COMMENTARY | On Jan. 16, the Baltimore Orioles extended the contracts of manager Buck Showalter and Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette through 2018.
Showalter and Duquette helped the Orioles reach the playoffs last season for the first time in 15 years, engineering a remarkable turnaround.
The Orioles won 93 games in 2012 -- 24 more than the previous season -- and earned one of the wild-card slots in the American League. They saw their season end at the hands of the rival New York Yankees in an epic, riveting American League Division Series that lasted five games.
In my eyes, the contract extensions of Showalter and Duquette represent a watershed moment for the Baltimore franchise.
The Orioles have been a model of instability for the last decade and half as they have had general managers, executives and personnel enter and exit the organization at an astonishing rate. Now with Showalter and Duquette signed for six more years, the Orioles have stability at the top of the organization for the first time in years.
Buck Showalter arrived in Baltimore after a stint with ESPN, and he previously had managerial jobs with the New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers. He took all three of those teams who were struggling on the field at the time and made them into winners within a few seasons of his arrival; however, Showalter also developed a reputation as a task master who wanted to control every aspect of a franchise.
His overbearing manner got him dismissed from all three organizations. However, with the Orioles, he now has finally earned some measure of job security.
In only three seasons, Showalter has helped reshape the Orioles into a winner by preaching professionalism, accountability and getting his players to believe in themselves. He has also played an active role in shaping all areas of the organization, from player evaluation to input with the spring training facility. His first two seasons in Baltimore produced losing records, but everything changed in 2012.
Showalter's guidance has finally paid dividends for the Orioles, and he was rewarded for it. The sport also took notice of his feat as he was nominated for the 2012 American League Manager of the Year Award. He finished second to Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin, who also took an upstart team to the playoffs and won a division title.
Duquette's road to Baltimore also has some resemblance to Showalter's.
He was hired by the Orioles last winter only after every other candidate for the position turned it down. Like Showalter, Duquette also has a had knack for making teams into winners; he was general manager of the Montreal Expos for two years (1992-1993), and the Boston Red Sox (1994-2002).
Duquette was out of Major League Baseball for a decade before arriving in Baltimore. He used shrewd moves last season -- such as trading for pitcher Jason Hammel, acquiring pitcher Wei-Yin Chen, acquiring outfielder Nate McLouth, extending the contract of center fielder Adam Jones, promoting shortstop Manny Machado from the minors, and numerous other roster moves.
Baltimore Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos has been looked down upon by many fans and the media because of the team's lack of success on the field for an extraordinarily long time. However, he deserves a lot of credit for taking the initiative to lock down both Showalter and Duquette. He obviously believes in both men and their vision for the future going forward.
I think the Orioles extended both Showalter's and Duquette's new contracts for perhaps a year or two more than needed, but they pulled off a feat that was an impossible dream at this point last year. They both played a significant role in reviving a moribund franchise, getting a fan base dying for a winner back at the ballpark, and making the Orioles relevant in the baseball universe again.
Living in the mid-Atlantic region, Orioles baseball was in purgatory for an awful long time but with the run the Orioles had last year, the fans came back in full force. It was inspiring to see Camden Yards filled up again, playing meaningful games in the final two months of the regular season, and seeing a sold-out stadium filled with white, orange and black in the postseason.
The pressure is now on the duo to sustain a winning team on the field for Orioles fans. They simply need to avoid the same mistakes that made the Baltimore Orioles cellar-dwellers for more 14 years until last season's magical run.
If the Baltimore Orioles are not in the playoff hunt this summer, the good feelings that fans have towards the extension for Showalter and Duquette may dissipate some. But I have the feeling that most will give them a chance to succeed after restoring hope to a franchise that lost its way for a while.
What do you all think?
Anthony Amobi has been blogging about the Baltimore Orioles for the past seven seasons at the Oriole Post (http://oriolepost.com).