Who is the next Manager for the Baltimore Orioles?
In all likelihood, a sad day is to come in Birdland this winter, as the Orioles are expected to go their separate ways with long-time manager Buck Showalter.
Showalter, 62, and in the last year of his contract, has been the Orioles skipper since late 2010, boasting a record of 657-652 (.502 winning percentage) and leading the Orioles to 3 playoff berths during that time.
He is one of the first keys of success mentioned when remembering the 2012-2016 Orioles teams. His connection to the Orioles, the fans, and the City of Baltimore, in addition to his brilliant bullpen manipulation (hold your Britton comments for the end, please) is something that is not easily replaced, but it will soon have to be.
So without further adieu, I present a few candidates that I believe the Orioles will, and in certain cases should consider for the managing job for 2019 and beyond.
1. John Russell, currently the Orioles bench coach:
This one is tricky. I'm not sure that Russell has any interest in the job, or the Orioles have any interest in hiring him, but it seems that it's the right thing to do. Russell has been on the Orioles coaching staff since 2011, and has managing experience in Pittsburgh, but I'm not quite sure he's the right guy for the job.
2. Billy Ripken, currently an analyst on MLB Network:
Billy Ripken, brother of Cal, is a name that is floated around by many Orioles fans, but isn't really a realistic idea. The former Orioles second basemen seems content in his current role on "MLB Tonight" and that is probably for the best. Ripken is known for his hard-nosed approach to the game, that doesn't always translate to good managing skills in today's game. Besides his last name, and his profane baseball cards, Ripken doesn't really have anything over the other candidates.
2A. Cal Ripken Jr, former Orioles shortstop:
No. Enough already.
3. Ron Johnson, currently managing the Norfolk Tides:
Like John Russell, making Johnson the manager would be more of a reward to his service with the organization than a good hire. Johnson has been the manager of the Tides since 2012, but again isn't necessarily the right guy for the job.
4. Joe Girardi, currently an analyst on MLB Network:
Girardi is easily the highest-regarded candidate available, but I'm not sure that he is interested in coming to Baltimore. The former Yankees manager has a very impressive .554 winning percentage, including 5 playoff berths and a World Series victory in an 11 year managerial career. I'm sure that he is on the Orioles radar, but the question remains, are the Orioles on his radar?
5. Fredi Gonzalez, currently the Marlins third base coach:
Fredi Gonzalez is a seasoned vet in the coaching world, having been around since 1999 with both the Braves and the Marlins, his current employer. He'd likely come to Baltimore for the promotion, but will he get the offer? He has experience coaching young teams during rebuilds, but is he the guy? I'm not quite sure. He's a great baseball man, but not the best manager.
6. Joe Espada, currently the Astros bench coach:
Espada is a prime candidate to manage somewhere in 2019, but the question is where. Formerly a special assistant to Yankees GM Brian Cashman, Espada has gained tremendous experience under the tutelage of Cashman and also Girardi during his tenure as the third base coach of the Yankees. He is currently in the metric-heavy Astros dugout, serving as the bench coach after the departure of current Boston manager Alex Cora.
Personally, out of the candidates presented, I believe that Espada would be the best fit for the Orioles for the next few years, but I wouldn't be opposed to Girardi or Gonzalez either.
Keeping Buck Showalter wouldn't necessarily be the worst thing for the Orioles. He is still loved by fans, and respected in the industry. But sometimes change is for the better.
Ultimately, it was Buck that turned around the Orioles and brought the winning culture to Baltimore once again, but those days have passed. He's a great manager, but his days in Baltimore are likely nearing an end.
It is believed that the future Orioles Hall of Famer would be open to taking a job in the front office, but it has also been rumored that he is eyeing a coaching job at his alma mater, Mississippi State.
Time will tell what direction the Orioles decide to take this, they could keep Showalter, bring in a fresh face, or use the revolving door method. Each have their upside and each have their downside, but hopefully none of them have Lee Mazzilli this time around.