I suppose I wrote a fairly scathing article regarding Baseball Prospectus’ opinion of the 2017 Baltimore Orioles yesterday. Mind you folks, I’m a writer, not a fan. So I didn’t say those things because I was “offended” by their assessment of the team. I came at those comments from a position of common sense.
Perhaps more importantly than anything else, Baseball Prospectus failed to take into account the Orioles’ most important weapon: Buck Showalter. It’s no mere coincidence that the entire franchise seemingly turned around under his leadership. And it almost happened overnight. The Birds were floundering once again and in essence playing out a string when he came along in August of 2010. Yet they managed to finish with two .winning months for the first time in light years.
Injuries plagued them in 2011, yet they once again finished with a flurry in September, and of course knocked the BoSox out of the playoffs in what I still call the greatest closing act of all time. 2012-2016 have been either playoff years, or years in which the O’s were eliminated in the final week or two of the season. Needless to say, even in those seasons they were in contention until the end.
Again, that’s no coincidence. Buck Showalter is a good manager. Perhaps more importantly, he’s a good leader. Savoir faire in the sport is only part of the equation; if you aren’t a good leader, your team is going to get nowhere. Showalter talks a lot about other sports here and there. So could he coach a basketball team as well as he does baseball? I know that he’s a basketball fan because I’ve heard him talk about the sport and I’ve heard him say he’s attended games back in Dallas…
…so if he has any savy whatsoever about the sport, yes he probably could. Or at least he could be molded into a good basketball coach. Because he’s a good leader, and players seem to buy into what he’s selling. That’s the biggest part of the deal.
So all of the people who claim doom and gloom for the upcoming Orioles’ season fail to take that into account. Now it goes without saying that good leadership only takes you so far; you also need to have good followers (players, in this case). And the Orioles do have that. They’re bringing the same team back that went to the playoffs last year. Does that mean instant success in 2017? Of course not. But today as pitchers and catchers report for spring the Orioles’ biggest competitive advantage remains William Nathaniel Showalter.