Now that the Buck Showalter era is off and about here in Baltimore, we might be able to finally put our faith in a manager who knows every facet of the game to every detail, and a micro-manager who may finally bring an end to thirteen years of losing and mediocrity for the Orioles.
Showalter, a two time Manager of the Year in his 11 year managerial career, has had a huge influence on his players over the years, ranging from his time with the New York Yankees in the early 90’s to the Texas Rangers back in 2006.
Showalter has never won a World Series in his coaching career, but the first two teams he managed-the Yankees and the Diamondbacks-won World Series titles a year after he relieved of his duties.
And Showalter had a huge hand in the personnel-decisions of those teams, and laid the groundwork for the teams to finally earn that elusive prize.
For the most part he laid the foundation there,” said Luis Gonzalez, who played in the outfield for Showalter in 1999 and 2000. “And he brought the demeanor the guys had and the attitude to go out and win.”
“That’s just a fluke that he wasn’t there to win. For the most part, he deserves a lot of that credit because he was the guy who laid the groundwork for it.”
Showalter should deserve even more credit for his work with the Diamondbacks, given the fact that he took the manager’s job a year before the expansion team started even playing baseball, and he was the cook that got the ingredients together to make things right.
In fact, another one of his former players in Arizona, third baseman Matt Williams, said that an opportunity like that-to build a franchise from the ground up-was something that Showalter always wanted to try his hand at.
And Williams feels like that makes his already stellar track record that much better.
“I think history proves it,” Williams said. “He managed the most storied franchises in all baseball before coming to the Diamondbacks in managing in the Yankees. And what a great situation that is.”
“But to come to the Diamondbacks as they were an expansion team, he loved that challenge clearly.”
And Williams saw first-hand how much work Showalter put into getting his team playing great, fundamental baseball.
“He is just all about the game,” Williams noted. “The early years here, he had a bed installed in the office. The routine was he would prepare for the game that night, after the game he would watch the game in its entirety again, and often times fall asleep at the ballpark.”
“But the next day, there was never a hesitation as to who he was going to play, as to who he was going to pitch-hit against a certain guy, who he was calling on for a match-up with somebody off the opposing team’s bench…no hesitation. He is one of the most prepared managers I’ve ever played for.”
Ultimately, the Diamondbacks of 2001 that won the World Series under Bob Brenly-which beat his former club in the Yankees-were a product of the knowledge and hard work put in by one man: Buck Showalter.
“My experience with Buck was in this type of situation. He built an organization from scratch,” Williams said. “He was involved with every aspect of it, from managing the game on the field to choosing the players and the type of players that he wanted to build the organization to what it ultimately became.”
And Williams said that kind of dedication is desire is exactly what a franchise like the Orioles-stuck in a 13-year losing streak needs.
“He’s prepared, and that’s what you need in a situation like you guys have in Baltimore; to build the organization back where it should be. He’s the perfect guy for the job.”
And Showalter has been that way his whole managerial career. Former Yankees and Orioles catcher Matt Nokes saw that out of a young Buck Showalter the minute he got started as a rookie manager at the big league level in 1992.
Even having not played at the major league level thanks to a guy named Don Mattingly, he still had paid attention to the game around him and knew how he felt like it should be played.
And he seemed very knowledgeable right off the bat to guys like Nokes.
“He paid attention to the little things. He knows everything, and has a great baseball mind. He created an environment to have a good year, and he wanted us to play to the wall for him.”
Nokes also mentioned that Showalter said that he wasn’t going to baby his players. He wanted them to be responsible for themselves and them alone.
“He gave us the impression that we’re supposed to police ourselves and handle ourselves well,” Nokes said.
Known for his micro-managing and attention to detail, Showalter wanted his players to copy that formula, Nokes said.
Showalter would tell them numerous times that if they did the little things first and focused on that, the rewards would be great down the line due to their work.
“In a sense of being unfair, [it was him]demanding the most out of your ability. His rule was to take care of the small steps, and the big steps would take care of itself,” said Nokes.
Nokes said he saw him as a player’s manager despite some grumblings out there that he was a strict disciplinarian.
“Buck seems to me the kind of guy that I remember that I respect and he always treated me with respect. He had a way of calling you into his office…so that he could bring you back into your focus.”
That way of dealing with issues that he has with his players carried through his entire managerial career, from the Yankees to his last stint with the Texas Rangers.
One of those players that had saw an influence from Showalter in Texas was former top Orioles pitching prospect Matt Riley, who felt like he got a whole new look at the game based upon his brief time with Showalter.
“With Buck, my time was short with him, but he really showed that he cared about his players. All he asked of you was that you go out and play hard every single day and play the game right. That’s all he asked of you.”
He kept a good relationship with his players while still allowing you to go out and play your game.”
Riley feels like he will have a tremendous impact on the young Orioles because he has the resume to back up his teaching, being around the game for this long.
“I think he’ll be great for the young guys because immediately he’ll gain the respect of all his players, because everyone knows Buck Showalter and his accolades in this game,” Riley added.
But the veterans on the Orioles should also take notice to Buck, because if they tune him out and don’t buy into his way of playing the game right, they’ll be needing a change of address form.
“If you didn’t play the game hard, and you didn’t play it the right way, he was going to say something to you, whether you were a veteran or a rookie guy. That’s one of the biggest things that stood out about Buck,” Riley continued.
Gonzalez had the same thing to say.
“And knowing Buck from playing for him in the past, he’s going to get on these guys. There’s no cake-walk with him. You’re going to know when you step out on the field that he wants you to play hard. If not, you’re going to find yourself sitting on the bench.”
Matt Williams said he wouldn’t expect anything else from a quality manager in this league, and he said Showalter was the best at doing that out of all the managers he had in his 16-year major league career.
“That’s ultimately what a manager is. A manager is somebody that gets their guys in the an opportunity to bring the best of their talents out, and if everybody can do that, you can create a winning ball-club,” Williams said, who came close to winning a couple more World Series’ with former Orioles manager Mike Hargrove as a member of the Cleveland Indians.
And for those out there that think Showalter is a stiff disciplinarian, former Rangers outfielder Doug Glanville shot down that rumor quickly.
“I loved playing for Buck,” Glanville said, who in reality only played half a season for Showalter before being traded to the Cubs. “I really enjoyed my year with Buck. He has a lot of smiles on his face. He is kind of like a straight face comedian.”
“As long as you’re professional, you’ll have a great time with him. He’s really easy to deal with. As long as you’re on time and play hard, he wont say a word.”
But when it comes to the game of baseball and getting the basics down first, that is where Showalter gets serious.
“But where he is no-nonsense is attention to detail. He doesn’t miss anything,” Glanville said.
Every player WNST talked to over the last two months said the Orioles found the perfect guy for the situation the franchise is in mired in right now, and they all thought Showalter was the perfect guy to get them out of the muck.
Because he’s done it before.
Every job he has taken, in his first year, the team has finished below .500. But the next year, the team sees immediate results, and is back to a competitive mindset-both mentally and in the standings.
- 1992(NY): 76-86, 4th place; 1993: 88-74, 2nd place.
- 1998(AZ) 65-97, 5th place; 1999 100-62, 1st place.
- 2003(TX) 71-91, 4th place; 2004: 89-73, 3rd place.
Gonzalez says it may take longer for Baltimore than these teams, but ultimately Showalter should be able to put his mark on this team as he did with the Yankees, Diamondbacks, and Rangers.
“He will teach those guys, and the coaching staff he’ll bring in, and show them how to do it the right way, and I think that’s going to help out tremendously to that organization- an organization that has been around forever and has a great legacy of players who have gone and come through there.”
Keep tuned into WNST and WNST.net as we continue to track the progress of Buck Showalter as the 17th Oriole Manager. WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!