Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Tale of Two Seasons

Ever wonder what God looks like?

"It was the worst of times, it was the best of times..."

I know I got it backwards, but only because the Orioles ended what was shaping up to be the worst season in franchise history -- and one of the worst seasons modern baseball -- with two months that saw the team do a complete 180 degree turn from futility to respectability.

On August 1st, the Orioles were 32-73 and on pace for 114 losses. But then Buck Showalter arrived on August 2nd and said "Let there be competitive baseball" and the Orioles finished 34-23 during two of the most surreal and enjoyable months to the 2010 season.

Was Buck Showalter's appearance in the dugout the sole reason for the improvement? I think Occam's Razor makes sense in this situation. The easiest answer must be the right one.

The players even admitted that Buck was the reason for the better record.

So it was Buck all along!

I'm still in shock. I mean, you have to remember that this was the same team that had Garrett Atkins and his .562 OPS playing 1B for three months. This was the same team that couldn't knock in a runner in scoring position if someone had a gun to the Oriole Bird's head. This was a team that couldn't protect a lead if the other team was using whiffleball bats.

Those days seem so long ago, yet they were barely over two and a half months ago.

The list of things that the almighty Buck Showalter has accomplished since managing his first game on August 3rd are amazing...

- He won more games as manager in two months (34) than Dave Trembley and Juan Samuel did combined in four (32).
- He oversaw the first winning months of August and September since 1997.
- He oversaw a 17 game period of play against the AL East where the Orioles had a winning record (14-13).
- He oversaw the team with the best record in the AL East since becoming manager.
- He oversaw the team with the second best record in the AL since becoming manager.
- And because of his final two months as manager, the Orioles had the first season to season record improvement since 2003-2004.

If Buck Showalter doesn't receive a vote for Manager of the Year, I don't know what to say. His participation in one of the most drastic turnarounds in the history of Major League Baseball deserves at least one token vote. Even if it comes from a writer at the Baltimore Sun.

Yes, Buck does deserve a lion's share of the credit. But let's not forget the players' role in this turnaround.

Brad Bergesen, who had a meltdown in Seattle in April that was painful to watch, pitched his way back from Norfolk -- twice -- to become the Orioles' best pitcher over the stretch of August and September. Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta and Jeremy Guthrie also played a part in making the final two months of the season some of the best pitched periods of Orioles baseball in years.

After watching these guys pitch their asses off for two months it's impossible not to get excited about the rotation for 2011.

The offense never underwent the drastic transformation that the starting pitching did under Showalter, but guys like Luke Scott, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis remain the offensive core of the team. Hopefully GM Andy MacPhail will burn the midnight oil trying to get this line-up the true clean-up hitter it desperately needs.

So while it was one of the most painful seasons to watch for four months, it was also surprisingly one of the most enjoyable for the final two.

The offseason will go by slow -- you can count on that. But hopefully we'll have some things to be excited about as MacPhail tries to upgrade this club, especially at 1B, SS and 3B.

Is it too early for Hot Stove baseball?

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