NEW YORK—The postseason never gets old. Not for players, and not for Buck Showalter or Dan Duquette.
Showalter had postseason teams in New York and Arizona, and the three-time Manager of the Year has a third postseason team with the Orioles.
In 2012, his team was a happy surprise when it won a wild-card game in Texas and made it to the Division Series. Two years ago, the Orioles went to the American League Championship Series.
On Tuesday, the Orioles try to win the wild-card game in Toronto’s Rogers Centre.
“They’ve grinded, not since February, but since the season ended last year,” Showalter said.
“The game’s not always fair. This year it was because they got a return for what they put into it…You look up ‘grind’ in the dictionary, you should have the 2016 Orioles there because these guys never gave in,” Showalter said.
The Orioles began the season with seven straight victories, and though they played under .500 from July 25 through the end of the season, Showalter is pleased with how they finished, winning seven of their final nine.
“There are so many opportunities that say, ‘this may not work out this year.’ It went by quick for me because this team was involved in the competition right from Day 1 and never really got away from it,” Showalter said.
“You go through periods where you’ve got a chance to win the division, you got a chance to be a wild-card, then you got a chance even not to be in it. You don’t overcome that without having a real strong mentality. So many times we started to say something to these guys, and I just backed off. They got it. Sometimes the best managing you do is the managing you don’t do.”
This Orioles team was big on home runs. They ended the season with 253, four shy of the 1996 team record. They were short on speed with just 19 stolen bases, and they were thought to be short on starting pitching.
Kevin Gausman matured late in his fourth major league season and had a 1.10 ERA in six starts against the team he beat on Sunday, the New York Yankees.
Gausman said he wanted the ball. He wanted to start in the crucial game.
“He’s had that body language of ‘that guy.’ I say all the time to the minor league guys and scouts, does he have it? Does he have it? And they all know what we’re talking about. He’s graduated to the right part of the process, and he’s been fun to watch. We needed him today, and he delivered,” Showalter said.
There were veterans who have been with Showalter for years, Zach Britton, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Chris Tillman and Matt Wieters as well as younger players such as Gausman and Manny Machado, who have shown leadership quality, and it’s an accomplished team.
“Skill and talent plays. There’s just so much you can do with emotion. Pitchers on top of their game. There’s just so much you can do with emotion. You have to have some skills and sometimes that gets overlooked with our guys. These are some talented guys, and they’re talented in their ability to be consistent,” Showalter said.
Together, it’s Duquette and Showalter’s third postseason team, one that seemed unlikely.
Duquette added important players for this team, outfielders Michael Bourn, Hyun Soo Kim and Mark Trumbo. Each came a different way.
Trumbo was acquired when Seattle was eager to shed his salary last winter, Kim came as a free agent from South Korea, and Bourn was picked up on Aug. 31. They added to the core that was already on hand.
“We’ve been able to establish a winning presence and to go back to the playoffs again and have another shot at it, that’s really what we’ve been working for all year. So now we’ve got a shot to go for the dance,” Duquette said. “We want to advance in the tournament…Our team is strong and we’ve got a chance to play in the postseason. That’s all you can ask for. You just roll the dice and see if you can knock on the door and break through this time.”
The Orioles will face a difficult task in trying to beat the Blue Jays on Tuesday night.
“Generally, people don’t pick us in the offseason, which is OK by us, but I don’t know what criteria they use. Nobody has picked us to do much and this club always finds a way to compete. We have good internal leadership, Duquette said.
Many people think that this was Showalter’s best job as Orioles manager.
“Buck does a great job year-in and year-out. I believe he gives his best every time he’s out there on the field,” Duquette said.