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Friday Bird Droppings: Buck is back in Baltimore

The beloved former Orioles manager is back in town for the first time since his departure from the Birds, but with one of the most underachieving teams in baseball.

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MLB: New York Mets at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

The Orioles continued to cruise yesterday, beating the Blue Jays, 6-1, to take three out of four in the series (and six out of seven in Toronto this year). Jack Flaherty pitched a gem in his Orioles debut, Blue Jays killer Ryan Mountcastle tallied four more hits, and the O’s increased their AL East lead to two games over the idle Rays. Andrea SK recapped the fun finale.

Tonight, the Orioles return to Baltimore. And so too does Buck Showalter.

For the first time since the Orioles parted ways with their longtime manager after the disastrous 2018 season, the 67-year-old skipper will be back at Camden Yards at the helm of the New York Mets. And while his team is a disaster — which we’ll detail in today’s series preview — seeing Buck again will be a welcome reunion.

Despite the ugly end to Showalter’s tenure in Baltimore, Orioles fans won’t soon forget the pivotal role he played in transforming the franchise from a perennial underachiever into an annual contender. When Showalter took over the club during the 2010 campaign, the O’s were at the peak of their irrelevance, limping toward their 13th consecutive losing season. Within two years, they were one of MLB’s greatest success stories, starting with a magical 2012 season in which the 93-win upstarts not only broke their streak of losing seasons but claimed a long-awaited postseason berth as well. For a five-year span from 2012-16, the O’s were the winningest team in the American League, making the playoffs three times.

Buck’s strategical acumen and attention to detail, up and down the organization, changed the way the Orioles did business. He showed confidence in his players and they rewarded him with one hard-fought win after another. Showalter earned his third career Manager of the Year award in 2014, when the O’s went 96-66 to run away with the AL East pennant.

Of course, nothing good ever lasts, and Showalter’s ill-fated decision to leave lockdown closer Zack Britton in the bullpen during the 2016 Wild Card Game — while Ubaldo Jimenez served up the walkoff, season-ending homer — was the beginning of the end of his O’s tenure. Two losing seasons later, Showalter and the entire front office were sent packing, with Mike Elias and Brandon Hyde coming on to usher in a new era of Orioles baseball.

Still, expect the home crowds at Camden Yards to give Buck a warm ovation this weekend, and we’ll likely see the Orioles honor him with a highlight video or some other tribute. He more than deserves it.


Buck Showalter ‘all for’ the Orioles’ turnaround ahead of return to Camden Yards - The Athletic
Buck, classy as ever, says he’s thrilled for the Baltimore fans to get to watch a winning Orioles team again, and says he should give them an ovation instead of the other way around. Aw. It’s going to be tough to root for him to lose these next three games. I still will, but it’ll be tough.

Jack Flaherty gets win in O’s debut as Birds take three of four from Jays (updated) - Steve Melewski
It’s hard to make a better first impression than Jack Flaherty did with the Orioles. Let’s see if he has an encore in store against the Astros next week.

Orioles rookie Grayson Rodriguez stacking ‘building blocks’ since rejoining rotation
Grayson Rodriguez looks like a new pitcher since he returned from his stint at Triple-A. Whatever’s in the water down there, it’s working.

Jackson Holliday, MLB top prospect, hyped on Baltimore Orioles' future - USA Today
Oh, and on top of everything else, the #1 prospect in baseball will probably arrive in Baltimore by next year. Are we having fun yet?

Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! And happy 59th birthday to Orioles Hall of Famer B.J. Surhoff, a fan favorite who spent two stints with the Birds from 1996-2000 and 2003-05. Surhoff was a key member of the lineup for the ‘96-97 O’s playoff teams and an All-Star in 1999. Other former Orioles celebrating birthdays today are infielder Jahmai Jones (26) and first baseman Jon Knott (45).

Aug. 4 has been a notable day in Orioles history, specifically for Mike Mussina. On this date in 1991, the 22-year-old right-hander made his major league debut, having sailed through the O’s minors after being drafted in the first round in 1990. Mussina set the tone for his eventual Hall of Fame career by tossing a gem in his debut, working 7.2 strong innings in Chicago, with his only damage a solo home run by fellow Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. Unfortunately, he lost, 1-0, as veteran White Sox knuckleballer Charlie Hough threw a shutout.

Exactly seven years later at Camden Yards, Mussina carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Tigers, but Frank Catalanotto broke it up with two outs on a single. Mussina settled for a two-hit shutout. Moose never did throw a no-hitter in his career, but he came tantalizingly close several times.

And on this day in 2005, the Orioles fired second-year manager Lee Mazzilli and replaced him with bench coach Sam Perlozzo. It was a shocking turn of events for Mazzilli, whose O’s had been in first place for much of the first three months — sitting at 14 games over .500 as late as June 21 — before a total collapse dropped them to five games under by the time of his firing.

Random Orioles game of the day

Since we’re talking about Buck Showalter, it’s only fitting that the random number generator gave me the number 2010 today. Aug. 4, 2010, was the second game of Buck’s managerial career with the Orioles, and he improved to 2-0 by defeating the Angels, 9-7.

It wasn’t exactly an easy win; the O’s jumped out to a 9-1 lead, but nearly blew the whole thing in the late innings. The Angels scored five runs in the seventh before Koji Uehara restored order, and Alfredo Simon sweated out a shaky ninth for the save. Starter Brian Matusz earned the win with six innings of one-run ball, Luke Scott homered, and Adam Jones and Felix Pie each had three hits.