The best move Orioles can make in a rebuild is build around Buck - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

The best move Orioles can make in a rebuild is build around Buck

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

The Orioles are changing everything. They’ve traded away six longtime players, acknowledged they’re rebuilding and spending money on international scouting, technology, analytics and minor league development instead of the major league roster.

Amid all these changes, there’s one thing that shouldn’t change: Buck Showalter.

Unnoticed in all the tumult of the week just past was the eighth anniversary of Showalter’s hiring as manager. He and Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette don’t have contracts for next season. While Duquette was in the news for the roster remake, Showalter suddenly seemed to be irrelevant to the rebuild.

However, Showalter is hardly irrelevant. If he’s allowed to continue, he could be extremely relevant in the next chapter of Orioles history.

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He was the manager who oversaw the makeover of the team that led to three postseason appearances from 2012-16.

As a new, lesser-known group takes the place of Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Kevin Gausman, Darren O’Day and Jonathan Schoop, Showalter can play a vital role in their development.

He’s always been a stickler for fundamentals, and watching the deterioration of his team’s defense has eaten at him.

Showalter has acknowledged that many young players are rushed to the majors these days and need remedial instruction in fundamentals.

He’s always been great at getting along with star players, but he shines at working with players who have been overlooked—players like he was a generation ago—and finding a way for them to be useful.

That’s what the Orioles need now.

It wasn’t Showalter who insisted on flooding the roster with Rule 5 draft choices, nor did he think it wise that the team abandon Latin America.

He’s fully on board with the team’s new direction, and the team ought to be on board with him.

Showalter can teach a young team—as he did the Orioles when he took over in August 2010. The Orioles had a few pieces — Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters—and little else. Yet, the team went 34-23 after he took over.

After his 2011 team was 30 games under .500 and heading for 100 losses in late August, the Orioles finished 22-16 and knocked the Boston Red Sox out of the playoffs. A year later, the Orioles began to win.

It showed that Showalter has the patience to work with less-than-skilled teams. With his guidance and input — and an influx of young talent — the Orioles can win again.

Throughout his time with the Orioles, Showalter has had a global view of the organization, and the sport. He knows about every player in the organization. When a few of the players recently acquired in trades visited his office, one came away impressed with his knowledge of him as a player, and the Orioles’ minor league teams.

Showalter is adaptable. Although he often reminds people that analytics don’t tell the whole story, he’ll listen to anything that would help the team.

He’s a keen observer of baseball trends, too. That’s why commissioner Rob Manfred has him on the game’s Competition Committee. That knowledge helps him in managing the club.

In recent years, the game has gone away from big personality managers. In their place are younger former players, some of whom have never managed at any level. There aren’t many managers who learned the game in the minor leagues as Showalter did.

It would be a shame if that type of experience was underestimated by the Orioles.

For many years, managers like Bobby Cox, Dusty Baker and Joe Torre talked endlessly with the press about anything, and that’s what Showalter does. It’s a way of communicating your thoughts with the fans.

Today, many managers are well spoken without saying much. Managers are often asked to do less and rely on decisions made at levels above them.

That’s not Showalter, and just because many other teams function that way, doesn’t mean the Orioles should.

The Orioles should embrace analytics. Anything that can teach you how to win more games should be a useful tool. The foray into international scouting is long overdue, and so is spending money on player development.

Those are all industry trends, and good ones, but replacing an ultra-experienced manager with someone new doesn’t strike me as wise.

This year has been difficult on Showalter. His team almost assuredly will finish with 100 losses for the first time in two decades of major league managing.

Next year is likely to be challenging, too, but Showalter can work through that. A less experienced manager could be traumatized by a 95 or 100-loss season.

In 2019, the Orioles are likely to be without Adam Jones, who is the only player on the team left from when Showalter took over. Jones has been the franchise’s face during the good years.

Who will represent the Orioles as they rebuild?

During the 14 losing seasons, the Orioles almost always had a player fans could rally around, whether it was Cal Ripken Jr. during his final years or Brian Roberts, who’ll enter the team’s Hall of Fame this weekend.

Next year, the team isn’t likely to have a player fans can identify with, though as the public gets comfortable with younger players, that could change.

In the absence of a dynamic personality like Jones, who better to represent the Orioles than Showalter?

At 62, he’s in good health and has lots of energy and passion for his job. He’s embraced challenges before, whether it was managing the Yankees at 35, building an expansion team in Arizona or awakening a franchise in Baltimore.

A knock on Showalter in the past was that he was never able to stick with a job beyond four seasons. That’s been dismissed with his nine seasons here.

Some fans say they’re tired of Buck. If the Orioles were winning, they wouldn’t be tired of him. What they don’t get is that his steady hand can be just as useful with Keegan Akin, Cedric Mullins, DJ Stewart and Steve Wilkerson as it was with Britton, Jones, Machado and Schoop.

The season still has nearly two months left, but the best move the Orioles can make in its final weeks is to bring back Buck Showalter for 2019—and beyond.

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32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Ekim

    August 7, 2018 at 7:20 am

    Some good points, Rich, but his hitting and pitching coaches haven’t been effective. Who chose them? If it was Buck then he should bear the blame for the current state of affairs. If you look back on the O’s pitchers since MacDowell arrived almost all have seen their performance decline. Pitchers get called up from the minors and start off reasonably well but quickly decline. To me, he’s toxic. But, I’m only a fan. One of my friends is a former coach and when I pointed this out to him last year he started paying attention to that and now agrees with me that something is wrong there. The same goes for Coolbaugh. It’s time for both of them to go and if the reason they’re staying is Buck… then he needs to go as well. Just saying…

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 7, 2018 at 7:51 am

      If Buck comes back, Ekim, I would expect changes in his coaching staff.

    • Raymo

      August 7, 2018 at 9:25 pm

      Rich, please explain why you would expect that.

  2. deqalt

    August 7, 2018 at 8:13 am

    Great article could not agree more. Buck was a genius and loved manager and in a year fans turned him. There isn’t a hitting coach alive who could help a poorly designed lineup. All or nothing hitters can’t be taught to hit the other way in the majors. Ask anyone within baseball and they will tell you he is one of the top baseball men around. Bobby Cox and Joe Torre were terrible mangers for years, give them Jeter, Rivera, Clemens, Smoltz, Glavine,, Maddux and now there geniuses. Buck got them to playoffs in years with terrible pitching. Give him a legit starting staff and he’s a genius again.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 7, 2018 at 8:20 am

      Thank you, deqalt.

  3. 5brooks5

    August 7, 2018 at 8:20 am

    I think that Buck should be back and most likely will in my opinion. I agree about the the other coaches, but Buck seems loyal to a fault sometimes. The other side is, if not Buck , then who? I don’t see a lot of good baseball men who would want this job! Not with our multi – layered dysfunctional front office.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 7, 2018 at 8:28 am

      Brooks, there are only 30 of these jobs, and they’re hard to get. I don’t think the Orioles would have a hard time attracting qualified candidates, but the most qualified is Buck.

  4. VICTORTEE

    August 7, 2018 at 8:26 am

    I agree. BRING BACK BUCK!!!

  5. bats in the blefary

    August 7, 2018 at 9:06 am

    I love Buck, but while he wasn’t the guy who asked for the rule 5 players, I do hear that it was instrumental in bringing back both Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo, 2 quite bad decisions. Further, while he is willing to consider analytics, he does not embrace them the way others do. That is the future, and Buck is not there. I think, with the team headed in that direction, they need a skipper who is totally in that realm.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 7, 2018 at 9:34 am

      Bats, I think having a manager who is not like others is a good thing, and Buck is different in a good way.

  6. NCOSFAN

    August 7, 2018 at 9:27 am

    I was a big supporter of Buck until the first game of this year. When he trotted out there with Chris Davis batting lead-off, he should have been fired on the spot. He is too stubborn in his ways in trying to get something out of nothing.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 7, 2018 at 9:48 am

      NCOSFAN, Davis was quickly moved out of the leadoff spot when it was not working. He hasn’t used the same lineup in three games all season. I appreciate your passion, but I think he’s imaginative rather than being stubborn.

      • TheGreat8

        August 7, 2018 at 2:08 pm

        To me, the Davis lead-off experiment was no big deal. He tried it, it didn’t work, everyone move on.

        I’m not against him coming back but my bigger issue with Buck is his stubborn loyalty to players – mostly vets – who clearly aren’t getting the job done. Davis is an albatross and of course you don’t want $20mil on the bench. But that’s what needed to happen and it took a year and a half for it. Or running Tilly out there again and again. Or Ubaldo. Or… insert name here… He seems over committed to his vets and I don’t know how that plays with a team full of rooks.

    • OrioleMaze

      August 7, 2018 at 3:20 pm

      I have really enjoyed watching the O’s team with Davis on the bench. They seem hungry. Jonathan VR looks like a star already. I wonder how he’s perceived in the clubhouse. It may be a fine line between ‘confident’ and ‘cocky’.
      Keep Buck. Just figure out something to do with CD.

  7. Orial

    August 7, 2018 at 10:04 am

    You’ve pointed out the major reasons for retainining Buck so I guess I’ll just reiterate. With Jones more than likely gone the team will need a face–who better? Patience is a virtue–who better? He’s already stated he’d like to work with a young team. A lot of fans of course won’t be happy(blaming him for the demise) but so be it. They call for a Joe Girardi type,but that’s for a team at or near a pennant battle. Bring both Buck and Dan back,let them follow up on the “new” ideas laid out. One side note–Coolbaugh is questionable but they may have to move on from McDowell.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 7, 2018 at 10:20 am

      I appreciate your thoughts, Orial.

  8. boss61

    August 7, 2018 at 10:14 am

    When I became a baseball fan in 1965 at the age of four, managers were older than me. Hank Bauer was older than me; Earl was too. Ditto Ray Miller, Johnny Oates and a host of others. Even Frank Robinson was older than me. If Buck is replaced, this no longer will be true.

    I’d like to see Buck return because of his track record of success with rebuilding, but if ownership or Dan (I really want Dan back) feel they need to make a change, it’s understandable. Poor fundamentals leading to 50ih-110ish would be the reason.

    Among relatively recent former players who seem (near as a fan can tell) to have the personality I’d want as a manager: Bordick, Jeff Conine, Nate McLouth, Geoff Zahn, maybe Brian Roberts, JJ Hardy – but we also should look at major league coaches in often-successful organizations. The Cubs and Red Sox come to mind.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 7, 2018 at 10:22 am

      Boss, I’d like to see Buck come back, but not just for the reason that he’s older than me—and he’s only barely older.

  9. blair brooks

    August 7, 2018 at 11:27 am

    I am a huge fan of Buck Showalter, appreciate his many contributions to returning winning baseball to Baltimore and hope he returns next season. That said, he needs to do some serious introspection and make some changes in his approach. He is an admirer of Nick Saban and would do well to observe how Saban stays on top. Saban remains true to his “process” but makes adjustments dictated by changes in the game and the cultural shifts of young talent coming to his program. Granted, Saban has more control in acquiring talent but talent development is his hallmark. Loyalty to the “process “ and winning are paramount. Assistants who fail in either regard don’t last. The 2018 season represents a total organizational failure, top to bottom — with the exceptions of Manny, who was motivated by his next contract, and Adam Jones, who is steady to his career performance short of a drop off in defense. The team was not prepared. The signs were present in 2017 – perhaps the smoke and mirrors of Buck’s managing kept things competitive through late August – but the complete collapse in September revealed the challenge for 2018. Yet there was no accountability for that collapse. While I support Buck’s reluctance to publicly humiliate a player and handle matters “in the clubhouse “, grown men making millions should not have such fragile psyches that they cannot be held accountable. And sometimes that means holding them accountable to the fans. I have never lived a day in Baltimore but have been a loyal fan since 1966 (same age as Buck) and the shrunken market means a fresh, aggressive approach to fan development and retention. I watch the majority of games in the season, either in person or on mlb. Firing one person, or everybody, is not likely to transform the organization. But if there is not greater transparency and accountability, fans will not stick around. Rambling over. Buck, please stay but keep growing.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 7, 2018 at 3:34 pm

      This is a very well reasoned opinion. One of Showalter’s strengths is his ability to keep growing and changing with the times, and if he’s kept on, I think he would continue to grow and change.

  10. John in Cincy

    August 7, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    I agree with that, Rich, Buck should come back. I would like to see J.J. Hardy in Sarasota next spring, because the infield defense needs all the help it can get.

    While Bobby Dickerson and Mike Bordick are solid mentors, I think Hardy, who was as good at throwing accuracy from shortstop as it gets, is the right person to have one-on-one instruction with Tim Beckham.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 7, 2018 at 2:46 pm

      Thank you, John. J.J. Hardy is certainly missed here. He worked extensively with Beckham at the end of last season and more instruction couldn’t hurt.

  11. Bancells Moustache

    August 7, 2018 at 2:56 pm

    I’m more for the idea of a complete teardown, which includes Showalter. I’m not a Buck basher, but you can’t give him a pass for this debacle. The team that has been a complete laughingstock since last August has fielded 10 players who were current or former All Stars (Alvarez, Brach, Britton, Davis, Hardy, Jones, Machado, O’Day, Schoop, Trumbo) along with a ROTY finalist (Mancini). To be perfectly frank, they shouldn’t be historically bad. That indicates poor management, not just in the front office but in the dugout as well. If the Orioles truly want to embrace a rebuild, Buck and Jones should have been the first ones to go.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 7, 2018 at 4:46 pm

      I appreciate your points, Bancells.

  12. Borg

    August 7, 2018 at 4:12 pm

    If the Orioles bring back Duquette and Showalter it seems like they’ll be doing the same thing and expecting different results. In the article you stated that Buck was not on board with all of the Rule 5 pickups–so does that mean those were Duquette’s decisions? If so, then how is the future going to look all that much different from the past? Bad decisions in the past don’t usually mean a sudden lurch towards good ones moving forward, and the Orioles certainly can’t afford too many missteps now in this rebuild.
    One of the hallmarks of the Showalter Orioles is the approach of all or nothing at the plate, which worked well when they were hitting 200+ homeruns as a team, but has shown over the last few seasons to be a very flawed approach. Unless we are to believe that Duquette simply went out and picked up those kind of hitters on his own with no imput from Showalter, then Buck has to shoulder some of the responsibility for the lack of players with any sort of OBP. It sounds very much like the argument is that Showalter should be the only manager in the history of baseball who isn’t held accountable for his team’s record and poor performance. If there are going to be changes made, then make them. I for one don’t want to keep him around just to be the face of the franchise. Fans don’t come to the ballpark to watch the manager, they come to be entertained and the Orioles have not been entertaining in quite a while. Let’s not forget that the only reason the Orioles seemed to be relevant in the wild card race last year was a hot August. The rest of the year was pretty mediocre or worse. This team is not fundamentally sound and that lies at the feet of the manager as much as anyone.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 7, 2018 at 4:47 pm

      You make some interesting points, Borg.

  13. Camden Bird

    August 7, 2018 at 5:34 pm

    Do you believe that Buck will let whoever the GM is do his job, or do you think he will always want some authority in the Warehouse? I don’t mean that as a smart-alleck; I’m genuinely asking your thoughts. Rumor has it that Buck will never be totally satisfied as *JUST* the manager. He wants a say in the front office and roster construction. What do you think, Rich?

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 7, 2018 at 7:10 pm

      Bird-I think any good manager wants and should have a say in roster construction. The general manager is always above the manager, but the manager is more visible to the public.

  14. Jacobs1928

    August 8, 2018 at 12:33 pm

    I must disagree …Buck has been part of the. O’s management team…The GM, Manager.
    Coaches & the minor league management who have created the present situation.
    With a young team …I do not think you need a 62 year old person to lead.
    If there is “rebuilding” start at the top and “rebuild Management” the G M ..Manager…
    And Coaches.
    The O’s present Management tream must be held responsible …get rid of them all.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 8, 2018 at 12:37 pm

      Thank you for making some interesting points, Jacobs.

  15. jkneps63

    August 8, 2018 at 8:27 pm

    No way! No Buck, no way, no how!

  16. ZantiGM

    August 9, 2018 at 8:58 am

    Buck needs to go
    I am in favor of giving Ryan Minor a 2 yr deal and replacing every coach
    Jeff Manto as hitting coach
    Have some guys on coaching staff that our young players are used to:
    Butch Davis-1st base coach and hitting
    Mike Griffin-bullpen coach
    Justin Lord-pitching coach
    Kendall-3rd base coach
    Get a bench coach with some big league exp

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