Monday, September 24, 2018

Orioles Victory Card Number 45

Orioles Victory Number 45: 6-3 over the New York Yankees

1985 Topps Traded Earl Weaver

The Orioles avoided yet another series sweep by winning on Sunday in New York. They inadvertently mimicked the Tampa Bay Rays "opener" strategy as Alex Cobb lasted all of four pitches. Luckily none of those pitches were tagged for home runs and the O's were able to overcome an early deficit on the back of two home runs from Tim Beckham and a couple of RBIs from the suddenly scorching hot DJ Stewart.

The win leads them into their final week of the season where they face the Red Sox for three games in Fenway before returning home to finish the season with four against the Houston Astros. Nothing like ending the season against the best team in baseball (Boston) and a team that should have a 100 wins by the time their jet touches down at BWI (Houston has 98 going into their series with Toronto). So that means there is a chance that the Orioles won't win another game this season.

Their season record against Boston is 2-14 and they were swept in Houston way back in April.  Should they fail to win a game in the upcoming week that will leave Buck Showalter with a record of 667-686 during his tenure as skipper in Baltimore. That's good enough for second in career wins as an Orioles manager as well as second for losses. He trails the man above, Earl Weaver, in both categories.  The diminutive Hall of Fame manager ended his career in Baltimore with a record of 1480-1060, a record which most likely will never be matched.

Speaking of endings, it sounds like Showalter's time in Baltimore is approaching it's end as well. USA Today's Bob Nightengale tweeted that Buck is "expected to be dismissed" when the season is over while Jon Heyman reported that the long-tenured manager is "very likely to be replaced" at season's end. Both reporters have been wrong in their predictions in their past about a great many things, but it's not going out on a limb suggesting that the manager of a club that has lost 110+ games is going to be let go, especially when the end of their contract coincides with the dismal season.

Of course, for Showalter's contract not to be renewed someone has to be in charge. And based on an article (paywall) by The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal from earlier this month - it's not quite certain who is running the ship these days:

"But the league, which has not heard from [current owner] Peter Angelos in the current calendar year, wants the Orioles to appoint a new control person by November or December, sources say. At the moment, even the extent of the son's authority is unclear, according to some in the organization."

Reports indicate that John and Louis, the aforementioned sons, are running the team due to their father's declining health. Former Oriole legend Brady Anderson, nominally the VP of Baseball Operations, has the ear of the younger Angelos' and may be encroaching on Dan Duquette's territory.  The same reports that herald Showalter's departure claim that Duquette should be retained. If he is, there has to be a clear delineation of duties between him and Anderson so that they hire the correct replacement for Showalter and engineer the rebuild correctly.

As for Showalter, he will leave Baltimore with a pretty good legacy despite the atrocious last season. He took over in 2010 and finished the season 34-23 (impressive for a club that finished with 96 losses). After another 90+ loss season in 2011, the Orioles took off finishing with .500 or better records in five consecutive seasons, peaking in 2014 with 96 wins and a spot in the American League Championship Series.

They would make it back to the playoffs again in 2016, losing in the AL Wildcard game when Showalter infamously left Zach Britton (who had given up 4 earned runs ALL YEAR LONG) in the bullpen and brought Ubaldo Jimenez (who was not having a great year) into a tie game in extra innings. That did not end well:

Since that moment, the Orioles magic seemed to wane. Despite being in contention for most of 2017, an ugly September sent them spiraling down the standings. The team that had outperformed it's underlying numbers could no longer slug their way past a bad rotation. The defense suffered as did their bullpen - the two hallmarks that allowed them to compete with the Red Sox and Yankees - and by 2018 the team was an embarrassment.

Has the game passed Showalter by? No, but that doesn't mean it isn't time for a new voice in the clubhouse. For whatever reason, the Orioles aren't responding to his leadership. Also, is he the right voice for a rebuilding team? He's managed for 20 years and has 1549 career wins. Three times he's been named manager of the year. Is it fair to him to have to watch 22-year-olds flail away as they learn to win at the major league level for the next two seasons? Probably not.

The competition to be the next Orioles manager will be wide open. Will they promote from within? The young players coming through the organization might be more familiar with the coaches from down in the farm system. Or do they go with an experienced bench coach that's ready to make the next step? That will be the biggest question for the brain trust on Eutaw Street to answer this winter and the biggest step towards building the next great Orioles team. Hopefully they get it right.

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