Showalter's choice crucial for Orioles' future

Showalter's choice crucial for Orioles' future
October 2, 2011, 4:24 pm
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By Rich

Its the weekend of decision for Buck Showalter.

Far away from Baltimore, hes deciding which job hed like best. Should he continue as the Orioles manager? Should he succeed Andy MacPhail as the teams president?

When Showalter took over as manager in Aug. 2010, there was lots of chatter about how well he and MacPhail would co-exist. Showalter was known as involved, and MacPhail had a successful relationship with owner Peter Angelos. Showalter and MacPhail have worked well together.

With MacPhail reportedly about to step aside and perhaps wait for Bud Selig to retire as commissioner, heand apparently Angelosthink Showalter could do well as an executive.

There are lots of reasons to think Showalter would do well. He has experience in building a franchise. For the two seasons before the Arizona Diamondbacks began play in 1998, Showalter was involved in many key decisionsnot only about the clubs makeup, but with the size and design of the clubhouses.

More than any other manager Ive seen, Showalter has gotten to know the minor league system. Visiting Aberdeen, Bowie and Frederick on days off, hes watched young players, acquainting himself with the system.

Hes interested in lots of facets of the operation. Hell often remark about how dugouts in opposing ballparks are poorly designed to watch a game, talk about the in-game presentation and ask about the view from the press box.

Showalter shows lots of interest in even the arcane rules of baseball business. Does the last place team from the year before get the same spot in the waiver claim line all season long? How long can a player be kept on the bereavement list if they leave the team for the birth of a child?

While most managers pay little attention to the amateur draft, Showalter was enthralled with the process and spoke endlessly about his familiarity with the top picks. Of course, he kept saying it was scouting director Joe Jordans job to select, but clearly he was thrilled with Dylan Bundythe teams top choice.

There are a number of reasons to think Showalter would be better suited where he is. Negotiating contracts is probably not his thing. After repeatedly championing Adam Jones and Matt Wieters, hed find it hard to say no to them.

MacPhail didnt have the relationship with the players, and was able to view it as businessnot personally. Showalter would have a hard time with that.
On the other hand, he wouldnt have a hard time letting players go who had disappointed him.

As a fine in-game manager, it would be tough for him to have the same kind of hands-off attitude that MacPhail had with him. Could any manager be as good in his mind as he was?

Would he allow the new manager to have the same kind of latitude in choosing coaches as he insisted on? After last season, all six of the coaches he inherited were switched. His new pitching coach, Mark Connor, quit barely two months into the season, saying he was tired. Bullpen coach Rick Adair was quickly appointed as the pitching coach. Perhaps coincidentally, the pitching struggled for the next 10 weeks. A similar turnover could be harmful.

It would be difficult to picture Showalter passively watching games as MacPhail did. MacPhail wouldnt engage with visiting scouts, and would visit only if a fellow club executive was on hand. Showalter would enjoy the give-and-take with scouts.

It would be fascinating to watch Showalters interaction with either a new bosswho he would have major input on selectingor a new subordinate.

Hed probably be more comfortable with a more experienced executive like MacPhail, John Hart or Jim Hendry than he would with a younger man. Showalter doesnt talk a lot about statistics. Hes more into observation. In looking at players, hes talked about looking at a players eye color. Some players with light-colored eyes have trouble seeing the ball during day games. During spring training, he encouraged players to use flip-down sunglasses instead of wraparound shades.

With Showalter the manager having a strong relationship with Angelos, it would take a secure executive to walk about the Warehouse. It would be fascinating to look at who he might pick as his successor. Would he choose someone on the current staff? Third base coach Willie Randolph was the New York Mets manager, once winning a division. John Russell, the bench coach who traded places with Randolph during the season, managed Pittsburgh.

Two Toronto coaches with whom hes had a close relationship with are Brian Butterfield and Don Wakamatsu. Wakamatsu managed Seattle.

Its not any easy choice. Its not one that could have been imagined 14 months ago. It will be fascinating to see the path Buck Showalter chooses.