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.
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.