Showalter reaches out to Baltimore fans
Ex-manager writes about his fondest memories of area, O’s organization
Former Orioles manager Buck Showalter wrote a letter to the fans Friday outlining all he loved and would miss about Baltimore, five weeks after he was dismissed with his contract expiring and two weeks after returning to the city to host his annual charity walk at Camden Yards.
In the letter on BaltimoreBaseball.com, Showalter wrote of his fondest memories in Baltimore, how he felt when he arrived in 2010 and what he liked about the organization, the fans and life outside baseball.
Showalter makes some broad characterizations, saying Baltimore has “a great blue-collar feel” and the fans aren’t mean.
He is generous to Baltimore (“I can take you to a bad part of every city, and I can take you to a great part of every city. Baltimore’s no different”) and celebrates county life (“We loved where we lived. We had a pasture”). Manager Buck Showalter’s contract wasn’t renewed by the Orioles after the team’s historic 115-game losing season.
Additionally, he wrote of his arrival and working with former president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail (though not Dan Duquette, who was let go by the Orioles the same day as Showalter), plus his “open line of communication” to owner Peter Angelos, and how using the team-owned Mid-Atlantic Sports Network media outlet was important to him.
Some other highlights:
On changing the culture: “One of the missing things there was the consistency of message and an identity that I wanted and they wanted, and following through on it. People in Baltimore are drawn to sincerity, and they can smell phoniness.”
On what he misses: “You’re going to miss a good weather day game when we played well, we played crisp, get into the car and drive at about 5 mph down Pratt Street looking at all the people in black and orange and realizing that you may have been a part of making a good memory for somebody and their family.”
On his dismissal and the Orioles’ future: “Fans in Baltimore have a long memory. They realize with good times, sometimes come challenging times. It’s not a what have you done for me lately world there all the time. I think they just want to know there’s better days ahead. It’s kind of like life.” Avoiding the tax: Since the end of the World Series late last month, baseball’s biggest teams have been outlining their plans for the offseason in relation to the league’s competitive balance tax.
The Chicago Cubs, in trading injured left-hander Drew Smyly to clear salary and allow themselves to pick up the option on left-hander Cole Hamels, were using language of a league with a hard cap, as if they couldn’t do one without the other.
This week, the Los Angeles Dodgers, who got under the luxury tax threshold of $197 million in 2018 along with the New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants, made a plan for potential investors that said they’d be staying under it for years to come.
Across the league, the general aversion to crossing that tax line — which will be $207 million in payroll — will be part of a major focus in free agency this year if the market is suppressed the way it was last winter. But all that will do is give clearance to teams at the bottom end of the payroll spectrum to keep doing what they’re doing,
A low payroll isn’t exactly a white flag — of the four teams subject to a grievance from the players’ association about their lack of spending revenue sharing money on payroll in the spring, the Tampa Bay Rays won 90 games and the Oakland Athletics snagged a wild-card spot. The Miami Marlins were a disaster, but the Pittsburgh Pirates finished over .500 at 82-79.
For both Miami and Pittsburgh, whose Opening Day payrolls were around $85 million, those figure are well above the projected $71.45 million the Orioles are set to pay their rostered players next Opening Day before factoring in free agency. Most of that will go to Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner. The team has some holes to fill, but doesn’t appear in the mix for any kind of major free-agent moves.
Even allowing for a little salary growth on the margins of the roster, it’s liable to go in the other direction before it goes up, and the Orioles are not only reaping the rewards of the July 31 trades that shed $28.3 million in 2019 payroll, but smaller things like working the roster so that outfielder Joey Rickard comes up 14 days shy of the Super Two service time requirement to earn an extra year of salary arbitration. That one’s on a smaller scale but is more the type of thing players notice than the large-scale salary shedding. Orioles first baseman Chris Davis is due to be the highest-paid player on the team’s projected $71.45 million payroll next season.
Either way, the attention will mostly be on the big clubs, and which of the World Series contenders can fit in stars such as Manny Machado and Bryce Harper without paying a tax. But on the bottom end, the Orioles might find that the frustration for that high-end limitation gets taken out on the teams at the bottom end of it — no matter how good they believe their eventual plan for a rebuild might be.