When Buck Showalter became the Orioles manager last season he sparked an amazing rebirth and Orioles fans had found their savior. Now after just under a full season at the helm of the sinking ship that is the Baltimore Orioles it looks like Buck is not the savior of Baltimore baseball; it looks like Buck is another in a string of managers that have been beaten down by lesser talent, an overbearing front office, and an organization that lacks the passion to win. I think one thing has exemplified the fact that something is a little “off” in the organization and that maybe Buck doesn’t have the control everyone thought he had when he accepted the job last season.
The sign that Buck has either become apathetic to the team or that a higher power is controlling Buck more than the average fan would like to believe is the fact that Vladimir Guerrero is still hitting in the cleanup spot after more than half the season. Vlad has been wholly ineffective this season and his power numbers are not just on the decline but they are in a drop to its death free-fall that has killed the Orioles offense many times this season. Vlad has had two home runs and seven RBI since June 1st , hitting primarily in the cleanup spot. What other team would allow a hitter to remain in the most important spot in the lineup after accumulating four extra base hits in his last 87 at bats? The only answer I can think of is a crappy team that is trying to showcase a once great hitter so that they can get something in return for him around the trade deadline; does anyone honestly believe Buck Showalter is leaving a completely ineffective hitter in the cleanup spot as his team plummets to the depths of the standings in the American League?
And I am sick of the argument of “if not Vlad than who will hit in the cleanup spot”? The answer is simple, Mark Reynolds. Reynolds has exceeded Vlad in every single offensive category this season hitting 13 more home runs and driving in 19 more runs while hitting 3-4 spots lower in the lineup. And the argument that Reynolds strikes out too much is debatable; he has an OBP that is .33 higher than Vlad and he had shown a far better eye at the plate this season with 50 walks to Vlad’s 11. On top of the statistically facts, Reynolds at 27, is nine years younger than Vlad and he could be a major piece to the Orioles rebuilding process while Guerrero is a one year player that will not be here next season. So while on the surface it may look like Buck is sticking with his veterans and waiting for them to hit their way out of an early season slump….it is now past the mid-way point of the season which to me constitutes something more than an early season slump.
I think the Vladimir Guerrero situation is a very public statement that Buck doesn’t have the type of control that Oriole fans believed he would have when he took over this job; in fact I believe this may be a statement that Buck doesn’t have the control HE thought he would have when he took over this job. With a team that is already out of contention before the All Star break isn’t it time to stop filling these important spots in the Orioles lineup with stop-gap, over the hill players and begin to build for the future? I think it is imperative to remember that when the Orioles began their search for a manager last season Bobby Valentine turned this job down and made it very public that he decision was due to the controlling nature of the Orioles front office. While Buck was the better choice for this job than Valentine I think he is beginning to see why his old TV costar decided to turn this job down.
If the Orioles hope to ever get back to respectability it is time to shake up the status quo of the last 14 years and begin to make moves that build for the future. The future is not a 36 year old designated hitter on a one year deal…..the Orioles are going to need to begin to show fans that they understand their past mistakes or unfortunately it is their fans that are doomed to repeat them.