The Next Skipper

By on June 17

Fair or not, Dave Trembley was held responsible for the woeful performance of the O’s this year and let go just a few short weeks ago. Only to be replaced by Juan ‘The Windmill’ Samuel. Luckily for O’s fans, the Samuel era is likely to be short-lived, as it appears Andy MacPhail is not going to repeat the mistakes of the Perlozzo/Trembley eras and let another first-time big league manager try to sort out this mess. MacPhail has recognized that it’s going to take an experienced, strong leader to turn the fortunes of this team around. Thus, this time around, it seems he plans to take his time to find such a leader, in hopes that the next manager will be the one who will finally get all the raw, young talent to coalesce together into something that resembles a baseball team, instead of just being the next one. To that end, the short list of candidates MacPhail appears to have compiled are all former big league managers with at least some degree of prior success. Let’s take a second to learn a bit more about them and I’ll offer my take on each.

Eric Wedge
Manager: Cleveland Indians from 2003-2009
Lifetime Winning Pct: .495

Rundown: Despite a fairly uninspiring lifetime winning percentage as a manager, Wedge did fairly well in his time with the Indians, taking a club that was fourth in its division in 2003 to first in the division in 2007, including a trip to the ALCS where they ultimately lost to Boston in 7 games after leading the series 3-1. Ultimately he was let go after the 2009 season when the Indians went 65-97.

Verdict: Wedge is a decent, if unspectacular choice. If this were the prom, you wouldn’t be falling all over yourself to ask him out, but he’d be there in case anything goes wrong.

Bobby Valentine
Manager: Texas Rangers 1985-1992, New York Mets 1996-2002, Chiba Lotte Marines 1995, 2004-2008
Lifetime Winning Pct: .510

Rundown: The overall winning pct is again fairly average, but Valentine has been credited with reversing the fortunes of several maligned teams, including a 25-game improvement from the ’85 to ’86 Rangers, a 17-game improvement from the ’96 to ’97 Mets, followed by trips to the NLCS and WS in ’99 and ’00, and even leading the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese league to their first pennant in 31 years in ’05.

Verdict: Certainly there’s a track record of success in there, as well as a fair amount of mediocrity as well. But what success he’s had and the hero status he gained in Japan appear to have gone to his head. He’s now only interested in jobs where he can come into a good situation and get all the credit for the team’s success. As he himself said recently regarding his interview for the O’s managerial position, “I like big challenges, but I like to have some reward too, and the reward is in the standings and their standings don’t look like they’re going to turn around very quickly.” In other words, he doesn’t have the cojones for the job. Next.

Buck Showalter
Minor League Manger of the Year, 1989
Manager: New York Yankees 1992-1995, Arizona Diamondbacks 1998-2000, Texas Rangers 2002-2006
Lifetime Winning Pct: .514

Rundown: Showalter led the Yankees to the wild card and their first playoff appearance since ’81 in ’95. Though he left the team after that season due to fallout over the strike and with owner George Steinbrenner, the Yankees went on to the win the World Series the following year. Then, with the Diamondbacks, Showalter managed the expansion team to a 65-97 record in their first year. The next year, following some key acquisitions, the D’Backs finished 100-62, best in the NL West . Though they were not quite as good in Showalter’s third season, but still fairly good at 85-77, high expectations cost him his job. However, again, the season after he was fired, his former team went on to win the WS, the D’Backs doing so in 2001. Then, with the Rangers, Showalter was awarded AL Manager of the Year in 2004, being credited with keeping the team competitive despite loss of its big bopper, A-Roid, in the offseason.

Verdict: Showalter certainly has the accolades you’d like to see in a prospective manager. Winning also seems to follow him, with the Yankees and D’Backs both winning the WS the year after he left. Even though those titles did come under the direction of a new manager, it was Showalter who first took those teams to the playoffs, and given the immediacy following his departure with which both teams won it would be hard to argue he didn’t play a role in developing those winning teams. Certainly, Showalter would appear to be an attractive candidate for managing the Orioles, though it’d probably be the biggest challenge of his career.

That’s it for the candidates MacPhail has interviewed already or been otherwise linked to. But I would submit there is at least one more candidate in the minds of most knowledgeable O’s fans who is perhaps the most desirable of all: Davey Johnson.

Davey Johnson
1997 AL Manager of the Year (with the Orioles)
Manager: New York Mets 1984–1990, Cincinnati Reds 1993–1995, Baltimore Orioles 1996–1997, Los Angeles Dodgers 1999–2000
Lifetime Winning Pct: .564

Rundown: Became the first NL manager to win at least 90 games in his first five seasons with the NY Mets from ’84 to ’89, including winning the WS in his third season with the team in 1986. Johnson is still the winningest manager in Mets history. Though he was let go from the Mets in ’90, Johnson then proceeded to turn the Reds around, taking them from 5th in their division in ’93 to 1st in ’94 and ’95, including a trip to the NLCS in ’95. Johnson then worked his magic on our very own, beloved O’s, taking the O’s to the NLCS in both ’96 and ’97, which were their last trips to the playoffs and their last winning seasons as well. Johnson’s last stop as a manager was with the LA Dodgers in ’99 and ’00. When the Dodgers finished 79-86, only 7 games under .500 in 1999, it was Johnson’s FIRST LOSING SEASON IN HIS PROFESSIONAL MANAGING CAREER. The Dodger’s went on to finish 86-76 the following year, good enough for 2nd in their division. In all of Johnson’s years as a manager, his teams only finished lower than 2nd in their division twice, once in ’95 with the Reds who finished 5th and with the aforementioned ’99 Dodgers who finished 3rd.

Verdict: What else can you say? Everywhere Johnson goes, he wins. He is a just a total boss and is undoubtedly the most consistently successful available managerial candidate on the market. The only concern you could even conceivably have is his age, as he is 67. And yet two of the most successful managers in the game, Jim Leyland and Tony La Russa, are both 66, and appear to be suffering no ill-effects. Oh yeah, Davey Johnson also played for the Orioles and as mentioned was the last manager to lead us to a winning season and the playoffs. Why wouldn’t we want him?

So while I can certainly see the reasons why MacPhail picked the candidates he did, I think you can also certainly see that Davey Johnson is the best man for the job. It’s just my opinion, but it’s true. There also those, myself included, who believe that on some level, the epicness of fail the Orioles have experienced since Peter Angelos fired Davey Johnson the year he won AL Manager of the Year is the result of the ‘Curse of Davey Johnson’. It may sound cliche, but if you’re as avid a follower of the O’s as I am, ye best start believing in curses, otherwise your sanity would have been lost long ago. To me, it’d be worth re-hiring Davey Johnson just to close this karmically-charged samsaric (look it up) cycle of pain the Orioles find themselves in.

But even I, who steadfastly believes Davey Johnson is really the only man for the job, admit that there is a dark horse candidate. A relative unknown who could really come of nowhere to take this position. That candidate is…

Andrea Bradley
Mother of Orioles CF Adam Jones
Winner – Epic Comment Beatdown
Lifetime Winning Pct: 1.000?

Rundown: Gold-Glove CFer Adam Jones was on his way to pick his Mom, Andrea Bradley for their weekly lunch date, because he’s a good son in addition to being a total badass. While en route, he was nice enough to consent to doing a phone interview with some tools on MLB Home Plate on XM Radio. Unfortunately, while doing the interview via cell phone and driving to pick up his Mom, he was pulled over for his windows being too tinted and had to inform the MLB Home Plate he needed to hang up because he was being pulled over. Anyway, recognizing they had no talent and nothing else worthwhile to add to the world, some sanctimonious toolbox at NBC Sports decided to make a blog post about how Adam Jones was setting a bad example for talking on his cell phone while driving. Thanks for that Mr. Rogers. Luckily for the universe, and I guess unfortunately for this Pollyanna, Andrea Bradley was on her grind, and she was having none of it. She proceeded to flip it, reverse it, and then set the record entirely straight, ending her blogger smackdown with this gem: “6 out of every 10 cars in certain parts of Arizona a tinted due to the extreme heat factor, so before you start paasing judgement, come on out to AZ and get heated in the 117 DEGREE SWELTERING HEAT AND THEN WE CAN TALK! Until then, STEP!!!!”. That’s right n00b, STEP!

Verdict: She would probably have no trouble telling the umps, Evil Empire and Sawx Nation to ‘STEP!’, and yet at the same time, I don’t think any of them would really be able to muster any sort of a real comeback, because who’s gonna mess with somebody’s Mom? And this way, Jonesy wouldn’t have be pulled over any more going to see her or victimized by any more opportunistic, uncreative ‘journalists’. I rest my case.

If you’ve made it this far, and you still feel you can muster any sort of intelligent response to the words written here, please feel free to try. All responses, serious or otherwise, are welcome.

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5 Responses to “The Next Skipper”

  1. Casey says:

    Jonesy’s Mom! Curse of Davey Johnson! Classic. I also loved the prom date analogy.

    You guys know my personal vote is for Showalter, but I could be pretty happy with DJ…on Mrs. Bradley.

    Nice work Markakis.

  2. Bill says:

    Without question, I’d take Bobby V. I’m assuming that because of the past relationship between Angelos and Johnson, that he is not an option. The Mets teams under V were the most fun to watch, because they played good baseball, and always hustled. In short they overachieved. My opinions aside, the Orioles clearly need help in the development department, as their only hope of ever competing the cluster**** that is the AL East is through good player selection and development.
    From what I’ve read, the selection has been solid. Players such as Matusz, Tillman, Arieta(?), Weiters, Jones and Markakis have all been highly touted to varying degrees. Yet you have no superstar from that group. Clearly, with the pitchers you still have time to develop, but the regression of your position players is at best troubling. Weiters still has some time, but Jones and Markakis have taken notable steps back, in both approach and results (especially the former). I’d like to see Baltimore bring in someone who can develop these raw talents and help them reach their potential. Maybe then (along with Tampa) the Yanks/Sox empire that has been shoved down our collective throats can be dethroned.

    By the by David, I expect your next post to deal with the possibilities of who should be unloaded. I know Millwood and possibly Guthrie are on the market, and considering the Mets are looking at one or both I’d like your assessment (I have my own, especially of Millwood, but one game is too small a sample).

  3. Mark
    Mark says:

    It figures the Mets fan would endorse the candidacy of Bobby V. Though yes, I can see the argument he would be good for us. Ultimately I don’t think it matters though because it sounds like he has no interest in the job.

    Not sure if I agree with the comments about Markakis taking a step back. He’s still hitting .300 and doing pretty much his normal thing, even despite the fact that the lineup around him is a complete joke and thus he has no protection. If we had 9 Nick Markakis’s, we’d be at least a .500 team.

    And I’m sure one of us will be taking up the mantle of exploring the trade options for the O’s very soon. So be sure to keep checking back.

  4. Bill says:

    2007: 23 HR 18SB
    2008: 20 HR 10SB
    2009: 18 HR 6 SB
    2010: 3 HR 1 SB On pace for 7 and 2 respectively.
    What looked to be a budding superstar and potential 20/20 guy is now basically an empty average hitter (a la Wright last year). The problem is that unlike Wright, his power and speed numbers have clearly been in decline since his breakout sophomore campaign. This would be a serious cause of concern, were I an orioles fan.

    As to Mr. Valentine, how can you not love a manager who will put on a disguise to sneak back into a game. I miss him terribly and if we could fire Manuel and hire him back tomorrow I would be ecstatic.

  5. Casey says:

    Bill, valuing players strictly on a couple of their counting stats isn’t useful in evaluating a player’s performance unless you’re talking about fantasy baseball. Otherwise, that assessment would lead one to believe Carlos Pena was the best hitter in the AL last year.

    Markakis is a quality hitter because he knows how to get on base a la the Yankees, and can drive the ball when getting his pitch. He’s top 7 in the AL in BB%. I’ll admit his power numbers are down from previous years. But that’s not Nick’s game–trying to hit home runs. He’s best when he’s driving balls down the line and into the gaps for doubles. If you want to look at counting stats, he’s top 6 in 2-baggers right now in the AL, and hasn’t finished out of the top 6th overall in 2B since 2007 (rookie in ’06).

    While I am concerned that his overall power is down, I don’t think he is turning into a shell of the player he was in 2007-8, as you make it sound. He’s simply doing what he does best more.

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