Buck Showalter, the on-field architect of three Orioles playoff teams and a lifelong baseball man who instilled a winning culture in a team long used to losing, will not return to the team as manager or in any capacity next season. Neither will executive vice president Dan Duquette, the club announced Wednesday night.
Their departures mark the end of an era — and the continuation of a rebuilding effort that began in the middle of the club’s worst season on record. In the same announcement, the Orioles said they would hire an executive from outside the organization to lead baseball operations.
The new executive will have the final determination on all baseball matters “that he or she believes will make the Orioles successful on the field, entertaining to fans and impactful in the community.”
Showalter had been with the club since August 2010 and Duquette since November 2011. Together, they led the Orioles to three playoff appearances from 2012 to 2016, but the club sank to a team-record 115 losses this past season.
“We thank Dan and Buck for their many contributions over the past several years,” Orioles spokesman Greg Bader said on behalf of the Angelos family in a team-issued statement. “Under their leadership, prior to the 2018 season and for six consecutive years, the club delivered competitive teams playing meaningful baseball into September, achieved three postseason appearances and came within four games of a World Series appearance, and won more games than any other American League club during a period spanning five of those six enjoyable seasons.”
Brian Graham, the Orioles’ player development director, will oversee baseball operations on an interim basis. He served as Pittsburgh Pirates interim general manager in 2007. Brady Anderson, the club’s vice president of baseball operations, and scouting director Gary Rajsich also remain.
With his contract expiring at the end of this month, Showalter ended this season uncertain of his future with the team. He learned he wouldn’t be returning as manager Wednesday morning in a meeting with Orioles executive vice president John Angelos and ownership representative Louis Angelos in the B&O Warehouse at Camden Yards, according to an industry source.
Team ownership had met with Showalter, 62, late last week to discuss his future, and a variety of other roles within the organization were discussed, according to the source. But talks about another potential role never progressed. Wednesday afternoon, Showalter flew back to his home in Dallas, where he usually spends the offseason.
“The organization, city and fans will have a special place in my heart,” Showalter said in a statement issued on Instagram by his public relations representative, Ray Schulte. “Baltimore will always feel like home to [my wife] Angela and myself. Thank you for the memories.”
Showalter said this past weekend that he was "at peace" with a decision he seemed to expect the club's ownership to make after the dismal 47-win, 115-loss season.
"It's tough,” Orioles first baseman-outfielder Trey Mancini said Wednesday. “We all pretty much knew toward the end of the season that there were going to be changes. We didn't exactly know what, but this is the first news of the offseason.
“I've got absolutely nothing but respect for Buck, and I owe him a lot because he's the only manager I played for, and when I wasn't doing so well early on, he always stood by me. He loves his players and protects his players a lot. That's the most admirable quality for a manager to have.”
Because this season was so historically bad — and the Orioles made it clear since the All-Star break that the team was heading in a different direction, trading pending free agents and controllable players — Showalter wasn’t expected to return as manager.
“As we look forward to the next chapter of Orioles baseball, we are grateful for the ongoing support of our fans,” the Orioles said in Wednesday night’s statement. “While this year has been a challenge, the organization is determined to grow and change in ways that will ultimately lead us back to the postseason."
Ownership has been in transition this year as managing partner Peter Angelos ceded day-to-day control to his sons John and Louis, and the club enters the offseason in need of a point man. The Orioles are in the middle of a long-running feud with the Washington Nationals and MLB over Mid-Atlantic Sports Network rights fees heading into a November arbitration hearing, and there are questions about who is calling the shots with the club.
Showalter took over an Orioles team at the tail end of 14 straight losing seasons in 2010. In 2011 — Showalter’s first full season as manager — the Orioles lost 93 games but finished 22-16, ending the year with a win over the Boston Red Sox that helped knock them out of postseason contention.
That finish served as a springboard to a playoff berth in 2012, when the Orioles defeated the Texas Rangers in the American League wild-card game before losing to the New York Yankees in the AL Division Series, the first of three trips to the postseason over a five-season span.
Showalter was AL Manager of the Year in 2014 after leading the Orioles to a division title and bringing them to the AL Championship Series, where they were swept by the Kansas City Royals.
The Orioles’ last playoff appearance is perhaps Showalter’s most ignominious. With closer Zach Britton still available, Showalter sent starter Ubaldo Jiménez out of the bullpen in the 11th inning of the 2016 wild-card game against the Toronto Blue Jays. The Orioles lost on a walk-off home run, and try as they might, the winning feeling never returned to Baltimore.
The 2017 Orioles started hot, hovered around .500 for most of the summer, and then surged into the playoff chase in August before collapsing in September, finishing 75-87 for their first losing season since 2011.
A 2018 season that began in uncertainty when the team reported to Sarasota, Fla., for spring training was tanked by it. Not only were Showalter and Duquette in the last year of their contracts, but so were former All-Stars Manny Machado, Britton, Adam Jones and Brad Brach.
As the losses mounted in the first half of the season, everyone from that group but Jones was traded by the All-Star break, joined by Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman and Darren O'Day. The trades signaled an organizational change in philosophy. At the time, Duquette said the team would be focusing resources toward scouting and player development as opposed to the major league roster.
Despite the poor results, Orioles designated hitter Mark Trumbo said he didn’t notice a difference in Showalter this season.
“I didn't see any change in attitude or preparation from the coaching side of things,” Trumbo said. “The effort was every bit as good as it was in ’16 and as ’17, and I'm sure the guys that have been around longer would say quite a ways before that. The on-field results were the thing that obviously were the biggest factor that, as a manager, you do what you can.
“Everybody's trying to win every ballgame possible, but from the way that we played this year, there weren't a lot of positives.”
Regarded throughout baseball as one of the best managerial minds in the game, Showalter had his longest big league tenure in Baltimore — parts of nine seasons — and his 669 wins with the Orioles trail only Earl Weaver's 1,480 for most in franchise history.
Showalter also shared a bond with Baltimore. He embraced the city’s blue-collar mentality by instilling an “us against the world” ethos in the clubhouse. Showalter embraced the franchise’s proud history, and longtime Orioles fans saw a modern version of Weaver in Showalter.
In a 20-year managerial career, Showalter managed the Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks and Rangers. Despite his longevity and success with the Orioles, he never secured a World Series title, which the club last won in 1983. Showalter hasn’t ruled out a potential return to the dugout.
He was the Orioles' longest-tenured manager under Angelos. Since taking over the Orioles in 1993, Angelos went through nine skippers through his first 18 years as owner before hiring Showalter.
Duquette, 60, previously served as the general manager of the Montreal Expos and Boston Red Sox. He replaced Andy MacPhail as the Orioles’ top decision-maker after the 2011 season, and made several more understated moves to help return winning to Baltimore for the first time in 15 seasons.
“Everyone in Birdland and across our organization will cherish these memories,” the Orioles statement said, “and we all join in thanking Dan and Buck for their contributions.”