As we wait for the Baltimore Orioles’ lineup in Oakland, it’s dawned on me that tomorrow is an off day for the Birds. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised – the schedule came out in September! Plus they’ll be going cross country to get home, so it’s only fair I suppose.
Given the way the season has started, it also provides a chance for the O’s to make changes if they want to. And no, I’m not talking about the lineup. (Although a roster move will have to be made at some point, as it’s expected that Jonathan Schoop will come off the DL on Tuesday.) I’m talking within the organization – perhaps even in the dugout.
Buck Showalter is the second-best manager in franchise history. (I’ll let you figure out who gets the top nod.) However more importantly, he presided over a re-birth in the franchise from top-to-bottom, and restored the civic pride in the team that had been lacking for awhile. Yet if I’m to believe the legions of people who tweet at me on a daily basis along with some of the commenters on this site (incidentally, many of who’s comments don’t get published due to their vulgar or mean-spirited nature), that goodwill has been rolled back in an instant.
Unequivocally, there’s NOBODY better to manage the Orioles than Buck Showalter. Take yourself back to circa 2006 or 2007. If I told you that Buck would one day manage the Orioles, would you not take that? It’s not just a matter of X’s and O’s, or on-field decisions. As he’s said many times, Buck “gets Baltimore.” And Baltimore truly is a place that you have to “get” in order to have success here. Ask John Harbaugh. Heck, on the flip side of that as Robert Irsay.
Yet, there’s a percentage of you who want Buck gone – and NOW. I remain on the record as saying that I think that would be a huge mistake. Is it something that could happen? Yes, for sure. But I think it would be a mistake. It’s one thing to punt out a manager who in essence had no credentials when he walked in the door – like the Orioles did with the likes of Mazzilli, Perlozzo, and Trembley. Or like Washington did with Matt Williams. But a manager as accomplished and tenured as Buck Showalter, who has the rapport with many of the current players that he does? That’s a stretch.
But yes folks, that could happen. I think much more realistically however you might see someone such as Scott Coolbaugh become the sacrificial lamb and get the ax. But even that might be a stretch, as Buck Showalter has a reputation for being intensely loyal, both to players and the coaches underneath him.
Obviously Dan Duquette is a guy who could be on the chopping block also. And it wouldn’t cost the Orioles much in the way or money to relieve him of his duties. Like Showalter, his contract’s up at the end of the year. Incidentally, Brady Anderson could fill either Duquette’s or Coolbaugh’s role for the rest of the season if need be. Perhaps even long term.
But going back to Showalter for a moment, as I said I think relieving him of his duties would be a huge mistake. But anytime a coach is on the hot seat in sports, my response is always what’s your plan to replace him? It might be one thing to fire a coach/manager towards the end of the season and let an assistant fill in for the rest of the way. But we’re still early in the season…
…the last time this situation came up in Baltimore was 2010. And I said the same thing; what’s the plan going forward to replace him? In that case it turned out that the Orioles had a plan: Buck Showalter. They had an interim manager for most of the summer while the T’s were crossed and I’s dotted with Buck, but he was the plan. So again to appease all of the folks who want a change in the manager’s office, what’s your plan?
Disregarding the fact that I personally believe Buck’s still the best guy to guide this franchise, there are three names out there who might be considered to be on par with him: John Farrell, Joe Girardi, and Dusty Baker. Two of those guys have won World Series’, and the other is very accomplished as a big league manager. Now many of you are going to say that the Orioles should start fresh and pick a young manager that’s up and coming. But…that sounds great until it doesn’t work. Ultimately it’s a roll of the dice.
When you hire a manager you want someone who’s going to walk into the clubhouse and have immediate street cred. That’s why Showalter was such a great hire in 2010. Any of the three names I mentioned above would also have that. But would someone’s bench coach, who while deserving of an opportunity in the big leagues, bring that type of attitude to a team? Probably not.
Changes may well come to this franchise, and it might be tomorrow. I just wouldn’t expect it to be in the form of a new manager. But if it were, Orioles fans should hope for someone with a resume similar to Buck’s. Anything less would be a downgrade. However I suspect that if change comes, it’ll come somewhere other than the manager’s office.