Baltimore Orioles so I wasn’t the only one doubting that anyone could win in the home dugout at Camden Yards.
On three occasions that afternoon, you said: “I did my homework.”
And so the mere fact that you somehow navigated the Orioles into a few winning seasons and somewhat sustained success amidst the Angelos family siphoning hundreds of millions of MASN money into their personal wealth, a socially awkward GM who was on an MLB milk carton for a dozen years and Brady Anderson acting as the consigliere of the Angelos boys is nothing short of a miracle.
So I am not here to bury you today, William Nathaniel Showalter III.
Instead, I come here to praise you.
Oh sure, you’ll never live down the Ubaldo Jimenez fiasco in Toronto – nor should you. I’ve been watching sports in Baltimore since 1972. I have been writing and opining about it professionally since 1984 and I am hard-pressed to think about any singular decision by any decision maker that is worse than allowing Zach Britton to rot on the bench in extra innings in a knockout game to allow Ubaldo Jimenez to end the season of a baseball team that might’ve been good enough to win a World Series. Edwin Encarnacion still loves that decision. So do Blue Jays fans!
I’m guessing at some point in the future, on some baseball broadcast or sit-down interview with one of your many media bunkies, you’ll admit how stupid it was and it’ll become a part of your rubber chicken dinner speech. You also might never recover professionally from it because I doubt that you’re going to manage another game in the big leagues – or whether you even want to anymore?
Ubaldo Jimenez is a punchline in Baltimore. And you gave him the chance to play the leading role in your departure. It would be crass to say that you got what you deserved – but you kinda did. Ride with a chump in October and you wake up on the golf course on Columbus Day.
Buck, you’ve had now had four chances. New York. Arizona. Texas. They all won more when you left. That’s simply a fact.
But there’s no doubt that your “genius” was solidified when you took on the impossible task of trying to win baseball games in the most dysfunctional franchise in modern sports – in the American League East of MLB no less – and actually succeeded in quelling the circus and deodorizing the Angelos family, albeit temporarily.
When you had good baseball players in Baltimore, you made them great. And when you had garbage baseball players, you were forced to leave with the franchise in shambles.
But you’re gone now and losing wildcard games on an inconceivably stupid decision by a manager is something that Baltimore Orioles fans won’t have to consider for the foreseeable future because they won’t have quality players or a deft manager like you to get them to October to screw up playoff games.
Fall will revert back to being about the Ravens and pumpkin spice – the way it was for the dozen years before you gave the orange ship a sturdy and stable rudder.
And, Buck, you’ll be martyred for being the only guy who could personally deal with Peter G. Angelos and still somehow not need a hot shower with vinegar and soap after the experience. You kissed his ass when he needed it. You kept all of his dumb decisions and ideas to yourself – well except for the $161 million he unilaterally gave to Chris Davis.
You took Andy MacPhail’s advice of patronizing the old man to heart and almost nine years later I’m not sure you’ve ever said a bad word or criticized any measure of an Orioles franchise that never was as good as you would’ve made it if you really ran the place.
I can’t imagine the frustration!
(Oh, but perhaps I can, now in my 14th year of being banned as a media professional for writing and speaking truths that you know to be true.)
But, that Arizona experience taught you plenty about being on the other side of the dugout and in the owner’s suite. I’m guessing that armadillo skin you acquired in the desert but didn’t have in The Big Apple served you well in dealing with a stable genius like Peter G. Angelos on those weekend mornings up in the law office. (I’m just wondering how many times he privately told you how much smarter he was than George Steinbrenner!)
The Baltimore Orioles owner has been an obstinate, difficult man for all 25 years of his stewardship. I write books about his history. (By the way I love that word: “his story” because that’s what The Peter Principles are.) And your management skills were certainly not limited to the youngsters and millionaires in your dugout and clubhouse.
The unspoken part here is how you “managed” a maniac owner, who no one else ever figured out how to tame, educate or communicate with and still managed to have it translate to winning games at Camden Yards with the