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Showalter’s past–Baltimore’s Future?

Posted on 01 June 2014 by Tony Wisniewski

Don’t look now, but the past might be repeating itself.

There’s something to be said for being comfortable in your own skin—or in this case, you own spot in the batting order.

During the Buck Showalter era, the Orioles are no stranger to a lineup that has seen more shakeups than the Old Bay Crab Shuffle.

Nelson Cruz, the Major League Leader in home runs has yet to have a clear-cut spot in the order.

He’s batted in the two-hole, which is typically reserved for slap-hitters, table-setters, and guys who can spray the ball around the field while being able to run fairly well and steal a base or two.

He’s batted in the six-spot, which is generally reserved for a guy who can’t quite carry the load in the four-or-five hole, but can still drive the ball.

And, in the same breath, he’s batted third, fourth, and fifth throughout the season.

If you look atop the AL East, to a team like the Toronto Blue Jays, you’ll find the exact opposite, where slugger Jose Bautista has batted third all-season-long.  Alas, Edwin Encarnacion played a few games early-on as the number-five hitter, but has settled in nicely as the cleanup guy during his record-setting home run tear during the month of May.

The same can be said for the majority of ML teams who boast consistent all-star quality talent like the Orioles.

Perhaps the issue is that Showalter doesn’t truly understand how to manage big-talent in the Big Leagues.

Taking a step back, you’ll find that Showalter’s track-record shows that he starts to falter when his team makes the turn into a legitimate annual contender.

After being fired by the New York Yankees after the 1995 season, he went on to turn the Arizona Diamondbacks into a force to be reckoned with in the NL West—then he was fired after his third season.

Upon his departure from Arizona, he led the Texas Rangers’ organization to a major turnaround, only to falter the following two seasons—leading to his firing after a mediocre 2006 campaign.

Four years later, Showalter comes to Baltimore, leading the Orioles to a turnaround that others like Bobby Valentine said was impossible due to a franchise that’s “unfixable.”

There’s no question that Showalter did the improbable by re-molding Baltimore into a legit contender, but there certainly should be a question over whether or not he knows what to do with the franchise once it’s reached that level.

Part of Showalter’s success is due to his ability to manage average-talent and utilize a plug-and-play type of system.

While he’s terrific with shuffling fringe starters in and out, and getting the most out of guys who don’t really have much of a clear-cut Major League future, he lacks the ability to appropriately manage superstars and legitimate Major League talent.

A perfect example is the continued shuffling of the lineup and the inability to give a player like Nelson Cruz a stable spot in the batting order.

Certainly this isn’t to say that there’s no room to change a lineup from time to time, even the best of managers sometimes rearrange things to keep players on-alert, but to do it game-in and game-out is sophomoric and a glaring weakness of a manager who has proven in three other cities that he simply can’t handle the type of talent that removes his power to micromanage every facet of the roster, lineup, and game.

When Showalter took over in 2010, the Orioles were an unmitigated disaster. Now, in 2014, they’re not.  They’re a team who should have some continuity and consistency.

While there’s no solid argument to question his ability to turn a franchise around, there’s certainly room for concern and debate over whether he’s the right guy to get the job done moving forward.

Sitting at .500, there’s plenty of room to question whether or not Showalter’s past is destined to become Baltimore’s future.

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tony-wisniewski

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The tale of a pseudo superstar

Posted on 22 April 2014 by Tony Wisniewski

I used to be the next great Baltimore media superstar.

It was the mid-2000s, I was working in the sports department at The Baltimore Sun.  I was young, handsome, brilliant, and knowledgeable.  I was the type of sport-laden “mind that would come along once, maybe twice in a generation”—a self-describing line from The Big Bang Theory’s Dr. Sheldon Cooper.

Alas, Sheldon Cooper and I have a lot in common—as our stories are mere fiction, derived from the type of creative make-believe that convinced someone like Anita Marks into promoting herself as a former “professional quarterback.”

I was never the next superstar at The Baltimore Sun, or anywhere else in Baltimore.  In fact, I’m fortunate to even be able to call myself a former media member—it’s an accomplishment that many yearn for, but rarely obtain.

Nearly a decade after I sat in The Sun’s news room answering the rapid-fire high school sports score-reporting line , I finally have come to terms with the fact that I have nothing to show for my efforts other than a shared byline on a small story about Baltimore’s Jessica Long.

Now, at 30, I’m no longer young.  Married, with budding specks of gray invading my mop, and more than several extra pounds protruding over my belt, it’s up for debate whether I’m still handsome.  And years removed from any sort of blog writing or sports reporting for websites like Examiner, Bugs and Cranks, and a dozen or so self-created failures, I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone—other than close friends and family—who believe I know jack about Baltimore sports.

But here I am, back at it, thanks to the kick-in-the-pants from my buddy, Will, a fella has forgotten more about local sports than I could ever hope to know.

Will and I remember a time when Baltimore media boasted legendary media members like John Steadman, John Eisenberg, Ken Rosenthal, Vince Bagli, and Chuck Thompson.  These days, most Baltimore media outlets—with the exception of a few (WNST being the frontrunner) have forgotten the idea of what “local” means—lack the local passion and historical firepower to opine about anything other than less-than-stellar and dimwitted attempts to discern the “here and now,” with little recollection of what it was like “then and when.”

Don’t get me wrong, here and now is king when it comes to media—but there’s a thing called context, and it means a heck of a lot when generating conversation with a fan-base as knowledgeable, excitable, and pleasantly irrational as the one here Charm City.

A guy like me remembers the “when,” and lives the “now.”  And it’s this, and this alone, that has thrust me into coming back and being a member of local sports media.

If I have to do it on my own, so be it—which is why I’ll be writing at BaltimoreSportsWiz.com.  But, truth be told, left up to me, I’ll choose to bring whatever  talent I have left from my days a delusional up-and-comer in the Baltimore sports world to WNST.net and WNST 1570AM, where I’m a member of the “Baltimore Sports Media Superstar” competition.

I’ve heard some of the other contestants who are up for the gig on the WNST Audio Vault.  Some are really good, others are really passionate, and I have no idea if I’ll be lucky enough to even be in contention.  And that’s OK because I’ve come to realize that I’ve missed being immersed in the local sports conversation, and it’s time to jump back in.

With an opportunity like WNST’s contest, and a little bit of remaining God-given ability, there’s no reason I can’t fulfill what I once thought I was—a Baltimore sports media superstar.

But for real this time, not just make-believe.

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