Has Buck Showalter been the Orioles’ most significant acquisition in the last five years? I’m going to say no. That would be two-time All Star Adam Jones, who came over from Seattle in the 2008 Erik Bedard trade.
But Showalter has to be second.
I’m not sure if that’s a testament to the positive impact Showalter has had on the organization or an indictment of how the organization has failed to acquire marquee talent in recent years. Take it any way you want.
You have to give O’s executive vice president Dan Duquette some credit. He has found some diamonds in the rough in Wei-Yin Chen and Jason Hammel this year, but neither would be considered marquee talent like Jones. Maybe Chen will be in the coming years.
The Orioles celebrated Showalter’s two-year anniversary as the Birds’ manager Friday night with a shutout loss at the hands of the Rays. It was an ill-timed gift for the skipper, who has succeeded where many before him failed.
Showalter has been a big reason the Orioles are still winning in August with some of the worst stats in baseball. He’s never been out-managed and his expectation to win every day has permeated through the clubhouse.
Think about it. The Orioles’ flaws are glaring right now, especially offensively after Friday night’s game.
The O’s are second in the AL in strikeouts, trailing only Oakland. They have the worst average with runners in scoring position in the American League (.232), and the team’s on-base percentage is the third-worst in the league.
With stats like that, the only way you’d believe this team was 1 1/2 games out of a wild card spot is if I told you their pitching was the best in baseball. That’s not the case. The Birds’ ERA ranks 21st of 30 MLB teams.
So, what gives?
Don’t discount Showalter’s role.
Previous managers wanted to win, but often were sidetracked by player development at the big league level. On Aug. 3, 2010, that ended. Showalter expected big leaguers to act like big leaguers. The fact that a young player might still be learning wasn’t an excuse for mistakes. He was the first manager since I began covering the team in 2004 to use the term “not good enough” on a regular basis. Buck has clearly set the bar high and those who aren’t willing to reach it have a found a spot waiting for them on the Triple-A roster.
You always have to give credit to the players when a team is winning, but you can’t count out the clubhouse culture certain managers establish to create a winning environment. Joe Maddon was credited with it for Tampa Bay and Showalter should get the same recognition in Baltimore.
It all starts with accountability and respect. From Day 1, players like Jones tell me Showalter treated them like men. He didn’t micromanage. “Do your job” was his motto. Players appreciated that and you see them wanting to play for him.
Maybe this weekend, the Orioles can wrap a couple of important wins over the Rays up in a bow and give Showalter the anniversary present he deserves.