Brenly's transition has been seamless
|Buck Showalter saw his Yankees lose to the Mariners in the 1995 ALDS.
Respect is at the heart of Torre's success
Buck Showalter managed to gain a reputation -- deserved or not -- of being a control freak. It's just that the only two Major League teams he managed are getting ready to play against each other in the World Series. The results are out of Showalter's control.
All of the pertinent decisions will be made by Joe Torre and Bob Brenly. The buck, if you will, in Yankees-land was passed from Showalter to Torre in 1996. In his first season, Torre took a team Showalter had pioneered to contender status to a world championship. In fact, Torre -- a certified darling of New York -- is working on his fifth in the last six years.
And Rookie skipper Bob Brenly had the opportunity to guide these Diamondbacks to the Fall Classic when Showalter's three-year run in Arizona was terminated at the end of last season. The Diamondbacks had become a solid team under Showalter, winning 100 games en route to the NL West title in 1999 and finishing a respectable 85-77 last year.
But just like in New York, Showalter's team took it to the next level once he left. It can't do much for a guy's self esteem right?
Well, Showalter -- who will have plenty to say about this series as an analyst for ESPN -- promises he won't spend the next few days wallowing in self pity. He won't be yelping, "Why not me!"
However, his emotions will certainly be mixed.
"I certainly have some private emotions about it," Showalter said in a conference call with reporters Thursday. "As far as it stinging, I don't know if that's the word. I feel proud."
At the same time, he wouldn't be human if he wasn't a little envious. You don't manage in the Major Leagues if your goal isn't to get to a World Series. So sure, there might be some things he'd do differently if only he could do again.
"When I hear someone say they wouldn't change anything, they are being less than candid and frank," said Showalter, who admits he has an "itch" to manage again, and is more than willing to hear what teams with openings (Astros, Twins, Marlins et al) have to say this winter.
"If we don't learn, that's pretty narrow-minded," said Showalter, who often was labeled just that for some of his infamous rules of protocol. "We learn from good and bad."
Truth is, Showalter has no idea if the 1996 Yankees would have gone to the World Series if he was at the controls. Maybe he would have enjoyed Torre's lofty perch in Yankees lore by now. Or he could have been the guy to get the Diamondbacks to the highest national stage the sport offers in the franchise's fourth year of existence.
Then again, maybe the Yankees and Diamondbacks both thrived after he left because of the more relaxed atmospheres created by Torre and Brenly.
These are things he can't help but wonder about -- at least a little bit -- between ESPN shows.
"You can look at it two different ways," Showalter said. "I try and dwell on what happened up until I left. I just look at it as they found two people who were perfect to carry it to next level. Whether I could have been that person, I'll never know.
"That (Arizona) club was in need of what Bob brought. Like (the Yankees) were in need for what Joe brought."
Which puts Showalter in a position to give viewers rare insight into this Series. Sure, the Yankees have a decidedly different look than the 1995 crew Showalter left after the Division Series ouster to the Mariners.
But there are some holdovers, such as Paul O'Neill, Andy Pettitte and Bernie Williams. And nearly every key Diamondback played for Showalter as recently as last season.
So what does he see heading into this series? For one thing, a great series.
"I think these are the two best teams in baseball here," Showalter said. "It's a throwback to the way the World Series used to be because there hasn't been (regular season) competition between the two teams.
"Randy (Johnson) and Curt (Schilling), the consistency and stuff they maintain, time after time. It's a testament not just what they do in the offseason but during the season. It doesn't happen by accident. To see the level they pitch at is just remarkable. Every year you get in the playoffs you realize if a pitcher is at top of his game and hitter is at top of his game, the pitcher is going to win that battle. "
It's just that the Yankee veteran hitters have a way of bringing an elite pitcher's level down at least a notch.
"Paul O'Neill says Don Mattingly's spirit is still there," Showalter said. "People have carried that mantle ... (Derek) Jeter and Tino Martinez. The Yankees do a great job approaching a great pitcher. They look at this is as a grind."
So who will prevail? Nobody would be more qualified to make a prediction than Showalter. But in a series that doesn't figure to see too many balls fly over the fence, Showalter is staying on the fence.
"I have two favorites. I'm looking at it like I'm going to feel bad for one team, I'll feel good for the other," he said. "I wish it could end in a tie but we know it won't."
Instead, there are only two certainties about this series. One of Showalter's former teams will win. And no matter what the result, a certain ESPN analyst is going to feel a little bittersweet.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com.