Buck Showalter was a fifth-round Draft pick of the Yankees in 1977 out of Mississippi State University. He was convinced he would spend his entire baseball career with New York. And for 19 years, Showalter did -- first as a player, then as a Minor League manager, a big league
Buck Showalter was a fifth-round Draft pick of the Yankees in 1977 out of Mississippi State University. He was convinced he would spend his entire baseball career with New York. And for 19 years, Showalter did -- first as a player, then as a Minor League manager, a big league coach and finally as the Yanks' manager.
After the Yankees captured the American League Wild Card spot in 1995, ending a 14-year postseason drought, Showalter dealt with reality. In an act of support for his coaches, Showalter resigned, rather than follow orders to fire members of his staff.
It is an experience that Showalter admits helped him grow as a person. Now, he finds himself making offseason plans for his eighth full season as manager of the Orioles.
Showalter discussed his managerial journey from the Yankees to the D-backs, Rangers and Orioles in this week's Q&A.
MLB.com: Each stop along the way, have you learned something?
Showalter: I hope so. We are always evolving. I learn something every day about players and the game. That's what is great about this game. There's not a day that goes by that I don't say, "I've never seen that before." What does that tell you? It tells you this is not an exact science. There is a comedy special with a guy who has been let go 34 times. He is asked how he feels about that, and says, "I look at it this way: I got hired 34 times." I don't take things as seriously as some people think. You are always learning, and learning what not to do is as important as learning what to do. You learn better ways to handle situations.
MLB.com: I guess some of that learning comes from when you are let go.
Showalter: You wear a lot of things as a manager. You get the responsibility and accountability that comes with the territory. You learn not to take it as personal as you once did. I lost my naivety in Arizona. I left the Yankees on my own accord. That was all about firing coaches. It broke my heart. I had been with that franchise 19 years. I was offered a contract, but five coaches were going. To this day, I can't understand how managers give up coaches to keep their job. I couldn't do that. I knew I would lose any trust the players had in me.
MLB.com: You left just when the Yankees were embarking on one of the better stretches in history. Do you ever wonder what could have been?
Showalter: Here's how I look at it -- look at what happened for Joe Torre. He had managed before, but he was perfect for the Yankees' situation. People got to see how good Joe was. They won World Series. He is in the Hall of Fame. What a great situation for him. I don't know if I could have taken them where he took them. He was the perfect guy for the situation.
MLB.com: But having never been with another organization, there had to be second thoughts.
Showalter: I didn't want to leave, but my dad would tell me, "There is going to come a time in life where you are going to take a stand. It's going to be painful, but it will come back to you twofold." But I learned from it. Then in Arizona, the second year we won 100 games and the next year we won 85 [and I was fired]. But I realize that you don't take it personal. Sometimes a new voice is needed.
MLB.com: The Orioles are your fourth team as a manager. How much of an adjustment is it when you go from one team to another?
Showalter: When I go into a different place, the first thing is you realize everything is not bad. There are good things, and there were a lot of good things here in Baltimore. When people come in and act like everything is wrong, it's not good for morale. You know what's good for morale? Winning games. Frank Howard told me to always remember it is the players who impact things. It's like I tell the staff when we meet every morning in Spring Training. "Don't say one thing in here this morning that you don't want every player to hear." I tell them, "Don't be afraid to like players." You have to remember these are the best players in the world, and this is a game with a lot of failure in it."
MLB.com: Sandy Johnson, when he was the scouting director in Texas, would have his pre-Draft meetings and tell the scouts, "I want to know what the players can do. I know they can't do things, and if that's all you can tell me, you might as well go home."
Showalter: That's right, and players feed off that attitude. If you're looking for what people can do, you have the chance to put them in a situation where you take advantage of their strengths. It's too easy to talk about what somebody can't do. It is such a mental, emotional game. The biggest thing that managers and coaches and an organization need to do is create a positive environment, one that looks at the big picture. If you live in that day-to-day, pitch-to-pitch existence, you aren't going to perform. You have to have a memory of what players have done, not throw them under the bus if they are in a bad stretch.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.