Where is a team that chooses to fire its manager in mid-January after he receives a one-season suspension to turn for its new dugout leader? The Astros have to answer that question now. One of their first possibilities is a familiar name for Orioles fans: Buck Showalter. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Brittany Ghiroli reported on Thursday morning that Showalter had an interview for the open Astros job yesterday.
With as much focus as has been put on the Astros for their whole analytics-oriented regime, it’d be a bit of a surprise to see them break with it so strongly by going with Showalter, who for all of his pluses as a manager seemed to be in open opposition to the new wave of baseball numbers. This was to the Orioles detriment by the close of his tenure.
On the other hand, perhaps all the drama that’s come out of the Jeff Luhnow-led analytics revolution could lead Astros owner Jim Crane to go for a drastic 180 for his replacement manager choice. The assorted glowing press, including at least one book about their genius, has all taken a darker turn now that the electronic sign-stealing scandal has been blown open. A Showalter hire would be one way to try to make a break from all of that.
It’s not hard to see why the Astros could be an appealing job for Showalter. The leadership of the team may be in flux, but the roster is not. The 2019 Astros won 107 games. Though there have been a couple of high-profile subtractions from the roster as Gerrit Cole and catcher Robinson Chirinos signed elsewhere, it’s a mostly veteran team where mostly everyone is back. He doesn’t need to do any more than be a steady hand through choppy seas.
The front office uncertainty may even be a part of the appeal of the Astros to Showalter. Orioles fans do not need any reminder of the multitude of stories from the latter days of the Showalter-Dan Duquette partnership that suggested that, over time, Showalter’s influence had eclipsed Duquette’s for big decisions.
Showalter arrived in Baltimore with this reputation of being a manager looking to seize some front office influence already. When Showalter replaced the previous jabronis and the Orioles started succeeding, it was easy to forget about this. As the team’s fortunes turned and reports increasingly came along about how far behind the Orioles were compared to other teams in modernizing their thinking and capabilities, the warts of the Showalter approach became easier to see.
Former Blue Jays manager John Gibbons is also set to interview for the Astros manager job, and the Astros could still yet go with elevating their bench coach, Joe Espada, to the manager position. Espada interviewed for multiple manager jobs earlier in the offseason.
It’d be weird to see Showalter managing somewhere else after how long he was here, but I’m sure he’d rather do that than keep just being a baseball TV guy. Getting back in the saddle for a recently successful team after being stuck with the 2018 Orioles must be appealing. He sits in 24th place on the all-time manager wins list with 1,551 and is still hunting for that elusive World Series win.