Showalter accepts milestone with humility
NEW YORK -- It's the only appropriate dateline for a story about the managing career of Buck Showalter. His time began right here in this burg -- across the street, if picayune precision is what is required. And now it has returned, if only for three baseball nights.
It's not full circle, because the circle is certain to grow after Buck and the Birds leave after Wednesday night's game, the third of this series. It might even grow before they depart. His team is playing well; the Orioles might even win again before they leave.
For now, though, we're in pause mode; call it suspended appreciation. Take a moment -- he barely would -- and recognize what this still-blond, still-driven, still-controlling manager has done, beginning the day Scott Sanderson beat Roger Clemens at the old place across the street 20 years ago. His victory total is a handsome round number now, 1,000. Three circles of another sort are full and quite conspicuous.
Only 57 other men have managed to win so many games.
Showalter's fourth and current team defeated his first team on Tuesday night. The score was 7-1, if full disclosure is required. Winning made for a grand evening in more ways than one. And that the O's lead the Yankees by 1 1/2 games on May Day is a circumstance quite different from the mayday signals the team has sent out in recent seasons.
Showalter's intention is to eliminate the need for all distress calls and win back the trust of the fans who stood up for Brooks and Robby, Earl, Eddie and Elrod, Cakes and Cal and Wild Bill Hagy. His idea never involved winning 1,000 games, he said, but to win enough to return the O's to relevance in the American League East.
So it was with more than a smidgeon of candor that the Orioles' manager said he was embarrassed -- his word -- for the round-number fuss that evolved after Luis Ayala retired Derek Jeter for the 27th out on Tuesday night. So it was that when people wished him well and said "congratulations" that the new Grand Master responded oddly with "condolences."
|Manager||Current team||Wins||Losses||First win|
|1. Jim Leyland||Tigers||1,600||1,596||1986|
|2. Dusty Baker||Reds||1,495||1,378||1993|
|3. Bruce Bochy||Giants||1,372||1,387||1995|
|4. Davey Johnson||Nationals||1,202||940||1984|
|5. Bobby Valentine||Red Sox||1,128||1,084||1985|
|6. Mike Scioscia||Angels||1,075||893||2000|
|7. Buck Showalter||Orioles||1,000||958||1992|
One thousand victories, Buck Showalter said, and "the congratulations that come your way ... they're telling you you're old. ... It's all about longevity." He identified himself as an "old goat."
Showalter will turn 56 in three weeks. He's hoping to undergo a partial knee replacement during the All-Star break. And though he still qualifies as blond, gray is encroaching. Few other indications of aging are evident. His appetite is good; he's as hungry as he was the day he and the Yankees divorced after the 1995 season. His players see it and appreciate his passion.
They swamped Showalter after his odometer rolled past 999. That was embarrassing, he said, though he understood it was heartfelt. The old-school in him wants a team that walks off the field as if winning is S.O.P. with players who run the bases like Dale Murphy -- quickly, with head down and without animation -- when they hit home runs. Let substance be their style, as Don Mattingly did.
Emotion is essential, Showalter said. Demonstrating it isn't. He acknowledged that some of Tuesday night "tugs at your heart" and admitted to being an "old fuddy-duddy" at times. But, as always, Showalter's uniform shirt was covered with a warmup jacket. If joy and a sense of reward were on his sleeve, they were hidden.
The sort of controlled response he practices and seeks in his players slips more from sight each inning, each game, each night. For now, he'll settle for this degree of moderation from his team -- "a time when it's not so meaningful for us to beat the Yankees."
With that in mind, William Nathaniel Showalter momentarily deleted thoughts of 1,000 and what was necessary to get there.
"I've got to figure out how we're going to beat [Wednesday's Yankees starter], Ivan Nova," Showalter said. Buck still needs a week between consecutive games to feel confident he is sufficiently prepared.
He was that way in 1992. He was that way when he was the general of all things D-backs -- Showalter was responsible for the clay path that still connects the mound to the batter's circle in Phoenix -- and when he managed the Rangers. Whose idea was it, anyway, to limit workdays to 24 hours?
Showalter must be getting a little softer, though. He even allowed himself to dabble in the nostalgia of his first game, the first of the six straight the Yankees won that year. The score was 4-3, the game tighter than that for a first-day manager. The final pitch, delivered by Steve Farr to Jody Reed, was "a back-door breaking ball that came in through the front door," Showalter said.
Reed popped up to third baseman Charlie Hayes. Showalter was 12 1/2 months removed from the job he cherished when Hayes famously handled another 27th out, a popup to third. He can't say it now, but how Showalter would have loved to have been in Joe Torre's place when Wade Boggs hitched a ride on a police pony.
Had he been, perhaps Hayes would have presented the ball to Showalter, just as his Orioles players presented the ball to him on Tuesday night, following Jeter's groundout.
Showalter was uncertain what to do with his latest memento. He has the one from April 7, 1992, in a place of distinction. He'd like to put one of far greater team significance next to it. But first, another game against the Yankees. And how are his guys going to handle Nova? Showalter left the park with 1,001 things on his mind.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.