Orioles manager Buck Showalter might have more experience in presiding over rebuilding baseball clubs than anyone in baseball. His first gig, manager of the New York Yankees, came on the heels of three straight losing seasons and ten straight postseason-less campaigns in the Big Apple. His next job in Arizona, albeit an expansion franchise, was built from scratch. As manager of the Texas Rangers, he stepped into a mess created by short-sighted free agent signings and poor personnel moves.
None of that means Buck has a magic touch or can take this Oriole group to greater heights than predicted before the season began. On the other hand, his management of the day-to-day roster deserves the benefit of the doubt. Many things go into the rebuilding of a club — draft, player development, trades, fiances — all greater to or equal the impact of a manger. That being said, Buck has been down this road before. He has a great deal of experience piecing a roster together over a 162-game season.
Some fans, including our very own Drew Forrester and my Saturday co-host Peter DiLutis, have openly questioned his handling of the roster early this season. Part of it is totally understandable and debatable from a fan perspective. Why did the “B” lineup take the field on Sunday in Toronto? Why isn’t Nolan Reimold in the lineup this afternoon in Chicago? Why do young players need days off in April?
The answer to those questions lie in the history of Buck on the bench. Or more aptly, how Buck uses his bench. Using the tipping point season — in other words, the year his teams improved leaps and bounds from the previous regime — in each of his last three stops, it’s easy to see that this managerial philosophy isn’t new. Showalter believes in using his bench, resting regulars, and playing for the long haul.
Consider the following: The ’93 Yankees had only two players appear in 140+ games, yet 13 played in at least 76. Buck’s 1999 Diamondbacks had 15 position players with at least 100 plate appearances. The A-Rod-less Rangers in ’04 used platoons in all three outfield positions and designated hitter. Sure, some of that probably had to do with injuries, poor play, trades, call ups, send downs, etc. On the other hand, his two latter stops — specifically Texas — were in the height of the steroid era. Players recovered from injuries quicker and were generally able to play every single day without much fatigue.
Simply put, this is the way the guy manages his ball club. Some of the reasoning behind a “B” lineup Sunday in Toronto was to keep players fresh. Some of the reasons behind sitting Reimold in the White Sox finale was match-up driven. But mostly, it’s about using his 25-man roster.
You can make the case that this Oriole group should go all out to win every game in their grasp, especially against other second division clubs like Chicago. But like it or not, expect to see a rotating lineup all season long in Baltimore.
What do you think? Should Showalter play his best lineup everyday? Leave your comments here or tweet them @WNST or @giglio_joe
Listen to Charm City Sports Talk every Saturday morning from 9-12 with Joe Giglio and Peter DiLutis.