There are two legitimate candidates for AL manager of the year, the Oakland Athletics’ Bob Melvin and the Baltimore Orioles’ Buck Showalter. Both teams were given no chance at succeeding this year, and yet both, Melvin and Showalter, have done tremendous jobs of leading their teams to winning records.
Both the A’s and Orioles were not only given no chance at making the playoffs, but they were expected to be terrible this season. What makes both teams and their manager’s performances even more impressive this season is that they are not only competing for playoff spots, but division titles. The A’s are only 3 games back of the Texas Rangers who spent millions this off-season to make them the favorite in the AL. Meanwhile, the Orioles are only 1 game back of the New York Yankees in the AL East.
In the case of Showalter, he has been able to make a winning team out of a roster that is not that much different than last year’s. General manager Dan Duquette made his share of moves, but the core of the team is the same as last year. Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, J.J. Hardy, and Matt Wieters are all still the driving forces behind the Orioles success. Duquette made a lot of smaller moves involving international players and veteran waiver claims that have proven to be huge additions. How many times are waiver claims and veteran leftovers such as Nate McLouth and Lew Ford considered huge additions? Well with the Orioles it has happened often this year.
Many analysts around baseball bring up the many pitching, fielding, and hitting team statistics that show the Orioles at the middle to bottom of the pack. This makes the job Showalter has done even more impressive. Showalter has managed to make the most of what he has on his roster.
Analysts also like to talk about the Orioles negative run differential and impressive record in one run games. The one time managers shine is in close games. This is when the “managing” really starts to show. Considering the Orioles record in one run games this season, Showalter he has shined brighter than any other manager in baseball in 2012.
Orioles fans have lost the right to second guess Showalter’s moves. Ok, that may be a bit harsh. What I am getting at is, fans (including myself), love to second guess managers. However, Showalter clearly has made all the right moves this season. So when the team’s starting right fielder and lead-off hitter goes down for the season with a broken hand it’s going to be hard to second guess any of Showalter’s decisions on who to replace Markakis with.
The Orioles have plenty of options to replace Markakis, although none of them seem to be good enough to replace the overall production Markakis provided. Showalter will have a lot of choices to make, which means he will have a lot of opportunities to fail and subsequently be second guessed.
Based on Showalter’s performance so far as the manager of the Orioles, I trust he will manage to make all the right moves. He has to, or else the Orioles will be watching the playoffs from their couches. Showalter has been playing the part of magician this season with all the tricks he has shown fans. Does Showalter have one more trick up his sleeve?