fire the team up.