A lot of a manager’s reputation is determined by their ability to manage the game, and many Baltimore Orioles fans criticize Buck Showalter for many things during the game. Sometimes fans feel that Showalter leaves pitchers in too long, and that his loyalty to certain players hurts the team in games, among other things.
I, for one, am guilty of criticizing some of the Showalter’s decisions (most recently the decision to send Steve Clevenger down), but I’m not afraid to give guys credit when it’s due — and Showalter deserves a heck of a lot of credit.
Showalter is one of the game’s great managers, if bringing baseball back to Baltimore and various other places throughout his career weren’t enough for you then this season may be enough to convince you he’s elite. Showalter is pushing all of the right buttons.
Whether or not Showalter pulls the trigger at the same moment you think he should is completely irrelevant. Clamoring on about Tommy Hunter keeping the closer role earlier in the season was a mistake, or how he doesn’t always make the popular decision when it comes to the roster really doesn’t matter all that much either.
Despite the numerous injuries to the Orioles’ stars like Chris Davis, Manny Machado, Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy, the O’s have remained competitive and that is in large part thanks to Showalter and the culture he’s built inside the clubhouse. Depth plays a big role in that too, but who do you think utilizes that depth? Sure, Dan Duquette works to create the depth, but ultimately the depth is only as good as the way it’s used.
Showalter let Jim Johnson close games for too long last season, and it played a role in Baltimore missing the playoffs. But this year, Showalter learned his lesson. He yanked Hunter from the role much earlier this season and replaced him with Zach Britton, who’s doing well so far.
Tuesday night’s ballgame against the Milwaukee Brewers shows Showalter’s 2014 season in a nutshell. Like players, managers have seasons that are better than others, and 2014 is shaping up to be a good year for Showalter.
Showalter’s decision to leave Wei-Yin Chen in until the fifth inning kept the Orioles within striking distance, and his decision to put Steve Pearce in as the pinch-hitter later in the game would prove to be monumental as Pearce hit the go-ahead three-run homer before the Orioles eventually lost 7-6 in extra innings. Showalter’s decision to bring Brian Matusz into the game in the eighth to work out of a bases-loaded jam would also prove to be the right move.
Call it luck, intuition or whatever you want to call it, but Showalter is pressing all the right buttons so far this season. Nobody bats 1.000 in baseball, but Showalter has a pretty high average if you ask me.