Saying a personal goodbye to Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Saying a personal goodbye to Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

Two days after manager Buck Showalter declined to use Zach Britton in the 2016 wild-card game, he and Dan Duquette sat in front of the press to examine the season and look ahead.

But before Showalter could look forward, he was peppered with questions about not using Britton in the 11-inning loss to Toronto, a move that brought intense criticism and still is talked about today.

While Showalter took question after question, Duquette sat there impassively, not coming to his manager’s defense. Most general managers would have said they supported their manager—even if they disagreed with the decision.

But Duquette was silent. It said much about their relationship.

Two years after that wild-card game, Duquette and Showalter, whose pairing was always awkward, are gone from the Orioles. The team announced their departures on Wednesday.

As the losses piled up, ending with 115, people wondered: Would Buck go, and Dan stay? Would Dan go, and Buck stay? Would both stay? Or would both go?

After Duquette engineered the five July deals ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline and spoke confidently of the rebuilding plan, it seemed possible that he’d continue in his role.

But the Orioles needed somebody to make those moves, and Duquette was in charge.

Now, he’s not.

Showalter’s departure was expected, and he’ll go down as the second most successful manager in the club’s history. Even Hank Bauer, whose team won the World Series in 1966, and Joe Altobelli, who won the Series in 1983, won’t be remembered as fondly as Showalter.

Andy MacPhail, the highly skilled baseball executive, who began the Orioles’ turnaround in 2007, used to say that a manager should fit the market he’s working in, and his selection of Showalter in 2010 was a masterstroke.

Showalter took to Baltimore immediately. The fans loved him. His baseball acumen reminded many of Earl Weaver, the fiery competitor who was the most successful manager in Orioles history. Showalter was us against the world. He got Baltimore.

He and his wife, Angela, had a special affection for Baltimore and its fans, and Buck and I bonded in a special way. He’s the same age as I am, and when he talked about old television shows or sports from the 1960s or ’70s, I identified with him.

And, he was funny. In pregame press conferences, he’d often make me laugh. I have a loud laugh, and he enjoyed hearing it. Catcher Caleb Joseph would watch in-house feeds of those pressers and skillfully imitate my laugh.

When the Orioles won, Showalter would almost always turn to me and ask me about the time of the game. Because he’s on MLB’s Competition Committee, Showalter cared intensely about the length of games, and if the Orioles won a snappy game, so much the better.

Most of all, he taught me an incredible amount about baseball. Early in spring training, while pitchers were in fielding drills, he’d walk over and tell me, without prompting, why a certain pitcher was a skilled fielder and why another wasn’t.

He’d talk about anything, sports, politics, geography. Once he started talking about Madagascar, and he was shocked when I mentioned I had a neighbor who was from there.

My favorite time with Buck was Sunday morning. With little sleep and lots of coffee, that was Buck unplugged. Before Sunday road games, we’d gather in his office and after the formal interview, which wasn’t always so formal, he’d talk, sometimes for 30 minutes—or even more, and invariably I’d learn something.

While others may not have enjoyed those sessions as much as I did, I knew they were special. Here was a brilliant baseball mind taking us inside the game, and his insights were always helpful.

Duquette could also be entertaining, but isn’t as comfortable with the press. In March 2012, the Orioles played the Red Sox in Fort Myers. It was the first time that Duquette, who had a controversial stint as Boston’s general manager, had faced the Boston press in years.

“Dan, when you were here, you were quite a lightning rod,” one questioner began. “Oh, really,” Duquette deadpanned.

Now, both are gone, and their imprimatur will remain. Showalter will be fondly remembered in Baltimore. He’s the guy who brought Chris Davis in to pitch the 16th and 17th inning at Fenway Park.

He’s the one who converted Britton from a struggling starter to a premier reliever, and who saw that Manny Machado could play third base in the big leagues—and, six years later—saw he needed to play shortstop again.

Duquette will be criticized for trying to replace Nick Markakis with Travis Snider, Alejandro De Aza and Gerardo Parra and for trading away Josh Hader in the Bud Norris trade.

But Duquette was the one who found an unknown pitcher from Taiwan in Japan. Without Wei-Yin Chen, the Orioles’ staff wouldn’t have been as strong as it was in the 2012 and 2014 postseasons, and he found Miguel Gonzalez, who came out of nowhere to pitch effectively in those years.

Duquette also rescued Nate McLouth from the baseball scrap heap in 2012, and when Markakis was hurt, McLouth was an effective replacement. He also stole Richard Bleier from the Yankees.

There were plenty of bad moves, too. His signings of Colby Rasmus and Danny Valencia this spring didn’t help the team. Trading Zach Davies for Parra backfired, costing the Orioles dearly.

But Duquette and Showalter gave Oriole fans three postseason appearances in five years, and made fans forget about the 14 straight losing seasons.

There’ll soon be another executive vice president of baseball operations who’ll chose a new manager, and Oriole fans will hope they can be even more successful than Duquette and Showalter were.

38 Comments

38 Comments

  1. Larry

    October 4, 2018 at 7:21 am

    I still agree with Palmer’s assessment. It’s a shame ownership didn’t as well.
    Buck and Angela gave a lot to Baltimore and will be missed on many levels.
    Too bad we didn’t get to honor him and say farewell in a fitting way on Sunday, but for Buck it was about the players and doing what is right. Integrity and humility – a class act.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 4, 2018 at 8:05 am

      Larry, Buck would have been embarrassed by being singled out on Sunday, particularly when it was Adam Jones’ likely farewell, too.

    • Zoey Dog Says Throw Strikes

      October 4, 2018 at 12:02 pm

      What did Palmer say?

  2. 5brooks5

    October 4, 2018 at 8:37 am

    Rich, well said. A great piece about your relationship with Buck. I think we all will miss him. Not that I want anyone to lose their job, but thankfully ownership didn’t keep Dan, after letting Buck go. That would have been a huge mistake, IMO. Now hire someone,and let them run the show and spend that international money! Please

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 4, 2018 at 8:47 am

      Thank you, 5Brooks. Looking forward to the next Orioles chapter here.

  3. JugularJim

    October 4, 2018 at 9:00 am

    Unfortunately, Buck can’t get out there and play the game for the team. He worked with what he was given. Nothing more, nothing less. Ownership knew that Duquette most likely would not be retained after the season. Which should be a question in the minds of many as to why they let him make the trades that he did. Leave baseball operations to those who know the game. You would not hire a plumber to fix an electrical issue.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 4, 2018 at 7:01 pm

      Someone needed to make the trades, Jim, and Duquette was more familiar with the team than anyone. The best way for him to retain his job or get another is to perform well at your current one.

  4. The Wedge

    October 4, 2018 at 9:06 am

    Great reflections, especially about Buck. Seems like just a good, decent man. And yes, he truly “got” Baltimore – simply put, he’s as much a part of the fiber of this city as any athlete, coach, or manager who’s ever come through here. His O’s HOF induction will be appointment viewing, for sure.

    We appreciate Dan, as well. So maybe he wasn’t the avuncular, occasionally sardonic personality that Buck was, but so what? All I know is that, for a 5-year stretch, baseball in Baltimore was as fun as I ever remembered it, and he had a hand in making that happen. And his parting statement was just pure class.

    Thanks to both of these fine men for reminding me why I love this game and this team so much.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 4, 2018 at 7:02 pm

      Thank you, Wedge. Those five years were so much fun.

  5. bmorebirds

    October 4, 2018 at 9:12 am

    Buck and Dan were always destined to be the Odd Couple. GM’s should have the authority to select a manager, not inherit one as Dan did. What resulted was the baseball equivalent of a shotgun wedding. While it’s tempting to disparage them following a 115-loss debacle, I wonder what heights they could have soared to had they not been stricken with Orioles Dysfunction Syndrome?

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 4, 2018 at 7:04 pm

      Overall, they did pretty well together, bmore birds.

  6. GSISDANNO

    October 4, 2018 at 9:25 am

    Thanks for the insight into Buck Showalter. He was a perfect fit here in Baltimore and he will be missed.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 4, 2018 at 7:04 pm

      Thank you, Danno.

  7. deqalt

    October 4, 2018 at 10:01 am

    Great article. Been an Orioles fan for decades and I learned more about the game in the past 7 years. I watch every press conference to learn some nugget about baseball.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 4, 2018 at 7:04 pm

      Thank you, deqalt.

  8. bigdaddydk

    October 4, 2018 at 10:21 am

    I’ll miss a lot about Buck in particular. His Buck-isms, things that only he could say and have you not think he was on the verge of lapsing into senility, were priceless sometimes. Who else in baseball refers to a pitcher warming up in the pen as dry humping? At times, I barely had any idea what he was saying, but I always figured his mind was working faster than his mouth could keep up.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 4, 2018 at 7:05 pm

      He was a delight, bigdaddy.

  9. Orial

    October 4, 2018 at 10:22 am

    Buck will be missed and loved, DD unfortunately won’t. They both had their strong points and weaknesses. DD could scour the trash heap and find something useful and Buck was able to take that “trash heap” player and make him useful. That part of their game plan clicked. Them not seeing eye to eye may have been more their personalities not meshing than their goals not being similar. Either way farewell to both and job well done. I want to give Dan Duquette as special farewell for the simple reason that Buck is being sent out with loving fanfare and Dan the back door which is a shame.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 4, 2018 at 7:06 pm

      I know there are a lot of people who agree with you, Orial.

  10. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 4, 2018 at 10:24 am

    As a long time and highly successful Strat-O-Matic GM & Field Manager, I’d like to offer my services to the Angelos family to serve as either, or both of the newly vacated positions. References of course, would be available upon request.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 4, 2018 at 7:06 pm

      I can vouch for your insightful
      comments, Boog.

  11. Creatively09

    October 4, 2018 at 10:37 am

    Looking forward to the end of October when Buck comes back to Baltimore for the Kid Peace Charity walk/run. A final chance to say goodbye to Baltimore and for Baltimore to say thank you to him. Even Adam Jones will still be involved in his Tailgate this year. So what did the Duquettes ever do for the community?

    • Djowen

      October 4, 2018 at 11:07 am

      Reportedly it hasn’t been determined if they will attend that.

  12. Jack Gibbons

    October 4, 2018 at 10:38 am

    It was impressive that even though Buck Showalter knew Sunday would be his final game as manager of the Orioles, he wanted the day to belong to Adam Jones — and did everything he could to ensure that. He demonstrated exceptional composure, and leadership, during a 115-loss season, never criticizing his players or making excuses. He maintained perspective, and even his sense of humor. I appreciate that Rich has taken us behind the scenes to share his relationship with Buck, who clearly loved what he did. He did get Baltimore, and Baltimore got him.

    • mlbbirdfan

      October 4, 2018 at 8:59 pm

      GREAT comments! Thanks.
      Buck has true class.

  13. HOF19

    October 4, 2018 at 11:26 am

    The last Orioles jersey I purchased ( about 4 years ago )they asked which player’s name I desired to be on the back of it. I wanted Buck’s. It has become one of my favorite Orioles jerseys. Love ya Buck…….. fair well from here on out ……….. GO O’s !!!!!!!!

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 4, 2018 at 7:08 pm

      Maybe you can be one of my Jerseys of the Game next year, HOF.

  14. VICTORTEE

    October 4, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    Buck and Adam Jones had class and I will greatly miss them. To Dan I say “Don’t let the door hit you in the a** on the way out”.

  15. blair brooks

    October 4, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    Appreciate and support your assessment of Buck. He was a tremendous asset to the Orioles and I will always remember him fondly. I appreciate the positive contributions of Duquette but my broader assessment is less flattering. Too many decisions, however defensible at the time, did not pan out. Finally, 2018 reflected a complete organizational breakdown. This was a team that was not prepared. There was no accountability for the collapse in September 2017. The Alex Cobb late signing was a fiasco. Whether the responsibility for that fiasco rests with Cobb, his agent, Duquette or ownership— or all of the above, the result was a waste of $millions and goodwill with a new team, city and fans. Accountability to me is not publicly humiliating players or personnel (though in a few cases it seems like the only remaining option) — but it can mean transparency with fans about expectations and mistakes. That accountability and transparency will be especially needed in the years of rebuilding.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 4, 2018 at 7:09 pm

      Thank you for your assessment, Blair
      Brooks.

  16. OsfansinWV

    October 4, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    As Gary Thorne would put it Adieu Adieu. Thanks Buck for the memories, hopefully someday we’ll see your plaque hanging in CF as a member of the O’s HOF. Best mgr we’ve had in Baltimore in a while… and who was the other person I’m supposed to say goodbye to?

  17. Orial

    October 4, 2018 at 5:09 pm

    Sad that every post except one”ahem” fails to mention Dan Duquette.

  18. OriolesNumber1Fan

    October 4, 2018 at 10:08 pm

    Too bad Andy MacPhail isn’t still here. He and Buck would have probably won a world series or two. Instead, the baseball brilliance of Buck will now probably be the new Phillies manager and reteam up with Andy there. Manny will probably sign on with the Phillies as well. The manager of the Year with the Yanks, Rangers and Orioles, and also took an expansion team Snakes from 100 losses to 100 wins the very next year will now do his brilliance someplace else. And like a lot of players who left by trade or free agent and now shine someplace and the fans on this site wishing they were still with the Orioles, maybe they will feel the same for Buck but only it’s too late.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 4, 2018 at 10:15 pm

      It will be fascinating to see if Buck manages again, Number 1 fan.

  19. OriolesNumber1Fan

    October 4, 2018 at 10:10 pm

    Too bad Andy MacPhail isn’t still here. He and Buck would have probably won a world series or two. Instead, the baseball brilliance of Buck will now probably be the new Phillies manager and reteam up with Andy there. Manny will probably sign on with the Phillies as well. And they’ll be the new world series champs.
    The manager of the Year with the Yanks, Rangers and Orioles, and also took an expansion team Snakes from 100 losses to 100 wins the very next year will now do his brilliance someplace else. And like a lot of players who left by trade or free agent and now shine someplace and the fans on this site wishing they were still with the Orioles, maybe they will feel the same for Buck, but only now it’s too late.

  20. bats in the blefary

    October 5, 2018 at 5:08 am

    Rich, you are the second local writer to list Richard Bleief among DD’s top contributions. that says all that needs to be said about his time in Baltimore. Thank you Buck and thank you Andy MacPhail for the fun run. DD added so little that he doesn’t deserve to be honored in any heartfelt farewell to Buck.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 5, 2018 at 8:31 am

      Bats, whether you liked him or not, Duquette was an important figure in contemporary Orioles history.

  21. Big bird 64

    October 11, 2018 at 5:08 pm

    Indeed, after a season in hell, change is inevitable. Following a 47-115 season, someone had to go. Sadly, it appears that Buck Showalter is that person. Dan Duquette is going too, but his loss simply doesn’t resonate with Bird fans like Buck’s will.
    Buck Showalter did “get” Baltimore. He embraced it and never let it go. And his loss will be felt in ever expanding ways. Buck didn’t just get dumb overnight, he just didn’t have enough talent to compete. The O’s are a team in flux; the owner is old and ill, and his sons don’t seem to care what goes on. A new GM and manager are coming aboard, and the roster that closed out 2018 will be returning, for better or worse.
    Buck deserved a better finale in Baltimore. That grand finale will come when Buck is enshrined in the Oriole HOF.

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