There’s been lots of chatter in the last few days and weeks about the status of Orioles manager Buck Showalter. As everyone knows, Showalter is in the final year of his contract. He, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and a number of prominent players are all facing a walk year. But the Las Vegas sportsbook Bovada last week released its latest odds on the first major league manager to be fired, and Showalter topped the list at 3/2. He’s leaped ahead of the likes of Oakland’s Bob Melvin, Cincinnati’s Bryan Price and the Angels’ Mike Scioscia. Showalter, at least according to the oddsmakers, has the biggest target on his back.
Yet oddsmakers aren’t the only one calling it that way. If you dare stick your neck out into Orioles Twitter or the O’s blogosphere, you’ll find plenty of fans and pundits alike that are also calling for changes in the dugout. Many not only want Showalter out, but they also want hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh to be fired following the team’s abysmal offensive performance thus far. It’s not all that unheard of to hear a fan base calling for changes after a 5-11 start, especially when you consider that three of those five wins required extra innings.
There’s plenty to criticize Showalter for, if you really want to look deep. The experiment of having Chris Davis bat leadoff simply did not work. Continuing to trot Chris Tillman out every fifth day (a move that may soon be coming to an end) has also been an unmitigated disaster. Showalter has long been critiqued for being a skipper that can improve a franchise, but can’t get it over the top. He previously pushed the Yankees and Diamondbacks to the brink of championships before being replaced. Both went on to win the World Series in the season after he departed. The same nearly happened after his tenure with the Rangers, who won back-to-back American League pennants following Showalter’s time there. But each of those stints lasted fewer than five years. This is already Showalter’s ninth season in Baltimore, and he’s proven himself as the second-winningest and tenured manager with the franchise behind Hall of Famer Earl Weaver.
Frankly, some of Showalter’s failures (and even successes) can be blamed on the front office. Who exactly is he supposed to bat leadoff when the team has failed to acquire a true on-base threat? Who is he supposed to use as the team’s fifth starter when Tillman is the player they signed? Like many managers, Showalter is cooking with the groceries that were bought for him. He didn’t get to select all of the ingredients, so he can’t be entirely blamed if the meal doesn’t come out perfectly.
Rumors will continue to swirl about Showalter’s future, no matter how many games the Orioles win the rest of the way. Longtime baseball writer Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic wrote last week that the O’s are a team in “upheaval” from front office to field. He reported, among other things, that the 61-year-old Showalter wants to keep managing beyond this season, even it if means working through a rebuild. But he also states that others believe Showalter wants to shift into the front office, where vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson has assumed a more prominent role.
There are even rumors swirling about the possibility that Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr. wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and become the manager of the club. But would a former player with no managerial experience at any level be the answer to replace the second-best manager in club history? There’s certainly a trend throughout the major leagues of using former players with little to no experience, but it seems to create way more questions than answers, especially for an organization that doesn’t take many risks. The one thing that seems to be more of a lock than ever, based on speculation and rumors, is that Duquette will not return to the organization in 2019. But the question remains about Showalter.
My question, and it’s always the question when it comes to this type of move, is who can do better? For all of Showalter’s warts, who would replace him? Whenever there is talk about firing and replacing someone in sports, I need to know why the change is being made. Sometimes making a change just to make a change isn’t a good idea. There has to be an answer to the question created by a firing.
Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AStetka. His thoughts on the O’s appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.