If you haven’t heard, this year’s MLB playoffs features a Wild Card series filled with connections to the Baltimore Orioles as Manny Machado’s San Diego Padres will face Buck Showalter’s New York Mets.
However, the Orioles connections in this series go beyond just those two. Let’s examine a series that should be a compelling battle regardless of if you’re an Orioles fan.
I admittedly wasn’t expecting Machado’s Padres to encounter Showalter’s Mets when I wrote about Machado’s incredibly productive regular season last week but just to get you up to speed: Machado just had one of the best years of his career. He ended the season in the top ten for numerous stats including slugging percentage, OPS, RBIs and both versions of WAR.
Machado could be the NL MVP, but there’s no question that he’s at least been the MVP for San Diego this year. The only notable offensive stats where Machado doesn’t lead the Padres are triples, stolen bases and walks.
While Machado’s impressive regular season further proves he’s on a Hall of Fame trajectory, he’s still looking for his first impressive postseason.
Machado has never had an OPS over .700 for the course of an entire playoff run, coming the closest to that figure with a .672 mark in 2018 after joining the Los Angeles Dodgers as a rental that sent Dean Kremer to Baltimore. Machado had an .813 OPS in the NLDS and NLCS that year but 24 PAs of a .390 OPS against the Boston Red Sox quickly tanked that number.
Since 2012, Machado is one of 94 hitters with at least 100 PAs in the playoffs and he ranks 69th in OPS. Players like Marwin Gonzalez, Joe Panik and Didi Gregorius have posted a higher OPS in the postseason. We are of course looking at a smaller sample size than the regular season but either way it’d be fair to say that Machado hasn’t exactly made himself into the newest version of Mr. October.
A deep run for the Padres with Machado hitting well would be another addition to what has already been an excellent career for the third baseman.
Joining Machado for Padres-Orioles connections is someone else who debuted in 2012 and spent time as an Oriole playing third base: Ryan Flaherty. The Rule 5 pick managed to carve out a very respectable eight years in the majors as a super-utility man, appearing in 452 games with the Orioles before spending time with the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Guardians and then retiring in 2019.
Flaherty didn’t spend long out of baseball, joining the Padres in 2020 as a “quality control coach”, which is admittedly a bit of a more elaborate title than being the bench coach or third base coach.
According to a tweet from a Padres beat writer, Flaherty’s duties as a quality control coach include being “heavily involved in gameplanning and strategy.” Flaherty’s role this year also included briefly being San Diego’s acting manager after their normal manager, Bob Melvin, missed multiple games due to COVID-19.
Flaherty also quite interestingly maintained his position even after the Padres switched managers following the 2021 season. When Jayce Tingler departed from San Diego, Flaherty stayed and continued his work with the new boss.
Adding to the intrigue of Flaherty being a part of this series is that Showalter wanted to interview him for the bench coach job with the Mets but the Padres denied the request.
So, we’ve explored San Diego’s connections to the Orioles, now let’s visit the Big Apple.
After the truly disastrous 2018 season that led to his tenure ending in Baltimore, Buck Showalter spent three years away from management. He was considered a candidate for several positions, including the Padres job when it opened in 2019, but ultimately enjoyed three years of being a television analyst.
This year, Showalter has returned to baseball with a team that was looking for a veteran manager in the Mets.
After Terry Collins departed in 2017, the Mets tried first-time manager Mickey Callaway for two years without much success. Then they hired Carlos Beltran, but he never managed a game after the Houston Astros cheating scandal broke before the 2020 season. Luis Rojas, another first-time manager, filled in on short notice and left Queens with a 103-119 record after two seasons.
Showalter’s first regular season with the Mets has been a success but it did come with an underwhelming end to the year.
Even after winning 101 games, New York still ended up second in the division to the Atlanta Braves, who also won 101 games while winning the season series against the Mets, 10-9. The Mets led the division by 10.5 games on June 1 and still held a lead of seven games on August 10. However, after August 10, the Braves became one of the hottest teams in baseball. They went 35-15 in their last 50 games, a 162-game pace of 113.4 wins. Meanwhile, the Mets were 28-22, a perfectly normal 90.7-win pace.
It’d be hard to argue a 90-win pace for 50 games is a collapse but either way, the Mets ended up missing their chance to get a first-round bye and instead will be facing the Padres in the Wild Card round.
As for Showalter, the big postseason narrative for him will be bullpen management. I’m confident you remember what happened in 2016, so we don’t need to rehash it. This year’s Mets team features another elite closer just like 2016 Zack Britton with Edwin Diaz.
The Mets will not play a road game in this series, so we’d have to wait until the NLDS to see if the infamous scenario repeats itself, but it’ll still be worth watching to see how aggressively Showalter uses his lockdown closer.
Going beyond bullpen management in road games, Showalter will be looking to change the narrative that he’s a great regular-season manager who can’t deliver in the playoffs. Showalter has never won a pennant and the only time his team made it to the ALCS, they got swept. 1652 regular season wins are certainly impressive, but it’d look much better with just a single victory in an LCS or even the World Series.
While Showalter couldn’t recruit Flaherty to join his staff, he has another old friend from the Orioles hanging out with him: Wayne Kirby. After spending two years in San Diego with Machado as their first base coach, Kirby now finds himself in New York holding the same position.
The Mets have also used a pair of former O’s in the bullpen this year, but only one could appear in this series.
Tommy Hunter will not be available, but Mychal Givens will be.
Givens completed 2.1 scoreless innings in that ill-fated 2016 Wild Card Game with Showalter and was reunited with Showalter at the deadline. His 4.79 ERA as a Met isn’t exactly ideal and I wouldn’t expect him to be used in any high-leverage spots this series. Either way, it’s another Orioles connection for the Mets.
Padres-Mets should be an excellent series for all neutrals. However, it seems like it should be an especially enjoyable three-game series for Orioles fans.
Rose Katz is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland’s journalism school, where she worked for The Diamondback as the online managing editor and a sports blogger. As a student, she spent almost all of her time on campus in The Diamondback’s newsroom or at Xfinity Center, Ludwig Field and Maryland Stadium. Rose gained intern experience with the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN).