Zach Wilt: Wondering about Buck Showalter’s future

One of the biggest pieces of the Orioles rebuild didn’t come to Baltimore in a trade or free agent signing, but actually in a hiring from ESPN. Buck Showalter hung up his suits and put on a uniform again back on July 29, 2010. Showalter chose No. 26, to honor the late great Johnny Oates, and took over as the O’s skipper on Aug. 3. He inherited a club with a 32-73 record, worst in the big leagues. The Birds responded to the hiring by defeating the Angels at Camden Yards 6-3, then winning the next two games for a three-game sweep.

Under Showalter, the Orioles finished the season by winning 34 of their remaining 57 games. He became the only manager in major league history to take over a team in August and lead them to more wins in the remainder of the season than they had prior to his hiring. Adding Showalter instantly gave the Orioles credibility, and as a fan, it gave me hope for the rebuild. This time was different.

Ultimately, Showalter helped to snap a decade and a half of losing baseball in Baltimore, led the Birds to the postseason as a Wild Card in 2012, won the American League East in 2014 and played October baseball again in 2016. He picked up his 1,000th career victory in 2012, won his third Manager of the Year award in 2014 and changed the attitude of this franchise. That hiring made all the difference; without Showalter. I don’t believe the Orioles would have been nearly as successful as they were between 2012-2016.

The last two seasons have been different though. After dropping the wild card game to the Blue Jays in 2016, the Orioles finished 2017 with a 75-87 record, the first losing record for Showalter since 2011. This season has been even worse, as the O’s currently have lost more than 100 games with baseball’s worst record. It’s also by far Showalter’s worst season as a manager, edging his 65-97 finish with the 1998 Diamondbacks (65-97). It’s worth noting that 1998 was Arizona’s first year as an expansion team.

The 2018 campaign marks Showalter’s ninth season with the Orioles. Coming into this year, Showalter’s managerial record with Baltimore was 622-569, 93 games over .500. After going 42-104 this season, his record with the O’s has sunked to 664-673, nine games below .500. Showalter’s 664 victories rank second in franchise history behind only Hall of Famer Earl Weaver (1,480). After a disappointing season in a contract year for Showalter, you have to wonder what the future holds for the skipper.

The results of this season have caused the Orioles to initiate what will become a lengthy rebuild. The club dismantled its big league talent and shipped it off for pieces to stockpile and develop in the farm system. Knowing this future, will Showalter want to be a part of grooming the next winner in Baltimore? On the flip side, will the franchise want Showalter to be the manager that grooms this young talent as it emerges into the big leagues?

If the two part ways, I also wonder what the future holds for Showalter, a manager who has seen success in four different cities and currently has the fourth-most wins among active managers behind Bruce Bochy, Mike Scioscia and Terry Francona. Is there another club that fits that 2010 Orioles’ mold that’s looking for a Showalter to take them over the top? If so, I still believe he has the talent to do just that.

Whatever the future holds for Showalter and the Orioles, I am grateful for the nine seasons he spent in Baltimore. I was excited about the hiring in 2010 and the results speak for themselves. I only wish we could see Showalter parade down Pratt Street at a World Series champion. Hopefully, he gets that parade somewhere someday.

Zach Wilt blogs about the Orioles at Baltimore Sports Report. Follow him on Twitter: @zach_wilt. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. 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.

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