In 20 years as a Major League Baseball manager, Buck Showalter has seen his fair share of ups and downs. Showalter has a reputation of being a fixer as he helps franchise turn things around and leaves them in a much better position than when he initially arrived. Throughout the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the New York Yankees had become one of the worst teams in MLB, but in 1992, a young Showalter came on board to manage the team. By 1993, the Yankees sported their first winning record in five years, and by 1995, they reached the postseason for the first time in 14 years. However following the Yanks trip to the playoffs, Showalter was shown the door, but he would quickly land on his feet to become the first manager for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Showalter helped to prepare the Diamondbacks for their inaugural season in 1998, and just one year later, he led Arizona to the National League West Title. In 2000, the Diamondbacks parted with Showalter, and after a few years away from the game, he would resurface in 2003 with the Texas Rangers. Prior to Showalter joining the Rangers, they were coming off of three consecutive losing seasons. And in four years as the Rangers manager, Showalter was never able to lead the club to the playoffs, but he did make them respectable which included going 89-73 in 2004.
Showalter’s most recent reclamation project has been what he’s been able to do as the manager of the Baltimore Orioles. Showalter took over as the Orioles skipper midway through the 2010 Major League season, and he inherited a team that hadn’t had a winning season, nor a trip to the playoffs since 1997. The O’s were in need of a culture change and Showalter was the right guy for the job as Baltimore became more competitive under him and showed the rest of the American League East that they were no longer going to be pushovers.
By 2012, the Orioles were able to win 93 games and secure a trip to the playoffs as a wild card. And in 2014, Baltimore won 96 games and their first American League East Title in 17 years. Under Showalter, the O’s have continued to be a contender in the A.L., and even last year when they lost 87 games, they were still a tough out. However 2018 has been a different story in Baltimore and a reboot could be around the bend.
With a record of 17-36, the Orioles are staring at their first 90-loss season since 2011. Things never got started on the right foot for Baltimore as they finished the month of April with a record of 8-20. And as all signs point to this being a long summer in Baltimore, I expect them to be one of the first teams to wave the white flag and become sellers. However this is a process which should have begun last year.
Orioles shortstop Manny Machado is one of the game’s best players. Coming out of high school in Florida, Machado was a phenom which led to him being the third overall pick of the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft. In parts of seven years with the O’s, Machado has averaged hitting 31 home runs and driving in 90, while sporting a career batting average of .282. This season Machado is batting .324 with 15 homers to go along with 44 runs batted in which is tops in the American League. Machado is already a three-time All-Star and he’s one of the faces of the Orioles franchise.
However Machado is set to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, and all signs point to him playing elsewhere in 2019. But Orioles general manager Dan Duqette has grossly mismanaged Machado over the last two years which is and will continue to do harm to the franchise.
Since it became evident that Machado was going to be a star, you knew that he wasn’t going to remain in Baltimore as Orioles owner Peter Angelos has a notorious reputation for not paying players. And since that is the case, the O’s should have made it their business to trade Machado when his value was high. Machado’s highest value to the Orioles was following the 2016 Major League Baseball season when he helped the O’s reach the playoffs for the third time in five years. In 2016, Machado batted .294 to go along with 37 home runs and 96 runs batted in. Trading Machado then would have led to the Orioles getting some prospects back in return due to the fact that he was still under contract, but instead the O’s kept him.
There was the possibility that Baltimore could have traded Machado this year just before spring training, but they denied any potential team the chance to work out a long-term deal with the slugger, while they were still seeking a bevy of prospects for what could amount to being a “rental”.
Now no team is going to take Machado off of the Orioles hands. And with Baltimore set to spend the summer being nothing more than a spoiler, Machado can just step to the plate four times a night to pad his stats, while the Orioles can only focus on getting an additional first-round pick in next year’s draft.
Like Machado, outfielder Adam Jones has been one of the faces of the Orioles franchise in recent years. After beginning his Major League Baseball career with the Seattle Mariners, Jones has been with Baltimore since 2008 as he was one of the players that Showalter inherited upon coming to Baltimore who became an impact player. Jones has been “Steady Eddie” for the O’s as he ranks in the top ten of several key offensive categories in the franchise’s history which includes hits, doubles, home runs, and games played, while he’s also taken home four Gold Glove Awards for his exploits on defense. Jones has made five All-Star Game appearances while in an Orioles uniform, and he’s been active in the Baltimore community with youth programs such as the Boys and Girls Club of America. But with Orioles struggling, Jones could be trade bait before the summer ends as a contending team wouldn’t mind taking a flyer on veteran outfielder who can still get it done at the plate as well as in the field.
Machado and Jones have been the lone bright spots for Baltimore as this team has struggled in every aspect of the game. This season the Orioles are 13th in the American League in runs scored (204), while they are last in on-base percentage (.294), and 13th in batting average (.232). It has not been any better on the rubber for the Orioles as the pitching staff’s earned run average of 4.99 is 13th in the A.L. Duquette never addressed the Orioles pitching needs during the offseason, while everyday players such as second baseman Jonathan Schoop, first baseman Chris Davis, and designated hitter Mark Trumbo have had subpar seasons at the plate. And when you put it all together, it amounts to an Orioles team that is one of the worst in baseball.
But things could be going from bad to worse for the O’s as the contracts of both Showalter and Duquette are up after this season. And just as Angelos has been infamous for not paying players, the same can be said about management as allowing one of the best baseball minds of this era in Showalter to walk out of the door would be a tragedy.
Angelos is another shining example of an owner of a professional sports franchise who is only focused on putting money into his pocket and not into developing a competitive brand. Showalter made the Orioles respectable, but they needed a little bit more to get them over the top. But now the incompetence of Angelos will allow all of that hard work to go by the wayside, and as usual the ultimate losers will be the fans.
Baltimore is a proud sports city that has not seen their beloved Orioles win the World Series since 1983 as there once was a time when “the Oriole Way” was the envy of baseball. But in this new era of professional sports where it is all about the almighty greenback, winning is the alternative, while the new norm is money and absolutely nothing else.