From 1998 to 2012, the Baltimore Orioles were one of the most disastrous franchises in baseball. After making the playoffs in 2012 and winning 85 games in 2013, they have recently become one of baseball’s premier teams. A reason, perhaps the biggest reason – Buck Showalter.
They failed to end the season with a winning record in any year from 1998 through 2011 and only eclipsed the 70-win mark once. In 2012, they came out of nowhere and made a magical playoff run. The team won 16 extra-inning games in a row, the closer Jim Johnson saved 51 ball games in 54 attempts; they went 29-9 in one-run games and got career-years from multiple players.
In 2012, they ended the year 93-69 and made the playoffs as a wild card team. They upset the favored Texas Rangers in the first-ever American League Wild Card game before extending the New York Yankees to five games in the American League Divisional Series. The O’s won 85 games the following year, proving to the baseball world that the Baltimore Orioles are back on the map.
The main reason for the sudden turn of events was the Manger of the bullpen by the name of Buck Showalter. He has a history of turning losing teams into winning ones in the blink of an eye.
Starting with Yankees: He took over as manager in 1992 when they finished the season with a 76-86 record. They won less than 75 games in each of the last three years as well. In 1993 – one year after Showalter took over the team – the Yankees won 88 games finishing second in the American League East division, which contained seven teams at the time.
The next year the Yankees won the division with a 70-43 record in a strike-shortened season. In Showalter’s final year with the Yankees (1995), they finished the year with a 79-65 record, which means he lead a team that had losing records in four straight years to having winning records in three straight years.
After a a three-year absence from the managerial position, he made similar magic with the Arizona Diamondbacks. After winning 65 games in his first year there, the D-Backs all of a sudden won 100 games in 1992, earning the division crown. After another three year absence, he was signed by the Texas Rangers and did the same exact thing to them, except it wasn’t quite as impactful. After winning 71 games in his first season with the Rangers (2003), he lead them 89 wins in 2004.
After laving the Rangers in 2006, he served as a baseball analyst on ESPN for a few years, before being signed by the Orioles at the end of the 2010 season. After leading the worst team in baseball to a 34-23 record in the last 57 games of the season, the O’s won just 69 games in 2011. However, all it meant was that his magic would be delayed by just one year as the O’s won 93 games in 2012, 85 in 2013, and have gone 60-47 through the first 105 games in his fifth season with the Orioles.
Here are his career managerial stats:
|1||1992||36||New York Yankees||AL||76||86||.469||162||4|
|2||1993||37||New York Yankees||AL||88||74||.543||162||2|
|3||1994||38||New York Yankees||AL||70||43||.619||113||1|
|4||1995||39||New York Yankees||AL||79||65||.549||145||2|
|12||2010||54||Baltimore Orioles||AL||3rd of 3||34||23||.596||57||5|
It makes you wonder why no teams gave him a chance in the 11 years he was free for.
The knock on him is that he wasn’t able to maintain any of those teams as he has never had longer then a four-year stint with any specific club. However, that hasn’t been the case with the Orioles. He has already been with the team for four and a half seasons and will be with the team at least through the 2017 season as they signed him to a three-year extension last year.
I’m a big fan of saying: coach’s don’t win games, players do; but there are few exceptions and Showalter is one of them. In 2012, the Orioles did nothing to upgrade on roster from the 69 wins in 2011, yet they still won 34 more games. How do you explain that?