As soon as Bob Melvin—and not Buck Showalter—was named American League Manager of the Year on Tuesday night, it was a clear signal.
It’s time for the Orioles to forget about 2012.
Fans will rightly bask in the joy of that most surprising season all winter. The Orioles will use that hope to sell tickets for next season, but it’s over.
Showalter won The Sporting News’ Manager of the Year Award and most figured it was a precursor to the Baseball Writers’ Award.
Melvin is certainly deserving, but I’m biased. I watched the Orioles play 107 games last season. I saw the Athletics just six times.
I figured Showalter’s reputation as a turnaround specialist would work
in his favor as would playing against Boston and New York.
Melvin got 16 first place and 12 second place votes, Showalter 12 first place votes and 16 second place votes. Each AL city has two voters. Among AL East voters in this close race, both of the Boston and Toronto voters went for Showalter, but just one of two voters in Baltimore, New York and Tampa cast Buck ballots.
Wei-Yin Chen got token support in the AL Rookie of the Year Award. It’s possible that Jim Johnson will get a few votes in the Cy Young Award when it’s announced tonight, and Adam Jones should be in the Top 10 of MVP votes on Thursday night.
Showalter would have loved to have won his third Manager of the Year Award, but he’s realistic enough to know that Melvin did a great job, too.
As the trades and signings begin, the Orioles will tinker with their roster. Steve Tolleson, who had fallen far down the infield depth chart, has chosen to sign a minor league contract with the White Sox instead of the Orioles. Zach Phillips will probably sign elsewhere, too.
Reportedly, Joe Saunders, whose postseason performances were splendid, is getting lots of interest on the free agent market. It’s not likely that the Orioles get into a bidding war over him.
By the end of the month, the Orioles have to tender a contract to Mark Reynolds or else he’s a free agent. It’s a distasteful choice for them. They like Reynolds, but not his contract, but don’t want to give him away nor do they want a messy arbitration.
It’s wise for the Orioles to check out what’s available on the free agent market, but I’m afraid the first base choices aren’t terribly appetizing.
Dan Duquette feels he has enough second base options on hand, but if another one was available cheaply, they’d grab him. Left field is still a question. The Phillies are also a player for Cody Ross. Ross would hit well in either Baltimore or Philadelphia, but Duquette is more likely to save money for extensions of players on hand than wildly bid unless he’s sure about a player.
He’ll continue to present Showalter with lots of options. The Orioles have already signed at least two players, Jason Pridie and Daniel McCutchen, to minor league contracts, who could realistically spend considerable time with the team next season.
If Duquette gives Showalter lots of options, the manager is confident he can find which ones are useful and which aren’t.
Last winter, Duquette’s first signing was minor league infielder Matt Antonelli. Some thought Duquette just wanted a fellow New Englander, but quickly it was apparent that several others were better than Antonelli and he was out of the organization by Memorial Day.
Duquette and Showalter aren’t wedded to some perceived loyalty. They know that what worked last season won’t necessarily work next season.
The international market, which yielded Wei-Yin Chen, may not be as fertile this time, but Tsuyoshi Wada, who couldn’t pitch last season, should be able to contribute in 2013.
Orioles fans should take nothing for granted. The team starts from zero next spring whether it won 69 or 93 wins the year before.
Showalter has been lauded for turning teams around, but he’s never had a team in the playoffs two straight years. The strike of 1994 prevented that from happening in New York. After the Diamondbacks won 100 in 1999, they won 15 fewer the next season. In Texas, Showalter had just one winning season in four.
2013 may be a bigger challenge than 2012.