What do the 1996 New York Yankees and the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks have in common?
Both teams won the World Series immediately following Buck Showalter’s departure as manager.
Showalter took both teams to the postseason in his second full year as manager.
Interesting stuff, right? Heck, I’ll even throw in the fact that Showalter, in his second full season as manager of the Texas Rangers and in the team’s first season without Alex Rodriguez (holy crap, that guy always makes it into my articles! Man crush? Probably.) led the team to its first winning season in 4 years and finished only three games behind the division-winning Anaheim Angels. It might be a bit of a stretch to say that he laid the foundation for the team’s turnaround and back to back World Series appearances but the point is clear: Buck is good at what he does.
So why does it feel like Showalter, who is known around baseball as a great manager with a penchant for turning around bad teams, doesn’t get enough credit? Is it possible to not receive enough credit despite winning two AL Manager of the Year awards and finishing second two other times?
Apparently so. On Tuesday, Showalter finished second in the AL Manager of the Year voting to Oakland A’s skipper Bob Melvin in what was one of the closest races in the award’s history. Predicted to finish no higher than fourth in most preseason predictions, Showalter led the Orioles to a second place finish in the AL East, the team’s first playoff appearance since 1997 and within one win of advancing to the ALCS. The Orioles won consistently throughout the year, leaving many fans and analysts shocked at their excellent play and, because of the roster, simultaneously waiting for the other shoe to drop.
It’s not that Melvin didn’t deserve to win. He led his team, expected to finish third in the division behind the Texas Rangers and Anaheim Angels, to a division title despite trading away its top two starters and a closer while relying on a bevy of rookies and castoffs. I just think that Showalter’s task was more difficult: playing consistent baseball in the AL East, squeezing every ounce of blood out of his starting rotation and bullpen, finishing with a 29-9 record in one-run games and leading the team to a twenty four game improvement from 2011.
I won’t argue conspiracy theory that Melvin won the award. Just like voting for the Heisman trophy, it’s not necessarily what you do throughout the season that matters, but how you finish. The A’s finish was much sexier than that of the Orioles, whose consistency during the year made them a lock for the playoffs come September. In the end, I just feel that Showalter once again got the short end of the stick despite having less talent on his club. Maybe next year he gets his due. Maybe not. If the past is any indication, Showalter will lead the O’s back to the playoffs and respectability, lose his job and watch from home as the team he built lifts the World Series trophy in 2014.