As a means of simple introduction, I’ll give you the CliffsNotes version. Rather than write this to you, Buck, I’d love to tell it to you in person, but things make that nearly impossible these days.
I came out to see you on Monday at your press conference. I didn’t bother attempting to ask a question because the person in charge of moderating the event had been issued an edict to not recognize anyone from WNST if, in fact, they raised their hand with a question for you. Afterwards, I would have stopped over to say hello and introduce myself, but you were being guarded more closely than a pair of Clinton’s underwear during the impeachment hearings.
I don’t come out to the ballpark much anymore, Buck, mainly because the stuffed suits (yes, the ones guarding you on Monday) have made covering the team agonizingly difficult. You seem like a stand-up guy. Frankly, there aren’t many of those at the Warehouse anymore. And you’d understand why I don’t cover the games at the stadium anymore if I told you the truth about how unprofessionally I’ve been treated by the “professionals” in the organization.
I do, however, still watch the games, root for the club and occasionally attend a home game with my son via the Chick Fil-A Junior Dugout Club, which we’ll be using this Sunday when your team hosts the White Sox.
It’s taken me a few days to put all these thoughts together. I’ve been busy myself over the last week or so, as my family welcomed a new little girl to the world on Sunday night. And over the last few days as I’ve watched the team play and listened to you talk before and after games, I wanted to put this together and give you a sincere “welcome letter” to Baltimore from someone who has followed the Orioles since I was about 6 years old in the late 1960′s.
You, Buck, are the first person of any real note who said “yes” to the Orioles in the last decade. Every single time a free agent of stature becomes available, he never, ever seriously considers Baltimore. One reason why: we never offer enough money. Second reason: the team stinks and no one wants to come here and face the reality of losing 100 games every spring, summer and fall.
I take my hat off to you, Buck, for signing on and taking this risk. You’ll soon learn, if you haven’t already, that this is just about the worst situation you could inherit. You’ll quickly find out that most people in the organization — OFF the playing field — don’t really care all that much about winning. They care about money, and winning fights, and figuring out a way to shed the blame for everything they’ve done to wreck the club.
I know you care about winning, Buck. It’s all you talk about.
And I’ve heard you use the word “accountability” over and over and over since you assumed your role on Monday.
And that, Buck, is the word I’m asking you to continue to use — accountability.
Hold EVERYONE’S feet to the fire. Please.
That starts with the owner. And goes to Andy MacPhail. Don’t let those two get away with what they’ve been trying to get away with over the last three years, specifically.
If you allow it to happen, Buck, you’re gonna get your reputation soiled by allowing yourself to be connected to this moribund franchise.
Make those two accountable. And make the players and your staff accountable. Win some games, too, while you’re at it.
The fans deserve it. And so do you. You’re the only person that’s said “yes” to the Orioles in recent years, so that alone means you should garner some type of success. And I know MacPhail said “yes”, but that’s because he didn’t really have a job already. You said “yes” because you love baseball and you love to manage. You had a cushy TV gig that you didn’t have to leave.
We owe you a great deal of thanks, Buck, no matter what happens here, because at least you have the gumption to show up and say, “Let’s get this thing straightened out.”
But you’re going to find, unfortunately, that not many people in the organization share your passion for winning.
And when you discover who those people are, please, please, please do us all a favor: Get them the hell out.
To me, it doesn’t matter who that is. Nick Markakis is my favorite Oriole these days. If you find that Nick isn’t with the program (which, I highly doubt you will…but if you do…), get him out. If Adam Jones doesn’t want to listen to you, give him the boot. If Felix Pie can’t get it together, send him packing. Same for Josh Bell. Or Matt Wieters. Or Luke Scott. Or any of these young pitchers we’ve been salivating over for the last couple of years. If they aren’t cutting it, s**t-can them, too.
And, by all means, Buck, do NOT let MacPhail and ownership hoodwink you into going against your beliefs that you need “better players” to compete. You DO need better players. But those players cost money. And you’re going to learn, quickly, that our motto in Baltimore is “young=cheap=more money for the club”.
Hold EVERYONE’S feet to the fire, Buck.
Make them all accountable.
You’re surrounded by a lot of people — players, coaches and management — who have done nothing but LOSE in their respective careers in Baltimore. That sounds harsh, I know, but it’s the truth. Pick a player on the team. I don’t care what his name is or what his stats show, I can guarantee you this: He’s contributed to LOSING during his time here. Guys who won elsewhere in their career – like Tejada and Millwood – show up here…and start losing. It’s the “Oriole Way”.
With that in mind, you’re the man in charge of fixing it, since MacPhail – the guy who was supposed to fix it – hasn’t been able to pull that off. So, Buck, we’re now going to follow YOUR lead and hold YOU accountable as well.
I know you don’t mind that. You’re a stand-up guy.
You’re surrounded by losers here, Buck. I’m telling you, you have no idea how poisoned this organization is that you’re now working for.
But you’re right, Buck. It CAN be fixed. Winning baseball CAN return to Baltimore. But only if someone holds these people accountable. Spend money, get better players, move the guys on who are posing…and hold people accountable. Do not let them try and tell you in the off-season that “We can’t afford Carl Crawford”. They absolutely can. They can afford two Carl Crawford’s. Or three, even. They’re going to give you reasons why they CAN’T spend money or make offers this winter, Buck. They will. Trust me. And I hope you have the balls to call them on it and say, “This, men, is why you guys lose. You’re not willing to take a chance to win.”
It’s like a cult, Buck. They’re eventually going to try and get you to put sneakers on and drape a purple blanket over your body and wait for some ship to take you away like those maniacs in San Diego 15 years ago. You’ll say, “Let’s go get some good players” and they’ll say, “But Buck, we have Matt Hobgood in Frederick. And he costs us $125,000.”
Don’t let ‘em do it, Buck. Hold them accountable.
I’m pulling for you.
As I wrote earlier this week, if I had to place a bet, I’d bet AGAINST you because history has shown that no one can turn this thing around in Baltimore…because management and ownership don’t want to do what it takes to win.
But I’m really pulling for you, because I think you’re exactly what we need in Baltimore.
We need someone to tell Andy MacPhail the truth. We need someone to tell Adam Jones the truth. We need someone to tell Matt Wieters the truth. We need someone to say “you guys are living in fantasy land…here’s the real world”.
Tell them the truth, Buck. Tell them that since they got here, all they’ve done is lost.
Just be prepared that I’ve done that on occasion, Buck, and now I can’t get a return phone call or e-mail from the stuffed suits.
Then again, I don’t have a guaranteed contract like you do.
You have nothing to lose, Buck. Except your reputation. And by holding their feet to the fire in Baltimore, you’ll be a hero to all of us out there, no matter what the standings show. And let’s call a spade a spade. If you hang out here for 3 years and you can’t make the miracle of winning happen at Camden Yards, you’ll just be another guy who came in with great intentions and left saying, “Boy, those guys in Baltimore are really f**ked up.” That’s a LaTroy Hawkins line from a few years ago. I have some good Jay Payton stories too. But I won’t bore you with those right now.
We’ve waited for someone like you for a long, long time, Mr. Showalter.
Best of luck to you. And I really, really mean that. I hope to hell you turn this thing around.
And as Nick Faldo told Greg Norman on the 18th green in the ’96 Masters after Norman squandered a 6-shot lead on the final day, I’ll leave you with these words of encouragement:
“Don’t let the bastards get you down.”