There’s really not much to say about the Orioles’ 12-3 loss to New York yesterday afternoon…so I won’t say much, only that Zach Britton needs to have better command of his two-seam fastball if he’s going to have success at the big league level. The result of his ineffectiveness was that he went to the four-seamer and off speed pitches, with which he didn’t faire much better. After the game manager Buck Showalter was non-commital as to whether or not Britton would make his next start in the rotation. Something else to watch is that Showalter used Friday’s scheduled starter, Tommy Hunter, out of the ‘pen late in the game yesterday. Afterwards Showalter told MASN’s Gary Thorne that Hunter needed to throw about 20 pitches that day anyways, so he put him in the game to do it. That’s kind of unorthodox, however Showalter said that Hunter was still “an option” to start tomorrow night in Tampa.
Speaking of Showalter, I think most people would be remiss if they didn’t agknowledge that he’s done an amazing job in the dugout this year. Here’s the bottom line: when was the last time this team was over .500 and in contention in August? Readers see the title of today’s column; they can see where I’m headed with this. But there’s more than meets the eye than just the bottom line of anything. If an award such as Manager of the Year was based on wins and losses, then it would be New York’s Joe Girardi. And believe me folks, there are plenty of people with whom I speak who feel that it should be based almost soley on wins and losses.
First off, let’s not forget that there’s still two months to go in the regular season; for all we know the Orioles could tank the rest of the way, thus ruining my argument. However to this point, we should not forget that this Baltimore Oriole team was supposed to fall flat on it’s face in 2012. Some analysts before the season almost laughed their way through their respective predictions that the Orioles would at the very least make it over 40 wins (the mark of futulity for a 162-game schedule set by the 1962 Mets). Before the season started, it seemed all but guaranteed that the Birds would be out of contention within the first month of the season. Most people that followed baseball on a daily basis probably believed that…with the exception of one man, and by extention his team.
This is not to say that the season’s been a breeze to this point, because we all know that it hasn’t. Showalter’s managed the Oriole pitching staff (each variation of it that is) in a superior manner, which at the very least has kept the team in contention. I also think he’s been fair to each of the pitchers. All pitchers are going to have bad outings, however he gave the likes of Matusz, Arrieta, et al, chances to fix their mistakes before shipping them out to Norfolk. The above-mentioned Zach Britton might be on a bit of a shorter leash given that we’re starting to get towards the end of the season and the team’s hot in contention. However with the rotation in shambles at times and with a different lineup almost every day, the fact is that the Orioles have been in contention all year to this point.
Detractors would say that the other reason that team’s in contention is because fewer teams have stepped up and tried to take over things in the American League. That might be a valid point; however forget being in contention for a moment. The Orioles have won 55 games. My prediction before the season was 72 wins, but that was agressive based on what some analysts thought. Some are probably shocked that they have 55 wins this year overall much less at this point in the game. That’s all reflective on Showalter. I think that the core group of this team learned over the past few years that you always play to the end of games regardless of the circumstances. It’s a lesson that they taught to the Boston Red Sox late last year, and a lesson that they reiterated the other night when they came back from 5-0 down in the first inning. That’s what a good manager can do for you.
For the record my prediction is that Showalter won’t win the award, but only because of his humble nature. He’s never been afraid to put his players on a pedestal, and to step in front of a bullet for one of them when needed. That’s not to say that other managers don’t do the same, however I tend to believe that other managers are a bit louder about their teams than Showalter. And I kind of dig that about the guy to be honest; his team does it’s talking on the field, and not in the print media or anywhere else. That’s how it should be, and how it will continue to be so long as Showalter’s the manager. That leaves it up to writers and commentators to in effect use their bully pulpit to make a case for Showalter. So let’s start here…based on the expectations of this team coming into the season, Buck Showalter has managed his rear end off and coached this team up deftly. Should he be Manager of the Year? Time will tell, however at this point I think he should be a serious candidate to say the least.
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