Veteran manager Buck Showalter was a lame duck heading into the 2018 season, and after his team struggled to a majors-worst 115 losses (tied for the fourth-most losses in baseball’s modern era) and showed no signs of improvement late in the season, it wasn’t a surprise to find out on Wednesday that he won’t be brought back in 2019:
Hearing Buck won't be coming back to #orioles. Waiting for confirmation— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) October 3, 2018
Buck Showalter will not be back with the #Orioles in any capacity, sources tell The Athletic.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) October 3, 2018
News that Showalter won’t return to Baltimore in any capacity is more siginificant than it’d be for virtually any other fired manager, as Rosenthal reported last September that Showalter may want to transition into a front-office role — perhaps even as the GM — after this season.
Though Showalter’s team was terrible this year, he did have plenty of success as Baltimore’s skipper. He trails only the legendary Earl Weaver on the franchise’s all-time managerial wins list (669), and with nine years in the dugout, he’s also the second longest-tenured manager in club history. Prior to his firing, he trailed only Bruce Bochy and Ned Yost in terms of tenure among major-league managers, though Mike Scioscia was ahead of all of them before stepping down just days ago.
The 62-year-old Showalter led the Orioles to three different postseason appearances over eight-plus seasons, though they never won a series and didn’t win a playoff game after dropping the 2012 ALDS to the Yankees in five games. This was the second straight season that Baltimore had finished in last place in the AL East.
Though he was long regarded as one of the better tactical managers in the game, Showalter never really recovered from a mistake for the ages in the 2016 AL Wild Card game, when he opted to use struggling starter Ubaldo Jimenez (5.44 ERA, 1.56 WHIP) in the 11th inning of a tie game rather than historically-dominant closer Zach Britton (0.54 ERA, 0.84 WHIP). Jimenez ended up giving up a three-run walk-off homer to Edwin Encarnacion, and the rest is history.
With Showalter now officially out of the picture, Orioles’ fans attention will turn to the fate of GM Dan Duquette, who is also a free agent. Each day that Baltimore doesn’t officially let him go would seem to increase the odds that he’ll be back in 2019 and beyond — as they would need to start a job search sooner than later if they plan on replacing him — but with the franchise having taken such a significant nosedive over the past two years, it wouldn’t be too surprising if they replaced him, either.