So, I wrote a little bit about baseball managers as players … and there wasn’t quite the room in there to tell a little Buck Showalter story. Maybe you have read our profane friend Pat Jordan on Showalter over at Sports On Earth.
Well Pat tells a story in there about how in 2002, when Showalter was a candidate to become the manager in Kansas City, a Royals player charged into the GM’s office and basically threatened a player mutiny if he was hired. I’ve never been able to confirm that one — several of the people who might have been involved have insisted to me it did not — but I do know there was a lot of concern about Showalter being a control freak. I know this because I was the guy leading the charge to get Showalter hired.
I was the columnist in Kansas City at the time and to be blunt I didn’t really care if Showalter was a control freak. The Royals were in a lot of trouble then and it seemed to me that Showalter was exactly what the team needed. I figure even if Showalter was a control freak, well:
1. As far as flaws go, being a control freak and caring too much about details are not necessarily bad ones for a baseball manager.
2. It seemed obvious to me that the Royals could use a lot more attention to detail.
3. Nobody I ever ran across — even Showalter’s biggest critics — ever denied that the guy knows what he’s doing.
Anyway, to my story. In my reporting, I caught wind of a player who reportedly loved Buck, respected him, admired him, and — I was told — would want to publicly support Buck’s candidacy. This was interesting because it seemed like every player I approached to talk about Showalter — even the people who LIKED Buck — was muted, non-committal or didn’t want to say anything.
So I emailed the player, explained what I was writing, asked if he would want to comment for my column. I heard nothing back, which was not unexpected. I might have had the wrong email. The player might not have had the time or inclination to write to a sportswriter he didn’t know. And so on.
But here’s the punch line: Exactly one day after the Royals hired Tony Pena and not Buck Showalter — maybe two or three weeks after I wrote the original email — I got an email from the player. Yeah. One day later. He apologized for not writing back and said he would have loved to stand up for Buck, loved to, but he didn’t see the email until that exact moment.
Maybe he didn’t see the email. I’m guessing he did. I tend to think that Buck Showalter has been such a lightning rod that people just didn’t want to publicly stand up for him. Behind the scenes, sure. But not publicly. And now he’s in Baltimore, again one of the best in the business.