The first two times Buck Showalter talked with Jim Johnson after Monday night’s trade, neither could keep it together.
“I’m not good at goodbyes,” Showalter said. “It’s sad for me.”
Showalter will miss Johnson enormously.
“He made people better around him,” Showalter said.
When Showalter became manager in 2010, Johnson was on the disabled list, and they didn’t meet until early one evening in Bowie. The Orioles had finished an afternoon game, and uniform on, Showalter drove to Prince George’s Stadium to watch Johnson.
He liked what he saw.
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“I saw something in Jimmy,” Showalter said. He knew he liked him, and he didn’t want to listen to what the staff he inherited told him about the man who’d been in the Orioles organization since 2001.
“I want to make up my own mind.”
Showalter made Johnson the closer in Aug. 2011, and the move helped lead the club to its first winning season in 14 years. 2013 wasn’t as good, in part because the club had more thin leads than in the past, and Johnson was overworked.
“He was a player for me,” Showalter said. “I asked a lot of Jimmy in the clubhouse.”
Johnson was one of Showalter’s guys, it was pointed out.
“He was everybody’s guy,” Showalter said.
Showalter liked Johnson’s family, his community involvement in Sarasota, and his willingness to be accountable. He hates parting with players he’s grown close to.
“This is a part of the business I don’t like,” Showalter said.
Johnson goes on to Oakland. Maybe he stays there for a full season. Maybe he gets moved elsewhere. Showalter hopes a year from now, Johnson has had another big year, and as a free agent, perhaps he’s back in Baltimore.
“I hope it’s ‘to be continued,’” Showalter said.