There were four scenarios that could play out regarding executive vice president Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter. Yesterday’s outcome was one of them, but also a bit of a stunner.
Under no circumstances was Showalter staying and Duquette leaving because I heard the Orioles didn’t want a manager in place without a general manager, or whatever title that person would hold.
It became increasingly apparent that Showalter wouldn’t return, which eliminated the idea of the Orioles standing pat. However, there was a growing sense that Duquette would remain in the organization and continue to spearhead the rebuild.
Ownership made the decision to allow both contracts to run out in separate conversations yesterday with Showalter and Duquette, which will have an obvious ripple effect. A new manager, for instance, likely will want a new set of coaches. The person put in charge will have “the final determination on all baseball matters,” according to last night’s press release, and could impact other executives still in the organization.
It’s probably safe to assume that scouts Nathan Showalter and Dana Duquette will seek other opportunities.
Director of player development Brian Graham will handle the day-to-day oversight of the baseball operations department in the interim period. The press release also stated that the Orioles will hire an executive from outside the organization, which eliminates Graham and, I would assume, current vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson.
Duquette and Showalter were oil and water, but they also were winners here.
For all the complaints about dumpster diving, it shouldn’t be forgotten how Duquette found some gems that made it possible for the Orioles to get above .500 and into the playoffs. He wasn’t working with an unlimited budget. He wasn’t given clearance to attack the international market, as his successor will do.
The loudest moment in Camden Yards history doesn’t happen without Delmon Young, who cleared the bases in Game 2 of the 2014 American League Division Series. Duquette brought him to Baltimore.
Duquette also was responsible for Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel González, Nelson Cruz, Steve Pearce and Nate McLouth, all important contributors in their own ways, and he practically stole Brad Brach from the Padres, Richard Bleier from the Yankees and Mark Trumbo from the Mariners.
He wasn’t in favor of signing Chris Davis to a seven-year, $161 million contract, but it will go down in history as happening under his watch.
The mind races after the news becomes official. For instance, Showalter always made it a priority to keep alive the memory of former public relations director and dear friend Monica Pence Barlow. LUNGevity T-shirts were worn in spring training on Feb. 28. Showalter would educate the newcomers to the team. A framed photo of Barlow hung outside his office at Camden Yards.
I’ll never forget Showalter trying to get through his usual pregame media scrum in Port Charlotte hours after we learned that Barlow had left us. His voice cracking as he relayed how the previous night’s text to her, for the first time, didn’t bring a return message. Tears flowed in the group as he turned away and ended the session.
These are the moments that stay with you well beyond the wins and losses and second guesses. The champagne celebrations after clinching, the regrettable decisions like leaving Zach Britton in the bullpen in Toronto.
In some ways, I don’t think Showalter ever recovered from that loss. His popularity with some fans slowly began to erode. Clubhouse reaction to it wasn’t good. But the Orioles contended for most of 2017, convincing themselves to put off the rebuild for one more year.
I’ve never covered a better storyteller than Showalter, and since I wasn’t on the beat during Earl Weaver’s tenure, a better manager. I’ll say it again: Reversing a losing culture is one of the most difficult tasks in sports, and while Showalter didn’t act alone, he should get the bulk of the credit for it.
He gave a whole new meaning to the term “spin master.”
Showalter brought instant credibility. Players talked about having to be on their toes. A new sheriff was in town and his resume trumped the ones that preceded him. And he earned more respect by avoiding the trap of assuming that everything was wrong and requiring a complete overhaul. He made his own judgments. And he fell in love with the city and its fans in rapid fashion.
There’s nothing wrong with a new voice and approach after nine seasons and making changes following the disaster of 2018. It happens everywhere. The Orioles aren’t immune to it. But there’s no excuse for having a short memory and bashing Showalter on his way out of town. His hiring was one of the smartest and most important moves in franchise history. There’s no reasonable argument against it.
As someone who spent hours a day transcribing interviews with Showalter, I can’t say that I’ll miss the ... that ended so many sentences. He had a tendency, to put it mildly, of shifting this thoughts or breaking off without completing one. It worked in sound bites, but not always in print. But I’d take the colorful quotes and humor over anything that Joe Vanilla dispenses with other teams - and perhaps the Orioles in 2019.
In that regard, Showalter was a beat writer’s dream. Who cares if we heard some of the stories more times than “Green Eggs and Ham”? It was part of the charm and gave us endless amounts of material and inside jokes. And it’s always more enjoyable to cover a winner, which he allowed to happen. With rosters that didn’t always jibe with the results.
The 2017 team with its atrocious rotation was within a game of the second wild card entering September. Joe Saunders started the wild card game in 2012. Joe Freakin’ Saunders. And they won.
Steve Johnson was warming in the bullpen in the first inning. The first freakin’ inning.
Showalter would sit in his office over these past few weeks and wonder how in the world he was going to get nine innings out of his pitching staff. How he was going to avoid using a position player. How an expanded roster could still leave him shorthanded. Too many injuries, too many arms that were shut down, a few guys who were too comfortable staying in Sarasota. But winning remained a priority for Showalter as his record with the club deteriorated.
The next manager won’t be paid $3-4 million. He’s going to be younger, perhaps with no track record, which is the wave of the present. MLB Network’s Mark DeRosa instantly becomes a leading candidate.
Bill Ripken would be ideal if going that route, but he wasn’t interested in a coaching job on Showalter’s staff and I’m not sure that he’d be willing to give up his current gig and make the commitment.
I’ve heard Mike Bordick’s name floated, but not necessarily by anyone in the organization. If DeRosa is such a popular pick, why not Bordick? What exactly is the difference?
Stubby Clapp was chosen as Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year and Baseball America’s Minor League Manager of the Year after guiding the Memphis Redbirds to the PCL championship in his first season. They went 91-50 in the regular season, setting a franchise record for victories, while using 62 players.
The Cardinals removed the interim tag from Mike Shildt and Clapp is blocked in the organization. Someone is going to hire him, if only for the puns and promotional ideas.
I’ve been a fan of Clapp dating back to all the spring training games he played against the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale and Jupiter ... while named Stubby Clapp.
But seriously, he’s gaining a lot of admirers throughout baseball.
The successor to Showalter must be willing to embrace analytics. To relate to younger players - not that Showalter couldn’t, but it’s important moving forward - and to be comfortable with the growing number of off-the-field commitments. And he must have a lot of patience because the waters are going to be choppy for a while.
He won’t be more prepared than Showalter or have a sharper mind for the game. And he’ll need to know about some important people who aren’t around anymore.
I’m told that a decision hasn’t been made regarding Showalter and wife Angela attending the ninth annual KidsPeace Trick-or-Trot event on Oct. 27 at Camden Yards.