The Orioles aren’t feeling the love from opposing managers and executives in the American League. Buck Showalter finished second in Manager of the Year voting in the Sporting News and none of the Orioles were chosen as All-Stars.
Don’t shoot the messenger. The Sporting News staff isn’t doing the voting, just tabulating the results and passing them along.
Besides, the Orioles honestly don’t care about that stuff. Given the choice, they prefer to fly so far under the radar that their bellies are scratched. They love the critics and doubters. That’s more people for them to prove wrong.
No one had them winning 96 games in the regular season and finishing 12 ahead of the nearest team. Weren’t they going to tumble down the standings without Matt Wieters and Manny Machado?
The Orioles were supposed to make a hasty exit from the playoffs after Chris Davis was suspended. They weren’t supposed to sweep the Tigers in the Division Series.
Awards are nice, but they don’t define this team.
While the Giants and Royals play in the World Series, the Orioles are plotting how to keep most of their arbitration-eligible players and make a run at signing their pending free agents. They’re trying to stay ahead of other teams when it comes to signing the most appealing minor league free agents, believing they can “out-opportunity” the others.
They’re proud of what they accomplished this season. Now, they want to continue building on it and make another run at the Fall Classic.
Showalter took part in the interview process in 2011 as the Orioles searched for Andy MacPhail’s successor. They chose Dan Duquette after Blue Jays assistant general manager Tony LaCava turned down the job.
Other candidates included former Orioles executive and current Phillies assistant GM Scott Proefrock, current Marlins GM Dan Jennings, Orioles director of player personnel John Stockstill and former Royals GM Allard Baird, who later removed himself from consideration. Showalter was asked whether he’d consider moving upstairs, but ownership deemed him too valuable in the dugout.
“When we sat down with Dan, it was very obvious that he had a real passion,” Showalter said. “He was prepared for this opportunity. He knew what he was going to do scouting-wise, player development. He had a plan. Without tooting his own horn too much, he had a pretty impressive resume between Montreal and Boston.
“I’ve known Dan forever and he had quality, good people calling on his behalf. After sitting down with him, I could tell he was in a really good place in his life to do this. He didn’t have a chip on his shoulder, but I could tell this was something he was very passionate about. He really was driven to be good at it again. Not that he was ever bad at it. His want-to, he wasn’t going to leave any stone unturned. The timing was right with everybody.”
MacPhail already had laid a strong foundation with improvements in the farm system and trades that brought Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, J.J. Hardy, Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter, among others. Duquette played to his strengths and helped to deliver three straight winning seasons and two playoff berths.
“The scouting and player development are real passions with him, something we have to be real good at,” Showalter said. “We can’t turn our back on any market, whether it’s Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, Italy. If it’s players coming off injuries. We have mini-camps, instructional league. It’s just part of who we are now.
“When I first got here, I tried to get the OK on instructional league and mini-camp. Now it’s automatic. It’s who we are. We’re going to grind the heck out of the Rule 5 draft.”
Again, it’s playing to Duquette’s strengths. It’s why the depth within the organization has improved so dramatically.
“We talked a lot when he got here about who are we and how do we have to do it,” Showalter said. “There are no excuses and I think he really understood who we are and how we have to do it.”