Bucking at the Competition

Buck Showalter’s comments in the April edition of Men’s Journal have been public for about two weeks now and the backlash continues to pour in. Was he right? Was he out of line? Were they taken out of context? I’m going to go with “Yes” to the first one, “No” to the second, and “I highly doubt it” to the last one. Maybe he was trying to deflect some of the attention off of his team and onto himself. Afterall, there has been alot of optimism around the Birds this spring and getting the media to talk about him and less about the players might let the guys calm down and relax a bit.

When speaking on Derek Jeter he said, “He’s always jumping back from balls just off the plate. I know how many calls that team gets — and yes, he [ticks] me off.” Later in the interview he spoke on Theo Epstein, general manager of the Red Sox, and had this to say, “”I’d like to see how smart Theo Epstein is with the Tampa Bay [Rays] payroll. You got Carl Crawford ’cause you paid more than anyone else, and that’s what makes you smarter? That’s why I like whipping their butt. It’s great, knowing those guys with the $205 million payroll are saying, ‘How the hell are they beating us?”

I’ve always thought, in appearance and even some mannerisms, Buck kind of reminded me of Earl Weaver. Well now he’s given me another reason to think it. Earl hated losing more than anything. Buck does too, almost to the same extent. And what have the Orioles not done since 1997? That was the last year they finished above .500. Over a decade of futility plus a manger who doesn’t like to lose generally don’t mix well. He’s tired of the Orioles being considered a doormat for the Yankees, Red Sox, and all of the American League for that matter.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Andy MacPhail didn’t have any problem with the comments and felt like it would be out of the news in a few days. Normally conservative, I was expecting him to revert to a “no comment” stance, but to my surprise he didn’t. On the second part he’s right. By the time the season starts this will all be forgotten. Will it be brought up again the first time the O’s play the Red Sox and Yankees? I would be shocked if it didn’t. To be honest, I don’t think it registered anything above a 2 on the Richter scale at either Red Sox or Yankees camp, and it really shouldn’t. It should register a 10 at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota though.

If last season’s sampling after Showalter took over is any indication of what fans have to look forward to, then maybe the bullying is over. A 34-23 record and respectable 6-6 against the Yankees and Red Sox after his arrival sounds pretty good to anyone who’s followed the Orioles recently. It looks even better when you look at the fact the O’s are 68-116 against the Red Sox and 62-122 against the Yankees the last 10 years. Baltimore travels to New York for the first time this season on April 12th and the first game against Boston is a few weeks later, on the 26th so we don’t have long to wait to see what effect Buck’s comments have on this year’s fortunes against the bitter AL East rivals.

Was the end to last year a result of people playing to keep their jobs or the start of a new era in Camden? Probably a little of both, with more of the later. I’ve been a believer in Andy MacPhail and, from what I’ve seen so far, I think Buck Showalter has was it takes to usher in a new era here. It won’t happen overnight, but small success leads to big success, and for a town starved for success any at all is welcome.

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