BALTIMORE — Buck Showalter has been fired as manager of the Orioles, who made three playoff appearances under his guidance but this year staggered through the worst season since the team moved to Baltimore in 1954.
Showalter confirmed the dismissal Wednesday in a text message to The Associated Press.
A three-time AL Manager of the Year, Showalter ranks second on the Orioles’ career list with 669 victories, trailing Earl Weaver. He took over in August 2010 and orchestrated the resurgence of a team that suffered through 14 straight losing seasons.
Once hailed for making baseball in Baltimore relevant again, the 62-year-old Showalter is out of a job after a season in which the Orioles finished 47-115, 61 games behind Boston in the AL East. His contract expired at the end of October, and the Orioles opted against a renewal as they continue a major rebuild that began in late July, when they traded stars Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman for minor league prospects.
Those deals were made by Dan Duquette, the executive vice-president of baseball operations, whose future with the organization is up in the air.
Showalter earned AL Manager of the Year honours in 2014 after taking the Orioles to the AL East title and a berth in the Championship Series. He was also named Manager of Year with the Yankees in 1994 and Texas in 2004. His career record is 1,551-1,517, including 669-684 with Baltimore.
"I just think ever since he came here, the franchise just gained a little more accountability, gained an edge for some time," Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said before the final game of the season. "It’s the end of an era. A great manager, a great tenure. I don’t know if he’s going to coach or manage again, but he’s got grandchildren. Go golf. Relax and go sit on the golf course."
With his future in doubt, Showalter appeared undaunted during the final series of the regular season.
"You know how good they’ve been to me? I’m not ever going to forget that, regardless of what happens," he said.
After the Orioles brought Showalter out of retirement, he offered renewed hope by fashioning a 34-23 finish in 2010 for a team that was 32-73 upon his arrival.
Baltimore ended a 14-year playoff drought in 2012, advancing to the AL Division Series following a victory over Texas in the wild-card game. Playoff appearances in 2014 and 2016 followed.
Last year, however, the Orioles fell to 75-87 after losing 19 of their final 23 games. Baltimore hoped the addition of starters Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner would enable the team to be a contender this year, but a horrid start quickly dispelled that notion.
The Orioles’ deficit in the AL East reached double digits by April 18 and they were 8-27 on May 8. By the end of July, Baltimore fully entered rebuilding mode, leaving Showalter with the dubious distinction of overseeing a team that finished with the poorest record in the majors and one that surpassed the 1939 St. Louis Browns for most losses in franchise history.
Showalter never offered an excuse. He just grinded forward, working to prepare the team for 2019 even though he knew he might not be around to follow through.
At the outset of a season-ending series against Houston, Showalter was asked if he was thinking these might be his final days in the Baltimore dugout.
"We all have some private thoughts and emotions about that, but I don’t think it serves the organization well for me to be worried about that right now," he said. "We’ve got some things to do these last four games that need to get done."
Showalter has a reputation as a no-nonsense manager, but his players appreciated his baseball knowledge and skill at handling a team. He made a point of talking to each of them on a regular basis, almost always offering encouragement.
"He gave me a chance," said catcher Caleb Joseph, who played six-plus years in the minors before arriving in Baltimore. "He believed in me in 2014, ran me out there and gave me a chance to be part of a championship team. He’s really vouched for me ever since. I owe a lot to Buck and his loyalty. He’s been a main figure here for a long time."
Sensing the end was near for the only big league manager he had every played for, first baseman Trey Mancini said: "It’s been an absolute honour to play for Buck. He’s been incredible."