Mets’ situation hired Buck Showalter as new manager: Sherman

The situation hired Buck Showalter.

If I were a betting man, I would wager that the other two finalists for the Mets’ managing position — Joe Espada and Matt Quatraro — will be managers in the next 12-24 months. If I were going to play longer odds, I would say that Espada will rise from bench coach to eventually replace Dusty Baker in Houston and the similar DNA between Tampa Bay and Cleveland will lead to Quatraro going from the Rays’ bench to the Guardians’ dugout when Terry Francona is done.

In both situations, I am forecasting for an inexperienced manager to replace two of the most seasoned in the sport.

The Mets essentially could not take that roll of the dice. Not after the Mickey Callaway disaster and Luis Rojas apprenticeship. Not after Steve Cohen pushed so many chips to the middle of the table with a free-agent splurge this offseason that notably brought Max Scherzer and a $265 million payroll … and counting. Not when this is New York and the expectations are going to include meeting Cohen’s mandate to win a title in the next four years.

Espada and Quatraro might be Buck Showalter in 1992, ready to take off on brilliant careers as major league managers. But Buck Showalter was Buck Showalter in 1992, managing a New York team for the most demanding owner in the history of the game (ignore that George Steinbrenner was suspended at the time, he was looming over that Yankees team). He has spent a long baseball life proving he can handle what is coming with the present-day Mets.

Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter (26) talks with the press at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., in an interleague game on July 8, 2014.
Buck Showalter

His résumé hung over this process as surely as Steinbrenner did those Yankees of three decades ago.

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So the situation hired Showalter. It essentially had to be him. It had to be someone with which the guesswork was removed when it came to doing the job. He has had success in four locales — notably doing the kind of culture shift to professionalizing the clubhouse and dugout in The Bronx that is so needed now in Queens. With his hiring Saturday, Showalter is fourth among those active in games managed behind Tony La Russa, Baker and Francona.

He will not need a how-to book on how to handle the job or New York or a demanding owner or expectations.

Is he a perfect hire? Of course not. Just Gene Mauch and Baker have managed more games without winning a World Series than Showalter’s 3,069. Only Mauch has managed more games without winning a pennant. Is it possible that Showalter is the type of manager who can only get you so far? Maybe. But it isn’t like the Mets get that far with regularity. They have made the playoffs just two times in the past 15 years.

Showalter also can be polarizing. I suggest thick skin for those who work with him because he will challenge even people he likes and he will suffer fools poorly — Showalter has among the sport’s best fraud detectors. New GM Billy Eppler will have to work to keep Showalter from straying beyond his job description. But I think there is a chance for this to happen. One of Eppler’s mentors was Gene Michael, the first general manager to ever hire Showalter to a job — and probably the GM he respected most in all of his stops.

Also, Showalter has to see this as a last best chance. Showalter turns 66 in May. You never say never — not after La Russa returned following a decade hiatus and induction into the Hall of Fame — but this is probably Showalter’s final stop in trying to win a title. If he can do that, he will at least put himself into the conversation for Cooperstown.

Buck Showalter (right) with George Steinbrenner (left).
Buck Showalter (right) with George Steinbrenner (left).

Showalter managed a Yankees team from humiliation back to the playoffs, breaking in all the members of the Core Four in 1995. He got an expansion team to the playoffs in two years in Arizona. He had to confront Alex Rodriguez in Texas and tell his star to stop calling pitches from shortstop like his idol, Cal Ripken Jr., did. And he took an overmatched, underfinanced Orioles team that hadn’t sniffed the postseason for 15 seasons to the playoffs three times in a five-year period, breaking in Manny Machado along the way.

He has not managed for the past three years, but as his colleague at the MLB Network, I can vouch he was staying current and passionate about the game — seeing each issue that arose through the sight and thought of a major league manager. You could take Showalter out of the dugout, but you could not remove managing from his blood.

Now, he will be back in his preferred milieu — a major league dugout. He will bring his keen eye and sense of organization to a franchise that can use both. I know folks will bring up leaving Zack Britton in the bullpen waiting for a save situation that never came in a 2016 AL wild-card loss, but Showalter is the best game manager I’ve covered. I would be shocked if there is one-tenth the second guessing among Mets players of Showalter that there was for Callaway and Rojas. It is part of the reason it had to be him. The Mets couldn’t guess that Espada or Quatraro would be good under real-time duress.

Or if they could manage the alpha Scherzer, whatever the tension is between Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeill, the return and perhaps role change of Robinson Cano, the ultimate emergence of Francisco Alvarez and Brett Baty, the looming spectre of Cohen and the boiling brew of New York fans, media and expectations.

This was the situation for the Mets, so the situation hired the person most proven at handling it all.

Artmotion U.S.A

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