Showal­ter reaches out to Bal­ti­more fans

Ex-man­ager writes about his fon­d­est mem­o­ries of area, O’s or­ga­ni­za­tion

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jon Me­oli

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.

ULYSSES MUNOZ / BAL­TI­MORE SUN

LLOYD FOX/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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