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Say what, Showalter?

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  March 25, 2011 04:35 PM

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So as you may have heard, Orioles manager Buck Showalter shared these deep thoughts on Theo Epstein in an interview with Men's Journal . . .


"I’d like to see how smart Theo Epstein is with the Tampa Bay payroll. You got Carl Crawford ’cause you paid more than anyone else, and that’s what makes you smarter? That’s why I like whipping their butt. It’s great, knowing those guys with the $205 million payroll are saying, ‘How the hell are they beating us?’ ”

. . . so in the spirit of equal time or an eye for an eye or stupid is as stupid does or whatever the saying is, how about this? How about we share a few not-so-deep thoughts on Buck Showalter with a long overdue Silly Friday Baseball Post while the Orioles prepare to raise their 2010 September AL East Championship banner.

Yes? OK! The rebuttal is on!

• Nope, that card is not a photoshop -- he really did play pro ball in the Yankees system. Seven seasons, in fact, and he was pretty good. He hit .294 while rising as high as Triple A, and his '80 season at Double A Nashville is fascinating statistically: He hit .324 with 1 homer, 82 RBIs, 53 walks and 23 strikeouts. Unfortunately for him, slow 5-foot-9-inch first basemen/outfielders with 17 homers in 793 career games are yet to be recognized as an undervalued asset in major league baseball.

• His Triple A experience was brief -- 14 games for the '82 Columbus Clippers and 18 more in '83 -- but man, he got to be part of one the most interesting and eclectic minor league teams of all time. Check out these names from the '83 roster: Don Mattingly, Steve Balboni, Butch Hobson, Rowland Office, Rex Hudler, Bert Campaneris (this was at the height of Steinbrenner's hoarding of washed-up stars), Dan Pasqua, Dennis Werth (Jayson's step-dad), minor-league legend Matt Winters, Rick Reuschel, and a handsome devil named Otis Nixon. In fact, of 21 hitters to play for Columbus that season, Showalter is the only one who didn't play in the majors.

• His real name is William (Billy Showalter?), but lore has it that he got his nickname because of his charming habit of walking around the clubhouse naked. As in, buck naked. Creepy in the real world, relatively witty and normal for the baseball world. I guess we should all be grateful that Charlie Manuel isn't the one nicknamed Buck.

• Showalter, who'd probably be uptight at a Jimmy Buffett concert, doesn't strike me a Men's Journal type of guy. Miniature Tyrannical Baseball Manager Monthly seems more likely. Never heard of it? Niche publication. Earl Weaver was on the inaugural cover, I believe.

• If he said stuff like this on "Baseball Tonight," he might have actually been, you know, interesting.

• As for payroll making Theo smarter . . . well, yeah, of course. The Red Sox' financial advantages allow him to cover for his major mistakes in a manner that Andrew Friedman can't. And you almost feel a twinge of guilt when your favorite team snaps up Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez in a span of, what, five days? (Almost, I said. Then I remember the Yankees exist.) But what's mildly annoying about Showalter's statement is that he doesn't acknowledge that Theo has proven pretty damn smart over his nine seasons here, even with the built-in advantages. His list of shrewd moves (Papi, Mueller, believing in Pedroia, keeping Youkilis and Ellsbury . . . hell, you know the list) is far longer than poor ones (Arroyo for Wily Mo, Lugo, Renteria, Lugo, and don't forget Lugo). To put it another way, if every team in baseball had the same payroll down to the dime, I'd be extremely confident that Theo would put together a terrific team with a productive farm system.

• All snark, facetiousness, and feeble one-liners aside, it's pretty obvious what Showalter was trying to do: Give his team an us-against-the-rich-boys attitude, an actual identity that goes beyond their usual Punchline/Punching Bag of the AL East status. The Orioles are interesting team this year, with the acquisitions of Mark Reynolds, Vlad Guerrero, and Derrek Lee and the reasonable assumption that Brian Matusz, Adam Jones, and Matt Wieters continue to improve and give hope to the next generation. They finished 34-23 under Showalter last year. They have more hope than they've had in awhile, and embracing the underdog role makes sense. You can't blame Showalter for trying to build on that, even if his words could haunt him when he looks up from the bottom of the standings at season's end and realizes the Orioles went 6-30 against the Red Sox and Yankees combined.

• All of that said . . . man, was he ever spot-on about Jeter.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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