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Most baseball fans don't watch a game to see a manager manage. They buy a ticket or commit to three hours in front of a television set to see the players play, to see dramatic catches, the towering home runs, the crucial strikeouts. The manager? He's just that taciturn fellow at the end of the bench who is largely ignored until he makes the wrong move. Just ask Nationals fans who are still fuming about Jordan Zimmerman's premature departure from Game Two of the National League Divisional Series against the San Francisco Giants.

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"In Buck We Trust" is not just some slogan for an orange T-shirt but a sign of a community's genuine respect and affection for William Nathaniel "Buck" Showalter III. It's not just that he has helped turn around this city's baseball fortunes after an extended drought. Dan Duquette and his front-office predecessor, Andy MacPhail, share in that claim, having assembled talent needed to make the playoffs. One senses that Orioles owner Peter Angelos isn't going to inspire an "In Pete We Trust" line or Orioles garments either, although he did write the checks.

Now, don't get us wrong. Baltimore clearly likes winning. The Orioles bandwagon has definitely acquired quite a few extra passengers over the last month or so. But our collective affection for Buck runs deeper. He was the right fit not only for a team that had lost its way but for a city that likes its leaders with a little chip on their shoulder. That's how Earl behaved. That's how the Super Bowl Ravens acted. Baltimore identifies with both the underdog and the junkyard dog — scrappiness is in our nature.

Mix that with Buck's intense loyalty toward — and obvious affection for — his players, and you get the kind of boss for whom any of us would love to work. He's not afraid to praise players and fans liberally, nor does he hesitate to criticize other teams. Fans were smitten when Buck, a onetime Yankees manager, blasted his former team for refusing to reschedule a game immediately after the death of former Orioles pitcher and team executive Mike Flanagan several years ago. Last year, when the Yankees complained about the Orioles stealing signs, he turned it right back on them. "The Yankees are actually one of the better teams at it," he noted at the time. Buck stands behind his team, his players and his coaches.

It's entirely fitting that this year's team seems crafted in the Orioles winning ways of three and four decades ago — pitching, defense and the three-run homer. Buck may not have Earl's temperament, but he has the craftiness. He knows how to use his talent, particularly his bullpen, and his players trust him to make the right decision even when it means giving an intentional walk to a player who represents the potential winning run, as Buck did in the third and final game against the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS, bucking conventional wisdom (and nearly giving many of us a heart attack).

When we selected him Marylander of the Year in 2012, we described Buck as passionate, dogged, self-effacing and wise. Funny how two years has made him only more so. This business of managing a professional baseball team is not easy. Players may be physically gifted, but they are also often childish and narcissistic, temperamental and indulged. Owners can be worse. Fans are fickle. A job that takes a lifetime to secure can be lost in half a season. Want to be loved while running a Major League Baseball team? Better get a dog. (Buck has four.)

Still, we can't imagine going to war with anyone else calling the shots. Buck is the reason a lot of sports writers from across the country are picking the Orioles to win a pennant and return to the World Series for the first time since 1983. Who are we to argue?

To respond to this editorial, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

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