When Buck Showalter was brought in as the new manager of the Baltimore Orioles during the 2010 season, he carried the team to a 34-23 record the rest of the way. That was good for second in the Majors, behind only the team with the most unnecessarily long name in baseball: the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
There was actually hope in Baltimore for the first time in quite awhile. 1997 was the last time the Orioles made it to the postseason, and the winning seasons have been minuscule since then. It was Baltimore’s time in 2011, and if they couldn’t make it into October, they would put up one hell of a run.
Well, not exactly.
The year 2011 was more of the same for the O’s, and the glorious savior named Buck Showalter was just another manager that came up very short in Camden Yards. Their final record? 69-93, good for dead last in the American League East.
Truth is, however, Showalter wasn’t looking towards 2011 to be the year the Orioles broke out. A young team, he knew it would take more seasoning than just 50 games to right the ship that has been veering far off course for over a decade. He was grooming the young talent in Baltimore for success, both on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
Adam Jones is just about to cash in on his latest success with a lucrative contract offer. He will be locked in for six years and more money than Miguel Tejada’s $72 million signing in 2003. Although a couple of years ago, his development looked to be slowing, he has now become one of the best outfielders in the game today.
Jason Hammel has been the most pleasant surprise on a solid Orioles rotation, reeling in six wins and an ERA under three. Wei-Yin Chen is also performing well, particularly against AL East opponents, which is helping to keep them on top of the division.
As a whole, the Orioles just look and play like a team. The young guys have been together for years, with some of them coming up through the Minor Leagues together. It’s much easier to lean on these developed relationships than learn the ins-and-outs of new traded players. These relationships can sometimes take years to take hold, and the Orioles currently have that luxury.
For Showalter, he has become an integral leader of a young team looking to surprise everyone. At the end of April, we could cough up the O’s hot start as a fluke, expecting them to fall back to their former shame. After two months, however, there isn’t any fluke talk going around. While the team still may find themselves at the bottom by September, there can be no doubting this excellent start.
It gets chalked up to talent and the guidance of Showalter. Now, the task for him is to stick around long enough to see all the pieces fit together perfectly. Buck managed a Yankee team in the early 1990s that was looking for anything to get back to their winning ways. He gave them the best record in a shortened 1994 season and a wild card appearance in 1995.
But he was gone after 1995, and the next year, New York won the World Series.
After leaving the Yankees, Showalter focused on the new Arizona Diamondbacks, and became their first manager in 1998. By 2000, he had them in the playoffs after such a short time away from being developed.
But he was gone after 2000, and the next year, Arizona won the World Series.
He can be credited for the rise to success of three franchises, but he has yet to bask in the glory of winning a World Series. That still can be a long shot in Baltimore in 2012, but Buck has one again turned a team and city around to victorious ways.