Many fans love to point back to the 2016 AL Wild Card game in which Baltimore Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter opted to leave closer Zach Britton in the bullpen. Instead he turned to Ubaldo Jimenez in an extra-inning elimination game. Jimenez of course gave up a walk-off season-ending home run.
Scientifically it’s impossible for that to be influencing what’s happening with the team now. Or even last year. Yet people still talk about it as if it’s a white elephant in the room. I’m going to say this once – I agreed with Showalter’s decision. It was tempting to use Britton for sure. But what happens if the Orioles take the lead and he’s already spent? As the visiting team in that situation, they would have had to play the bottom of every inning. Who pitches if Britton’s already used? Jimenez?
Was it controversial not to use Britton? Yes. But I had no issue with it. In baseball you always have to be thinking ahead. That’s all Showalter was doing.
Yet people act like had that gone differently maybe the team wouldn’t be struggling as it is right now. I suppose that anything’s possible. There are reports that some of the players in the clubhouse lost respect for Buck Showalter in that moment. He still has respect in the clubhouse, just not as much. If that’s true, is it fair? And does it make a difference?
I’m sure there were players who disagreed with Showalter’s decision. Heck, if Showalter’s own comments are any indication, he second-guessed himself after the fact. However I think you also have to look at the fact that these players are professionals. Even if they disagreed with the decision, are they really about to let that affect their play on the field one or even two years later?
You also have to look at the entire body of work. Again while that’s the decision I would have made personally, that was one “mistake” that Buck Showalter made as manager of the Orioles. Is it really fair to question his entire stewardship of the team? Similar to Machado, he’s going to win you more games than he’ll lose you.
Ultimately I think the Orioles’ issues are smaller details. Such as seeing the correctly, paying close attention to details, and letting things snowball into bigger things. It’s easy to point to the Britton thing as a catalyst for things going south to this point. However again scientifically that’s an impossibility. If there’s a correlation, these players aren’t professionals. And I don’t think that’s the case.