It’s Time For The Orioles To Move On From Duquette & Showalter
If the writing hadn’t been on the wall already, it certainly is now. They’re written in huge block letters, all caps. It’s time for the Baltimore Orioles to shift their rear ends off the fence and drop down on the side where the grass is decidedly less green.
The side where the rebuilders hang out.
That’s what happens when you start the season by losing 15 of your first 21 games. Especially when your best pitcher is on the disabled list. Especially when your rotation, while improved, is thin and largely suspect. And especially when you reside in the same division as the suddenly unstoppable Boston Red Sox and the surging New York Yankees.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
This is not a refreshing angle. It’s been the fulcrum of Orioles debate for months. But if you’re going to start selling off Manny Machado and other desirable assets that you’ll most likely lose at the end of the season anyway, you may as well go all in. That means not only moving on from players who are soon-to-be-high-priced or on the decline, but also Orioles officials as well.
That almost certainly means saying goodbye to Executive VP of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette and possibly to Manager Buck Showalter as well. Not because they’re not talented or worthy of their posts – both should be lauded for presiding over an era that has been largely successful, if somewhat unsatisfying – but because it’s simply time to move on. If you’re going to blow things up, after all, you may as well blow it all up and start over with a new mission, and some fresh minds to guide it. Since both are in the final year of their contracts, just like Machado and Zach Britton and some others, it’s time to make some tough calls and prepare to move on from them now.
To illustrate the importance of this, I’m going to share a little story about Bill Bavasi. It’s tangentially related to the Orioles, so bear with me.
Bavasi was the general manager of the Seattle Mariners from late 2003 to mid-2008. Admittedly, he came into the job at a bad time. The Mariners were two years removed from their 116-win season and on the decline. All of their lineup regulars were 30 or older, and aside from Ichiro, none of them brought much to the table. John Olerud and Bret Boone were 35. Edgar Martinez was 41, as was Opening Day starter Jamie Moyer. To make matters worse, Bavasi’s predecessor Pat Gillick had left the minor league system bare.
None of this, of course, was Bavasi’s fault. He was in a tough spot from the beginning. He was sold a lemon and told to make lemonade. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was how he dealt with the whole thing.
Bavasi didn’t see that his team needed a revamping, he ran things as if he was just a move or two away from contending. And after each move he made, he still remained a move or two (at least) away from contending. He did improve the prospect pipeline initially, but then traded much of it away for players who were primarily hole-pluggers, and not even good ones at that. He ran things, almost from the start, as if he was a lame duck. He ran things as if he was trying to save his job.
This was particularly true in his last two years. For example:
n June of 2006: Feeling like he needed a slugger to boost an underperforming offense, Bavasi traded a 20-year-old Asdrubal Cabrera to Cleveland for Eduardo Perez.
n July of 2006: Realizing that Perez couldn’t hit right-handers, he dealt a 24-year-old Shin-Soo Choo – also to Cleveland – for Ben Broussard.
That’s two pretty good players for two halves of a not-very-good-platoon-DH. Perez retired at the end of the season, and Broussard was shipped to Texas a little over a year later.
That’s not even the worst of it. After somehow winning 88 games in 2007 – the only season under Bavasi that the Mariners didn’t finish in last place – he figured he was one ace pitcher away from the playoffs. The pitcher he wanted was Baltimore left-hander Erik Bedard. Unfortunately, Bedard was not an ace in Seattle. He was decent enough when he pitched, to be sure. But he was often-injured, seemed unhurried to return from those injuries, was unwilling to pitch deep into games and was cantankerous with a fairly friendly media. Like I said, not an ace.
Bavasi gave up a whopping five-player package for Bedard, including two young guys who would play huge roles in this current Orioles run of success – Adam Jones and Chris Tillman.
The Mariners fired Bavasi in June of 2008 as they sat at 24-45 on their way to a 61-101 season. So they had lost their general manager after already losing Cabrera, Choo, Jones and Tillman for pretty much nothing.
What’s the point of all this? The point is to share a horrifying story of what can happen when your general manager operates like a lame duck. When the moves he makes are designed primarily to prevent being fired, as opposed to trying to build something.
It’s a cautionary tale for the Orioles, who need to rebuild, and for Duquette and Showalter, who are currently in the last year of their contracts. If you’re going to start selling off parts, you need the right people doing the selling. You need people who are going to be around to guide the rebuild, who have, as it were, some skin in the game. You don’t want people trying to make moves to get a new contract.
Duquette is almost certainly not going to get a new deal. There is some thought that Brady Anderson is already pulling the strings anyway. If that’s the case, why wait? Give Anderson the position he wants, then hire him some help.
Showalter’s situation is a little more complex. He is great at making more out of less, and his honest and supportive demeanor resonates with younger players. I could see him sticking around beyond 2018. He also might be thinking about moving up the chain, either with the Orioles or another organization. But again, if you want him around beyond this season, why wait? Lock him up now.
The Orioles are not going to dig out of this hole. They should be looking to the future and outlining a course for the years beyond 2018. If owner Peter Angelos thinks anybody — including Showalter and Duquette – aren’t going to be around to push the plan forward, they should be replaced now with whoever will.
On Saturday, contemplating a front-loaded schedule, host of injuries and string of losses, Duquette made an interesting comment to the Baltimore Sun:
“The cavalry isn’t going to be here to help us,” he said. “We have to worry about saddling up and riding ourselves.”
Duquette is right in one respect. No cavalry is coming to rescue this season. But if Angelos is smart, he’ll start getting his cavalry in place for the future soon. It might include Duquette and Showalter, and it might not. But whatever his chosen course of action is, the process should start now.
In 2008, the Orioles benefited from the actions of a short-sighted franchise and a lame duck general manager. Learn from that, and don’t make the same mistakes.