Shortly after news broke that the Philadelphia Phillies were shifting manager Pete Mackanin from the dugout to the front office, speculation began as to whom the Phillies might select as their next manager.
Philly.com, at the end of its initial piece about Mackanin’s firing, threw a little fuel onto a southbound Interstate 95 fire, suggesting the Phillies could “target” Orioles manager Buck Showalter. Later, in this piece, it lists Showalter as one of six possible candidates for the Phillies’ job.
The connection of dots makes sense in that Showalter has worked with – and has a mutual respect for — Phillies president Andy MacPhail and general manager Matt Klentak.
MacPhail hired Showalter in 2010 in Baltimore and Klentak worked closely with Showalter in 2010 and 2011 as MacPhail’s right-hand man.
Showalter also has an excellent relationship with Phillies’ assistant general manager Ned Rice, who, from 2012 through 2015, essentially assumed many of the duties Klentak had with the Orioles. And Showalter has always talked fondly of Joe Jordan, the former Orioles’ scouting director who is now Philadelphia’s farm director.
Showalter has been with the Orioles for eight seasons (seven full), and that’s by far the longest of his four managerial stops. And the Phillies, as an organization, appear to be heading upward after some awful seasons while the Orioles are careening into a crossroads that, potentially, could sweep them back into a major rebuilding project.
So, it’s a natural leap for speculation: Showalter as a fit for the Phillies.
Except for this: Showalter is under contract with the Orioles through 2018. And I’d be shocked if Orioles’ ownership would let him out of that commitment – especially for a lateral move – if that, indeed, were Showalter’s desire.
We’ve seen this movie before with executive vice president Dan Duquette and his pursuit of the Toronto Blue Jays’ president position, which would have been a promotion since that post oversees all management operations and Duquette’s Orioles’ position is solely baseball operations.
Managing Partner Peter G. Angelos was absolutely clear in his take at that time: Duquette is under contract and I expect him to honor that. As time went on, he softened, but only if the Blue Jays were willing to surrender a few top prospects.
And that was for Duquette, who seemingly has a good relationship with Angelos, but not to the same degree as Showalter does.
In the philly.com piece, it’s suggested that Showalter could vault to the top of the Phillies’ wish list, “if he — somehow — is fired.” Well, it’s inconceivable that Showalter gets canned this winter. And though he could quit on his own, he’d still be tied to the Orioles’ deal for a year.
Around here, the never-ending rumor, of course, isn’t Showalter leaving Baltimore, but ultimately kicking up to the front office with Duquette eventually departing. It’s solely backroom talk, conjecture; it’s also not unfathomable. Managing 162 games takes its toll, and Showalter, 61, has administrative experience from his days helping to build the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks.
In being around this organization for a long time, I’m quite aware that anything can happen. Be ready for the unexpected.
But Duquette or Showalter getting fired this winter also goes against Angelos’ stringent adherence to the sanctity of contracts. Angelos doesn’t like to can executives – he prefers to part company when their contracts expire. (There have been exceptions over the years, but even in the Davey Johnson saga in 1997, Angelos was fully prepared to let the skipper’s contract run its course, but he wasn’t going to be forced into giving an extension.)
Not to mention, despite a disappointing 2017 and growing fan backlash, Duquette’s track record in Baltimore (three playoff appearances in six seasons) is pretty solid.
Again, I never say never. But I’d be highly surprised if Duquette wasn’t allowed to at least fulfill his contract, which expires in 2018.
And I’d be even more surprised — floored, really — if Showalter was in Philadelphia in 2018.
First, I’ve always thought if Showalter left the Orioles’ organization, he’d end up with another former boss, John Hart, now in Atlanta.
But if Showalter is anywhere else in 2018 it would go against everything he has said while in Baltimore. One thing Showalter has consistently railed on while here is the idea of looking for another job when you already have one. He abhors the concept, and has shared that sentiment multiple times. When he hires for his staff, he makes sure that the candidates are fully committed to the work at hand and not entertaining the idea of a better job a year or so down the road.
So, it sure would seem hypocritical if Showalter bolted with a year remaining on his contract – even if he had the OK from ownership. I just don’t see that being his style.
Now, how much longer will Showalter be the Orioles manager? I don’t know.
Will he end up in a front office role in Baltimore after his contract expires next year? Maybe.
Would the Phillies be interested if Showalter were available, no strings attached? Absolutely.
But does Showalter pack up and leave Baltimore before the 2018 season begins?
Again, I’ll never say absolutely not when it comes to the Orioles, but I just don’t see that happening – for a variety of reasons.