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Handicapping the race

Posted By Ron Burr On Jul 1 2010 @ 12:44 pm In Baltimore Orioles | No Comments

I have been loathe to come back here and post anything.  You see, the team started winning a few games.  The starting pitching wasn’t great, but the bullpen was excellent, and the hitting was timely.  Runners in scoring position were being driven in, hitters were working the counts and making good choices, even with 2 outs!  And since the last time the Orioles won 3 in a row while sweeping a series I wrote a celebratory article and they responded by going to New York and getting swept by the Yankees, I didn’t want to impinge on any possible mojo happening.  When they lost to the Oakland A’s Tuesday night, I figured I was justified.  But then they go out and win again last night after sweeping the Washington Nationals.  So now I am confused, and don’t know if my opinions can actually affect the cosmic scales.  So I figured “what the hell, let’s look at the manager search!”.

In a perfect world...

So Bobby Valentine decided he didn’t want to be here.  It is disappointing, but I cannot say I am surprised.  The only reason he agreed to be interviewed was to show baseball he was interested in coming back to manage here in the US (I guess the Chiba Lotte team just didn’t do it for him anymore).  It is interesting that as soon as he got out of the interview, he was telling everyone that he didn’t think it was the job for him, and then 3 days later the Florida Marlins fire THEIR manager (and since Jeffrey Loria is an old friend / fan of Valentine, it is pretty much a foregone conclusion that Valentine is going to wind up there).

The two big names left with management experience (that have actually been mentioned / interviewed by the team) are former Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge and former Yankees / Arizona Diamondbacks / Texas Rangers manager Buck Showalter.  Fan favorite Rick Dempsey is being interviewed today, and Wedge is coming in for a 2nd interview, but don’t read into that anything about him being the front runner, as this is his first interview w/Peter Angelos included (Andy MacPhail did an exploratory interview with Wedge while MacPhail was travelling w/the team).

Other names that have been bandied about are all either not on the team’s radar (like recently fired Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez, who will most likely be taking over in Atlanta for the retiring Bobby Cox since Gonzalez has a long history w/Cox and the Braves), involved in the operations of other teams (most notably former Seattle Mariners and Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin – also a former Oriole – who is currently working as a scout for the New York Mets, and is probably the in house replacement in waiting for Jerry Manuel), or otherwise not of interest to the team (Phil Garner is sitting out there somewhere, probably rusting, and Davey Johnson has even said he would listen if approached, but there has not been a peep from the Warehouse on taking him up on the offer).  I have heard rumblings of Billy Ripken, but I just don’t see it happening, and that is probably for the best.  So what does all of this mean?

I think that of the options as they currently stand, Showalter is the best choice.  He has the most experience, the most success, and most importantly he has dealt with the AL East and the extra pressure involved.  Wedge would be interesting, and he did win AL Manager of the Year in 2007.  However, looking at his teams, they seemed to under-perform compared to their talent level.  Then again, there is the thought that he may have learned his lesson (look up Terry Francona’s career winning percentage as a manager before he took the Red Sox job, or even Bobby Cox’s first stint in Atlanta for signs of managers any fan would take right now who didn’t have all that impressive numbers coming in).  The fan in me likes Rick Dempsey, but I just don’t know if this is the right time for bringing in ANOTHER manager with no big league managing experience (he probably should have gotten the job after Lee Mazzilli was fired instead of the team taking the interim tag off of Sam Perlozzo).  I do think that Rick could make a good manager, but after 12 going on 13 years of losing more games than they win (often by a comfortable margin), the team needs something to shock the system.  Let Dempsey be the bench coach and apprentice for a couple of years (this would be ideal to do under Johnson, since he is 67 and probably won’t manage more than 3-4 years if he is hired anyway.  This way he can train his replacement).  The Johnson / Dempsey ticket would actually be a very workable idea, and it would definitely get the fan base fired up.

The big negative with Showalter is that he is a control freak and a micromanager.  But he has had success doing it that way, and Lord knows being hands off hasn’t brought any pennants to town.

So for me, it breaks down like this:

  • Option 1A is Showalter
  • Option 1B is Johnson / Dempsey
  • Option 2 is Wedge

Anyone else would have to be introduced to the conversation and the search, and until they are, it is beyond idle chatter.  I do wish the team would bring Melvin in for an interview (or at least ask the Mets if they can interview him and force the Mets to show their cards).  I would like to see if Mike Hargrove is interested in coming back.  The last time he was the manager for a team with legitimate young talent he didn’t do so bad, did he?

I don’t expect any decision any time soon.  I just hope for some progress to at least match the progress of winning 5 out of 6 (and if they now lose the next few games, you will know that I will NEVER post during a hot streak again).  It may be a drop in the bucket, but to a thirsty fan every drop can help quench a powerful thirst.

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