For Baltimore Orioles fans, the dread regarding the on-field action in 2018 gave way to the much anticipated departures of manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette Oct. 3.
While the relationship between the two was never warm and fuzzy, both did some of the best work of their careers during their time in Baltimore. But it's hard right now to see how either ever gets as much say again in running a ball club.
Their inability to put their differing points of view aside, which ultimately led to three opinions at crucial decision-making times, was far too much for an organization to overcome to solidly sustain the highest levels of the game, especially considering the club is bereft of the necessary outlays in scouting and analytics.
While Showalter was a master handler of his bullpen, perhaps his best results were how he handled the local media and seemed to always have them on his side. Conversely, Duquette, who had flamed out years ago in Boston thanks to his treatment of the media and those around him in the workplace, bent over backwards to reinvent himself in those key aspects of the job.
However, Duquette's social awkwardness and never wanting to get into a battle for the hearts and minds of Birdland proved to be just a part of his undoing. Truth be told, he never truly recovered from what was perceived as disloyalty to majority owner Peter Angelos when he had a brief, unauthorized dalliance with the Toronto Blue Jays, who seemed to want to hire him as team president, a significant promotion for Duquette.
Given Duquette's 10-year absence from the highest levels of his profession and the dollars that went with that, it was understandable he sought such a lofty position and promotion, which would have made up for those lost years.
But regarding the larger issue of the dysfunction between Duquette and Showalter, let me give some vivid examples of where the breakdown hurt the team:
Rule 5 Obsession
Duquette came to Baltimore in November 2011, which means he headed the baseball brain trust for seven MLB Winter Meetings. As if akin to a nervous tick, Duquette couldn't say no to the Rule 5 Draft. Infielder Ryan Flaherty in 2011 gave way to lefty T.J. McFarland in 2012 and infielder Michael Almanzar in 2013.
Then the Orioles took right-handers Logan Verrett and Jason Garcia in 2014, outfielder Joey Rickard in 2015 and outfielders Anthony Santander and Aneury Tavarez in 2016. Finally, like the end of a fireworks crescendo, the Orioles took pitchers Jose Mesa Jr., Nestor Cortes and Pedro Araújo in 2017.
What was similar among all 11 of the players was that none made any sizable contributions to the team. True, Flaherty was a very useful player for parts of six seasons, and McFarland for a time was helpful once he could be optioned to the minor leagues.
But Duquette's insistence on playing in that low-reward world had to drive Showalter crazy. This past season, the club tried to keep Santander for the first 45 days of 2018 to gain full control of him, and Duquette foisted not one, but two Rule 5 pitchers onto the big-league roster this year, which essentially gave Showalter 22 usable players during the painful first three weeks of 2018.
Duquette's Hiring Of Rick Peterson As Organizational Pitching Coach
In January 2012, after several meetings with Duquette -- and even one with Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair -- Rick Peterson was hired to be director of pitching development for the organization that had originally drafted him out of high school in the 1970s.
Peterson was long known as a pitching guru for his work with the Oakland Athletics when he helped the development of starting pitchers Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson. He was also the big league pitching coach for the New York Mets and Milwaukee Brewers. Yet, even once the Orioles replaced Adair, Peterson was never considered by Showalter as a replacement.
Peterson left the Orioles well before the 2017 season. When I spoke to Peterson, I got the impression Duquette was a fan. But I also got the sense Peterson and Showalter weren't on the same page regarding Peterson's theories on pitchers improving their throwing motions. It seems like a total waste of energy for all parties to have people differ on basic philosophies.
Trading 19-Year-Old Prospect Tobias Myers For Tim Beckham
There's little disputing the 2018 Orioles were hurt by the decision not to bring back former shortstop J.J. Hardy. No real knock here, as Hardy's skill set had taken such a step back, as did his ability to be on the field on a regular basis.
With the Orioles lagging in pursuit of the playoffs in July 2017, and it looking as if they would trade lefty Zach Britton to trigger a rebuild, the Orioles did an about-face and instead traded right-handed pitcher Tobias Myers to the Tampa Bay Rays for shortstop Tim Beckham.
In August 2017, Beckham was other-worldly in terms of his production, batting .394/.417/.646 with 50 hits, six home runs, 19 RBIs and a .458 BABIP (batting average on balls in play). But Dr. Jekyll turned into Mr. Hyde in September, and those numbers all went to hell.
The trade might have made sense to me if the Orioles projected Beckham as a solid replacement for Hardy from 2018-2020. In that case, perhaps it makes sense to trade a pitching prospect for him.
But when Hardy was not re-signed and the club didn't immediately name Beckham as his replacement, my enthusiasm for the deal waned. Sure enough, Showalter turned to Manny Machado as his shortstop and Beckham as his third baseman. Two positions were suddenly weakened, and the infield defense became a serious problem.
Beckham, as it turned out, had core muscle surgery in April, which the club couldn't have foreseen. But by the time he came back, no concerted effort was made by the skipper to see him at shortstop. Beckham is now viewed more or less as a non-tender candidate this offseason.
Myers, 20, is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Rays' No. 22 prospect. He turned in a solid season for Low-A Bowling Green this year.
Again, what Showalter and Duquette accomplished running the Orioles made baseball relevant again in Baltimore after 14 consecutive losing seasons. But in the end, it seems the two never really had their oars in the same direction, and it caught up with them.