Athletes and coaches can be nauseating to listen to as they spew cliché after cliché and avoid anything that could ever be confused for interesting. It’s frustrating as a fan and I can only imagine how mundane it must get for guys like Jason and Jerry who cover these guys. I’m sure they both hear coaches saying, ” if we play our game, stick to the game plan and execute for 60 minutes, I like our chances, ” in their nightmares. That’s why Jerry and Jason’s interview with Buck Showalter was so refreshing. Buck was engaged, honest, enlightening, and entertaining. He spoke with few reservations about where the Orioles’ organization needs to improve and what he thinks about some of the personnel decisions that have been made in recent years.
My favorite part about listening to Buck is his absolute obsession with all things related to baseball. I think if somehow baseball suddenly ceased to exist, Buck would just wonder out into some vast field and blindly stare into the distance until he melted into the abyss. He is constantly thinking about ways to improve the team, the league and the game in general. He told the guys that soon he will be headed to the Competition Committee meetings in Orlando but thinks that he might not be invited back saying, ” Let’s put it this way, Jerry, there’s a chance I won’t be on that but once. I’m a little too opinionated about some things.” It’d be great to be a fly on the wall in those meetings and hear Buck speak his mind about changes he would make.
As an Oriole fan, listening to this interview was both encouraging and discouraging at the same time. The encouragement came from Buck’s passion and dedication to improving the team and the organization. When Jerry asked Buck whether the team should be rebuilding or retooling Buck quickly cut him off and said, ” You should always be doing both.” I loved this answer as a fan because it implies that Buck feels like you can still compete while trying to improve the future of the organization. There is no need to concede a poor season or two while trying to, “rebuild.” At the same time, plugging temporary holes with average major league talent and overpaying for the top players in the market won’t bring sustained success. An organization, especially in a smaller market, must develop from within to succeed. Buck alluded to this when the guys presented him a question about the starting rotation going forward and the amount of money the organization is willing to spend. ” First of all, that’s an excuse, that’s a bad road to go down,” he said, speaking about the Orioles lack of funds compared to big market teams. ” We have to develop our own guys…It puts a premium on developing your own pitchers.” I realize that this isn’t revolutionary but it was good to hear Buck so readily admit that this isn’t something the Orioles have done well recently. He didn’t dance around it and say, ‘ the process will work itself out,’ or something meaningless like that.
Buck does seem optimistic about the young position player prospects in the organization. Jason and Jerry have been harping on this for a long time now, repeatedly saying that the Orioles’ farm system is not nearly as sparse of talent as many in the national media believe. Buck mentioned Austin Hayes, Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander and DJ Stewart in the OF and catcher Austin Wynns implying that all had a chance to be on the big league club next year. With the Orioles revolving door at the corner outfield positions in the last couple years, it’s an exciting proposition that a couple young guys could come up and take the reigns.
While the whole interview was great, the most interesting turn came at the very end. The guys were wrapping things up, thanking Buck for his time and saying that while they are critical at times they are Oriole fans through and through. Buck then kind of shocked us all by asking, ” what’s your biggest beef?” The feeling in the room changed as the guys were presented with an opportunity to tell Buck Showalter what their biggest beef with the Orioles’ organization was. I got slightly nervous and excited even though I didn’t have a mic or have anything to do with the interview. This was a moment that could have gone a few different ways. It’s not always comfortable to tell someone what you think is wrong with something that they are at least partially responsible for. If you listen, you can hear Jason take a slight pause and make a noise that represented, ‘ I really want to say this but I’m not sure how he’ll take it but I have to take this opportunity so here it goes.’ I think a psychologist might tell you that Buck was hoping that Jason and Jerry’s criticisms of the Orioles would coincide with his own so he would have a brief opportunity to express his frustrations. Well, ladies and gentleman, I think Buck got his wish.
I mentioned the interview being discouraging and well as encouraging. This was the discouraging part. I got the feeling that, if only Buck had gotten his way or had more influence with some of the moves made, especially those involving young starting pitching prospects, the organization might be in a much more positive position. When Jason relayed to Buck his “biggest beef,” Buck’s response was sobering. Go ahead and listen for yourself.