“Buck was a tremendous uplift to this city, especially in baseball” MASN analyst and former Birds World Series hero Rick Dempsey said. “I’ve always thought that we had great talent here, and we just needed the right person to put it together.”
Showalter proved to be just exactly that right person.
“He was a big part of what happened this year, and I hope he’s going to be here for a long time” Birds P Steve Johnson added. “We made the playoffs for the first time in 14 years, and he certainly was a big part of it.”
Orioles Director of Pitching Development Rick Peterson said Showalter was an obvious difference maker for the organization.
“I think more than anything else…he brings a presence. He really made a difference. He raises everyone else’s expectations, and you realize that there are limitless possibilities. You could see that this was something that was really special, and you could see that everyone started to believe. He has a level of expectation that can raise everyone’s game. It becomes contagious, and everyone picks up. Anytime you get an opportunity to be around great people, it is facilitated to have great things happen.”
Showalter needed to bring every ounce of presence to the team, as he inherited an almost impossible situation in Baltimore.
“Without being overly dramatic about it, what Buck did in ’12 was like taking the JV football team and playing them in place of the varsity and somehow winning the A-Conference in the MIAA” noted WNST’s Drew Forrester. “He was given a handful of good players and a bunch of ne’er do wells and got them to do something no one could do since 1997 — get to the playoffs.”
Showalter was not handed the highest level of talent in 2012, as seemingly every preseason prognostication labeled the O’s as most likely headed to the division basement again. Perhaps no team’s success could be as directly tied to managerial decisions, as the Birds made well over 100 roster moves even before calling up stud INF prospect Manny Machado in August, one of the gutsier decisions in the history of the franchise.
His individual game decisions were also particularly significant, helping the Birds go a nearly impossible 29-9 in one run games in 2012 and leaving them just one game shy of a trip to the American League Championship Series.
Johnson said Showalter played a major role in those close games.
“He had a lot of confidence in us. He was always calm and collected, and he helped us stay just as calm..keeping us in the game.”
Perhaps bringing the city to life during baseball season is an even more amazing accomplishment for Showalter than even just the on-field success. The major crowds did indeed eventually return, with late season games and ALDS games played in front of a packed house at OPACY and a city wrapped in baseball fever.
“We lost that spirit, and Buck has been a tremendous help to the Orioles in that area” Dempsey said. “For me, he’s the best manager in
baseball…these players believe in him as much as he believes in them, and this team is something we can be proud of going forward.”
Peterson believed the energy in the ballpark was at least partly due to the excitement about the skipper and not just the team’s record.
“I just think that people were engergized by what happened. To have a manager that has Buck’s resume, he made everyone feel a part of it. Even in spring training, he made everyone feel in that building feel like a part of this team…down to the guys who washed the dishes.
In the end, it really WASN’T very difficult for us to choose our 2012 honoree. The Orioles weren’t just bad for 14 years, they were a complete non-factor even in their own market. That ended in 2012.
Perhaps no one’s praise is as moving as Dempsey’s considering how much he wanted the job himself.
“This city has always been a great baseball city, and we needed someone to have faith in who’s going to lead this team in the right
direction….we have that guy. I don’t think there is anyone that was going to manage for this job that was capable of what Buck Showalter does. No one is a bigger supporter of him than me.”
Dempsey might be the biggest, but it’s hard to imagine anyone in this region who ISN’T a Showalter supporter. It made the decision about as simple as any in the history of the award.
(WNST’s Ryan Chell, Drew Forrester and Luke Jones all contributed.)