The slow demise of the 2018 Orioles is hard enough to swallow, but it’s extra sour knowing we could be witnessing a sad finish to Buck Showalter’s proud and successful tenure as manager. And if indeed Showalter’s contract is not renewed at season’s end, it would be a shame to conclude his time in Baltimore this way.
The Orioles’ free fall is well documented. They have lost of eight of their last nine games, dropping to 41-102 and wallowing 56.5 games out of first place. They remain on pace to finish with the third-worst win-loss record since the expansion era began in 1961, and the 15th worst in modern MLB history beginning in 1901. There doesn’t seem to be any chance for even a small run of success to finish the year and salvage anything.
The atmosphere in any losing clubhouse is never a good one, but Showalter has made a career of building a winning atmosphere and it’s tough to see him at the helm of a bumbling team showing very little growth.
MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli reported that Caleb Joseph called the team’s play “disheartening” and that he didn’t think the younger players were showing improvement. He added:
This is an opportunity to take advantage of some time for these young guys and even some older guys, to get some stuff ironed out. But we aren’t doing it. We are wasting time, we are wasting opportunity to turn this thing around.
And if that doesn’t add to the clubhouse angst, Adam Jones sitting out all three games of the weekend series against the Rays certainly had to create a strange feel among the team. Given Showalter’s tendency to support his veterans through thick and thin, it’s hard to imagine that he was on board with that plan.
He said the team is looking at younger players, but only one outfielder, Cedric Mullins, has the potential to significantly contribute to the Orioles rebuild. Replacements Joey Rickard, 27, and John Andreoli, 28, are wasting space in the lineup when 23-year-old Austin Hays should be getting another taste of the big leagues.
Hays wrapped up his AA season with Bowie on September 3, hitting a homer for the second consecutive game. He could have been on his way to Baltimore right after finishing his minor-league season like last year, when he made his MLB debut on September 5.
But instead Buck gets to use his skills to develop two players whose ceiling is no better than a fourth or fifth outfielder.
If Showalter does leave, there will be much written about how he turned around a proud franchise and a struggling team in August 2010. It only took him until 2012 to return the Orioles to the post-season and end a team streak of 14 straight losing seasons.
Baltimore was finally graced with a manager matched perfectly to the team’s circumstance – a proven commodity, known for hard work and a great feel for the game. And he delivered, leading the Orioles to a 444-366 (.548) record from 2012-2016 and three playoff appearances.
Those were the good old days and until his future is decided, Orioles fans are now left with the tough task of trying to enjoy what could be the final games of the Buck Showalter era.