At the end – when this American League Division Series is all said and done and spoken for – it will be about what it was not too long ago, before the Yankees last four World Series wins and the Diamondbacks improbable only championship and the Rangers rise to prominence.
It will be about Buck Showalter.
The man with the Brian Clough-like reputation for taking nothing teams and turning them into contenders has never quite gotten his fair shake as a manager, at least come the last day of the season.
He ran the Yankees from 1992 to 1995 and then watched them win three straight championships from 1998 to 2000.
Of course, during that time Buck was with the Arizona Diamondbacks and was then fired in 2000. The next year, wouldn’t you know it, the Diamondbacks took that team – Luis Gonzalez, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling and crew – and won their first and only World Series.
Who did they beat? Well, the New York Yankees, of course.
“ALDS: The History of the New York Yankees in Game 5” – New Jersey Star-Ledger (Oct. 12, 2012)
Buck then coached the Texas Rangers from 2003 to 2006, and it’s hard to argue for Buck there. That was the infamous A-Rod Era in Arlington, and Texas became as well known for its inflated budget as Rodriguez became known for his inflated biceps.
Now, with the Baltimore Orioles, Buck as his shot. He just has two more rounds and one more game to. And, don’t forget, he just knocked off his former employer – the Texas Rangers – in that one-game Wild Card playoff last Friday.
Fitting as always, Buck and Baltimore enter tonight’s Game 5 against the team he said he always wanted to work for and win with, the New York Yankees.
During this series, Showalter has been a symbol of composure for this and yet experience Orioles roster. For every Adam Jones and Matt Wieters, there’s a Jim Thome.
Thursday night’s 13-inning win was punctuated with a whimper, not a bang. A single RBI in the top of that final inning and then a strong bottom won it for Baltimore, 2-1, and pushed them into tonight’s finale from Yankee Stadium.
It was a quiet shot. Calm. Composed. Kind of boring. It was almost perfectly Baltimore. It was a snake in the dark kind of RBI. There wasn’t anything dramatic about it. There weren’t any home runs from Raul Ibanez or catches at the wall. It was just a hard-fought Orioles win.
The Mustard Seeds Podcast — “Buck Showalter: Born to Beat the New York Yankees”
All of a sudden, Showalter and his boys have the Yankees on the ropes. Jeter and Rodriguez both looked terrible on Thursday. Rodriguez was so bad that he won’t be in the lineup on Friday night. Robinson Cano went 0-for-6.
Quoted in Ian O’Connor’s fantastic story for ESPN from Thursday night, Showalter said, “This (New York) is where I grew up, but their eighth hitter (Curtis Granderson) has 43 home runs and so I don’t have time to get in the nostalgia of it… I’m a Baltimore Oriole now, and I love the place.”
Yeah. Sure you are.
“This series is not about anything to do with me,” he continued, “even if it’s a great angle to write.”
Hey, Buck, it’s okay. Just go out there, win it for your pride and your new home along the Chesapeake Bay, give us that now-famous subtle smirk, and then take on the Tigers.
We know this is a much bigger deal than you’re letting on, and there’s nothing wrong with that.