December 10, 2018

Showalter Ups the Ante in the AL East

March 24, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

In a recent interview on the Seamheads Podcast Network’s Outa the Parkway, Tim Donner of Radio America talked about Buck Showalter’s intensity, how he wore out his welcome quickly in the three previous managerial gigs that define his career.  Showalter’s fire and competitiveness are on display once again in an article on ESPN and in Men’s Health where he questions the bona fides of just about everyone else in the AL East, saying in effect, “Bring it on” to his more highly touted competition.

There is no doubt that shrinking violets wither and die in the intense heat of the AL East.  And Showalter admits that some of his fire is motivational for his players.  But whatever he has on his mind, Showalter’s remarks are gutsy baseball and you have to love it as we wait for the temperatures to warm to baseball readiness in the Mid-Atlantic.

Under Showalter last season the Baltimore Orioles won 34 and lost 23, a winning percentage that if he can maintain it in 2011 should win the division.  Winning has been all but forgotten in Baltimore more than a dozen years after Cal Ripken stepped down and the Orioles wandered lost in the wilderness. Donner said that the Orioles ownership signed Vlad Guerrero, Mark Reynolds, and Derek Lee as a way to put fannies in the seats and carve out a niche in the hearts of harbor city fans. Cue the Showalter early season tirade to let Baltimore fans know that nap time by the harbor is over, way over.

Donner opined that Showalter’s tenure in Baltimore would last only a few years until he wore out his welcome.  “He may have changed,” Donner said, but it was clear he thought the older and wiser Showalter is a work in progress. And the latest remarks about the Yankees and Red Sox say the fire burns just as hot for the O’s new manger.

Showalter turned those same Yankees into winners almost immediately when he was hired for his first managing post in 1992.  The Yankees had not won in a decade when Showalter took over. By the time he left a foundation was laid for baseball greatness matched only by the Braves in the last twenty years. Derek Jeter was just getting his first cup of coffee when Showalter was shown the door in 1995, but he was hired shortly thereafter to build a winner for the new franchise in Arizona.  And while he lasted only four years there as well, we made the Diamondbacks into instant winners, a rarity indeed for expansion clubs.

After watching the complete turn around in the Orioles pitching staff during the second half of 2011, most fans in Baltimore were content for improvement. The hope is that things can be stabilized, that third place might be possible given the weakened state of the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays. Buck Showalter has something else in mind. He wants to win NOW. He believes in his young pitching staff. The transformation of Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, and Bergeson is real and they are ready to become big winners in 2011 and beyond.

Showalter’s remarks about the Yankee captain–that he uses cheap theatrics at the plate to work the zone–are not exactly incendiary, but the remarks about Theo Epstein, questioning how smart one has to be to sign Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, are a bit hotter to the touch. Showalter will get plenty of opportunities to see the effects of his challenge. The Orioles will play Boston and New York nine times in April and there is no doubt there will be a heightened sense of drama to the games now.

The challenge however, is as much to the manager’s young stars–Matt Wieters, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis–as it is to the competition.  Top prospects all of then, they have yet to show that they can compete effectively in the hottest race in baseball.  Ramping up their intensity to compete at the next level is at the heart of their manager’s message.  “Bring it on,” Showalter is saying not just to Derek Jeter and Theo Epstein, but to his young charges whose play this season must take just a big step forward.

It is not as if the AL East needed more excitement, but Buck Showalter is going to add some nonetheless.  Maybe Showalter knows that he has only four seasons to get the job done.  Time’s a wasting for Showalter. So buckle in Marylanders, Camden Yards is going to be about more than just great crab cakes this season. Sleepy time is over in Baltimore one way or the other.

Comments

One Response to “Showalter Ups the Ante in the AL East”
  1. Austin says:

    Good stuff, Ted. And yes, Derek Jeter is the biggest cry-baby in baseball. More power to him if he can use it to his advantage, but how do you think his act would play against Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale, etc?

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