It is strange what an emotional difference a couple of days and a couple of victories can make – especially when those wins are over the Yankees. Just 48 hours ago, Orioles fans were in the emotional doldrums of a six-game losing streak; and now there is the euphoria of nine runs on six homers leading the Birds to a series win over the Yanks. Is everything now fixed? No … no more than the factual truth that not everything was broken two days ago.
The theme of “the ups and downs of a 162-game season” is one often explored on this blog and other Orioles outlets. The Baltimore center of gravity for this is of course Buck Showalter. And as well, at the very heart of the successful leadership he brings to the club is this steady-as-she-goes navigational strategy. He really is the “skipper” of the ship.
Though unable to have access to the clubhouse and see firsthand how Buck works with the players, it is safe to say that the guy we see in post-game interviews is likely the same fellow who sets the tone beyond the reach of the cameras. All of us have probably had the experience at some point in our lives of having to work in an environment with a Jekyll and Hyde sort of boss. You never know which of the several multiple personalities will be “out” that day or that moment. It makes for a difficult workplace.
There is no shortage is the sport of baseball of successful fiery managers. In Baltimore, we need look no further than our own Earl Weaver – memorialized by the number “4” patch on the uniforms this year. Consider also such as Billy Martin, Tommy Lasorda, Bobby Cox, and Ozzie Guillen. The list could go on and on. Probably most of these guys could not manage this current flock of orange birds – Weaver as much as said so on several occasions.
Though baseball differs greatly as a sport from, say, football or basketball, in terms of how a successful player needs to manage emotions and stay within himself much more, the current Orioles team is an extraordinary collection of mellow fellows. Think about it. Heading the Orioles’ all-mellow team are Nick Markakis, Jim Johnson, Matt Wieters, Miguel Gonzalez, Brian Matusz, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Nolan Reimold, and Jake Arrieta to name a few. To find anything resembling a raucous personality, you have to look to the dry wit of Tommy Hunter or the fun-loving personality of Adam Jones. Overall, it is a rather flat-line group, and it certainly seems to me that Showalter is the perfect guy to guide such a team.
The passionate fan will at times find this to be a bit maddening – especially during losing slides such as we recently saw. There is then a knee-jerk reaction to suggest that someone needs to light a fire under this team. I’m not sure that will work with this group, as their fire is a steady pilot light within – far from plain view. However, a guy who might bring some new color to this rather bland landscape is tonight’s starter Kevin Gausman, who by all reports has some eccentricities and interesting quirks of personality.
All of this is to say that Orioles fans would do well to be a bit more emotionally mellow like the team, balancing the highs and lows. It is not a posture that comes easily to fans (a term that is short for “fanatics”). But there is no doubt that the past two games with wins and quality starts have given the residents of Birdland cause for a corporate sigh of relief. And we can hope for that trend to continue tonight. But don’t expect Showalter to alter his show emotionally if it does, or does not.