I am fascinated by people in sports who either do or do not demonstrate leadership capacity. Some of the great illustrations of leadership in our culture come from sports figures and sports legends. And at any given time in the world of athletics, it is simple enough to look around and identify a failing team due to a lack of leadership in communication and decision by the field general.
Buck Showalter of the Baltimore Orioles is in my mind a master of leadership. It is not as if I don’t criticize certain elements of his decision-making at certain times – he perhaps rides the horse a bit too long in hopes and beliefs that a failing player is going to turn it around quickly, rather than cutting his losses.
But a coach/manager has to be a believer in his team and the personnel he coaches. He needs to see a vision for what can be accomplished, and he needs to communicate that vision to the people individually and publically to others about them.
In this context of another offseason that appears rather lackluster, here are some quotes of Showalter from a radio broadcast the other night – supplied by Roch Kubatko … and then I’ll have a few extra under the next heading below …
“I look at it like there’s nothing else coming; there may be. I think that’s such a poor reflection for the manager to be talking about everybody else’s players and people that are out there. I think we’re at 55 coming to camp right now.”
“I think what we miss in a lot of this is, you saw how much Chris Tillman improved from 2012 to 2013. Who’s to say that can’t be Zach Britton? Wei-Yin Chen was hurt for it seemed like half the season. To get him back healthy again… Who’s to say Kevin Gausman won’t take that step that we all feel like he will at some point in his career? Miguel Gonzalez was hurt for a lot of the year last year. I think Tommy Hunter‘s only going to be better. Steve Johnson was hurt last year for a lot of the season and wasn’t able to do what he’s capable of doing.”
And Showalter then went on to give a very positive spin on just about every player on the roster, finishing with, “I could go on and on, but I feel like it’s half full.”
“I’ll match up with anybody in our division position player-wise, and I still feel that way. And we’ve got a chance to do some things to make that even better between now and the time we break camp. But until something else shows up, I’m looking at our own people. I’m not looking in somebody else’s pasture. I’m just looking in ours…”
And in response to the criticisms that offseason expectations are not being met, “Why are those expectations there? Because we created them the last couple years by being more competitive. This isn’t about being competitive, this is about winning.”
Other Showalter Quotes Previously
Here are a few others quotes … let me give them to you, and then I’ll tell you when they happened …
Regarding the perception that the offseason has not been productive: “I like laying in the weeds a little bit. People feel the offseason was quiet; I think it has been very active.” Showalter then went on to comment upon the competitiveness of players being enhanced by the multiple small additions – a theme we know he embraces significantly.
Regarding being competitive in the AL East: “The biggest separator between our club and the other teams in the division is the ability of the starters to get deep into the game.”
Regarding younger players becoming productive regular major leaguers: “The biggest jump in all of sports is from the minors to the majors in baseball … you’re gonna get your nose bloodied. I’m looking for guys who will come back and fight.”
Regarding signing free agents: “… of course we’d love to have a 27-year-old with Fielder’s talent, but we want to build them from within. We’ve got to get our young guys on the same trajectory as Wieters (in coming through the system). But isn’t that a great name – ‘Prince?’ I’ve never had a player named ‘Prince’ or ‘King’ but I’ve had a few princesses.”
Regarding how players have changed over the years: “Players haven’t changed much, players have new challenges; we make too much of changes in the game. The real thing is knowing the players – they’re not robots. I want to know what’s going on in their lives – everyone has a story of what’s going on. We played 204 games last year, counting spring training, and that is a challenge to handle every day.”
Even those most of those remarks could have been uttered last week, those quotes were from two years ago this month, at a time before two winning seasons occurred, and at a time when Showalter was looked upon as being too ridiculously optimistic for reality. I ended my blog post at that time by speculating upon Buck’s optimism as perhaps a bit overblown, yet finished by saying, “It is only a 12-win improvement to get to .500 … and that would surely be deemed a legitimately successful season.” And as we now know, they posted double that number to get to 93 wins.
Buck Showalter is a positive guy, and he is not crazy to be so. Without doubt, many positive circumstances need to add together to make for a highly successful season for the 2014 Orioles, but it really can happen – even with the current roster.