Mandel’s Musings – Showalter Has O’s Back In the Pennant Race

Published on: 31st August, 2012


Mandel's Musings - Showalter Has O's Back In the Pennant Race  | read this item

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New York — The Baltimore Orioles defeated the Yankees tonight at Yankee Stadium, 6-1. The Orioles win tightened what has now turned into a real pennant race between the Yankees and the Os, not to mention the Tampa Bay Rays, close behind in third place. What was once a 10-game lead for the Yankees just six weeks ago has now been whittled down to just a scant two game margin in front of a Baltimore team that seems to be gaining confidence with every game.

It’s the closest Baltimore has been to leading the division since a 1 1/2-game deficit on June 22, less than a month before the Yankees opened a season-high 10-game cushion on July 18.

With an excuse-me to all Yankee fans, how great is it to see the storied Orioles franchise of Earl Weaver, Frank and Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell and the great Elrod Hendricks, competing again for an American League East pennant?

Orioles Moving Closer To Yankees For First Place

Now managed by former Yankee farmhand and manager, Buck Showalter, this team of youngsters and underachievers has discovered the formula to winning, and it’s a something Showalter knows well from his days as the Yankee manager in the early 1990s.

Showalter has taught his young team how to utilize timely hitting, good defense, and mostly, a dominating bullpen in the Oriole resurgence. Back in 1994, Showalter had a young Mariano Rivera as his setup man to handle the eighth inning, giving way to the closer, John Wetteland. Those two were lights out, serving to shorten the games for the Yankees and were the biggest keys to the Yankees making their first playoff series in 13-years.

Showalter has two young guns in the bullpen role this season. His “Rivera” is young Pedro Strop, 27-years old, while his closer is 29-year old Jim Johnson. Neither of them had a track record of success in the major leagues prior to this season (Johnson came in to the year with a 13-17 lifetime record over five big league seasons)) so their dominance has been completely unexpected.

In his 58 appearance, Strop is pitching to an e.r.a. of 1.86 while Johnson, whose stuff isn’t as electric as Strop’s, leads the majors in saves with 41 and only three blown save opportunities.

Despite the Oriole success this year, how ironic that its fn base has refused to return to Camden Yards to support the team. After 14-years of futility under the ownership of Peter Angelos, Orioles fans are staying home in droves. The Orioles have been averaging a pathetic 15,000 fans per game but all blame in the area goes to their owner, Peter Angelos, who spent the past 14-years fancying himself as a general manager capable of making baseball decisions. Instead, he destroyed this franchise and created a chasm between the fans and his team.

Now, with an inventive, strong manager in Showalter and an experienced general manager in Dan Duquette, both of whom would not have taken their jobs had they not been given complete control over baseball decisions, the young Orioles are back in the pennant fray.

“Winning is a series of habits cultivated by organizations,” general manager Dan Duquette said. “We are in the process of cultivating a lot of the habits to play and win consistently in the big leagues.”

Well, the cultivating has started. The Orioles record
coming into tonight’s contest at Yankee Stadium is 72-58, and with a victory tonight in the Bronx, they will pull to within two games of the first-place Yankees.

The legacy of winning left by the old Orioles will surely awaken with the recent success of this new group of kids.

Somewhere, Earl Weaver, who just turned 82, is smiling as he watches this young bunch move into their rightful position as American League contenders.

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