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Is Buck Showalter's Orioles Legacy A Hall Of Fame One?

January 16, 2017
Sometime in July or early August, Buck Showalter will have more major league wins as a manager than Earl Weaver. That's right. Showalter, the now legendary Orioles manager who can probably manage this team as long as he wants to, will have more wins than the other Orioles managerial legend.

Of course, Showalter, who begins the 2017 season with 547 Orioles wins, can probably only dream of passing Weaver for most Orioles wins. He trails Weaver by 933 and would have to manage into his seventies.

Last season, Showalter passed Paul Richards for second-most wins in franchise history, and in May, will have the second-longest tenure in team history.

Showalter is one of the best managers of present time. He's had winning records in three of his four managerial jobs and transformed the Orioles from one of the weakest teams in baseball to one of the strongest.

Showalter is also an innovator who isn't afraid to try the unconventional, and he thinks of what's right for the game -- even if it isn't necessarily best for the Orioles.

But is Showalter a Hall of Famer? For the moment, he's not.

Showalter has won American League Manager of the Year Awards in 1994 with the New York Yankees, 2004 with the Texas Rangers and 2014 with the Orioles. He came in second in 1993 and 2012, and an argument could be made he should have won when he took the Arizona Diamondbacks to the postseason in the team's second year. Showalter's D-Backs won 100 games and the National League West in 1999, a year after the expansion team won 65 games. He somehow finished fourth in the voting.

He's won two division titles -- the NL West in 1999 and the AL East with the Orioles in 2014 -- but he has only one appearance in a League Championship Series and hasn't been in a World Series. In fact, he doesn't even have a win in an LCS; his 2014 Orioles were swept in four games by the Kansas City Royals.

Showalter starts 2017 with 1,429 wins, good for 25th place on the all-time managers list. Only three active managers, San Francisco's Bruce Bochy, Washington's Dusty Baker and the Los Angeles Angels' Mike Scioscia have more.

There's one manager of recent vintage, Whitey Herzog, who is in the Hall of Fame, with fewer wins (1,281). Herzog, who skippered the Rangers, Angels, Royals and Cardinals, won a World Series with St. Louis in 1982.

As the Orioles neared the 2014 postseason, Showalter passed his mentor Billy Martin, who had 1,253 wins with four teams and won the 1977 World Series with the Yankees, but the controversial Martin isn't in the Hall of Fame.

Neither are Davey Johnson (1,372 wins and one World Series title), who was the last Orioles manager before Showalter to guide a team into the postseason, nor Lou Piniella.

Piniella, who won the 1990 World Series with Cincinnati, is 14th on the all-time list with 1,835 wins. He also managed the Yankees when Showalter was a minor league manager in the organization. Only Gene Mauch has more wins (1,902) and isn't in the Hall of Fame, but Mauch had a losing record in 26 seasons of managing four teams.

Both Johnson and Piniella came up short in theĀ 

Veterans Committee consideration last month. Longtime commissioner Bud Selig and former Atlanta Braves general manager John Schuerholz were voted in.

What would be the case for Showalter?

Showalter has two seasons left on his contract, and he'll be 62 then. Assuming his good health continues and his passion is as strong as it is now, perhaps he'll want to manage until he's 65.

If Showalter manages five more seasons and is at least a .500 manager (he has a .532 winning percentage in his first seven seasons with the Orioles), he could add another 400 or so wins to his resume. That would give him about the same number of wins Piniella has, and would securely place Showalter in the top 20.

Showalter is already within striking distance of two Hall of Famers other than Weaver: Tommy Lasorda (1,599) and Dick Williams (1,571).

Bochy, who at 62 is two years older than Showalter, is already 15th. With three World Series titles, Bochy is a likely Hall of Famer.

So, perhaps, is Terry Francona, who is fewer than 50 wins behind Showalter (1,381), has won two World Series with the Boston Red Sox (2004, 2007) and nearly won a third with Cleveland last fall.

If present rules stand, Showalter would be considered not by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, but by a Veterans Committee that includes Hall of Fame members, baseball executives and media members. (PressBox's Jim Henneman has been a member of past Veterans Committees.)

While Showalter's on-field accomplishments will be the primary consideration, the Committee should also take account of his work that benefits the game as a whole.

When his managing career concludes, Major League Baseball should add Showalter to its staff as it has done with Joe Torre and Jim Leyland.

Torre is MLB's chief baseball officer and oversees on-field discipline. Leyland helped develop the replay process and he'll manage Team USA for this spring's World Baseball Classic.

Showalter is often suggesting rule changes to help better the game. Despite having his best records in September when he can manipulate an expanded roster, Showalter tirelessly argues against the bloated roster rule, which wasn't changed in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

And there's a Showalter tree of managers he's mentored. Three of his former players, Craig Counsell, Don Mattingly and Matt Williams, have become major league managers. Counsell is managing Milwaukee, Mattingly is in Miami and Williams managed the Nationals for two seasons.

Three of Showalter's coaches in previous stops, Willie Randolph (New York Mets), Carlos Tosca (Toronto) and Don Wakamatsu (Seattle), have been major league managers, too.

While none of his Orioles coaches have become major league managers, his bench coach, John Russell, managed Pittsburgh before he came to Baltimore. Showalter has recommended Russell to other teams for openings. Third base coach Bobby Dickerson, who managed in the Dominican Republic this winter, is a possible future managerial candidate, though he's yet to interview for a job.

Showalter's influence could grow in the future if shortstop J.J. Hardy and catcher Matt Wieters, two bright minds, decide to pursue a career in managing when they're finished playing.

For now, Showalter isn't a Hall of Fame manager, but his legacy is far-reaching and, seemingly, can only grow in the coming years.

Issue 229: January 2017