Opinion: Buck Showalter Was Not a Deserving ‘Manager of the Year’

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Buck Showalter has never won a pennant but was Manager of the Year four times.All-Pro Reels, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0

By Dan Schlossberg

We’ve seen this act before: the election of a candidate who didn’t earn the vote or even deserve a place on the ballot.

Buck Showalter, 24th manager of the New York Mets, became the first to be named National League Manager of the Year.

He got eight first-place votes, tied with Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers and one more than Brian Snitker of the Atlanta Braves. But the second-place ballots boosted Buck over the top.

That made the first-year manager of the Mets the first man to win Manager of the Year in four different decades, the first to win with four different teams, and one of only three pilots — along with Hall of Famers Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa — to win the award four times.

But did the voters pick the right man?

Sure, the Mets won 101 games, tied with Snitker’s Braves for the most in the NL East. The Flushing flyers also reached the post-season — albeit an expanded, 12-team version — for the first time since 2016.

“It’s a well-deserved honor,” said well-endowed Mets owner Steve Cohen, whose billions allowed the club to buy Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Mark Canha, and other free agents off the open market. “There is no doubt Buck had the players’ respet and they played hard for him. He is one of the sharpest minds in the game and he builds a winning culture.”

Well, maybe not.

The Mets didn’t win anything. Not the division. Not the pennant. Not the best-of-three Division Series against San Diego — even with all three games at CitiField.

In fact, Showalter blew a division crown that was his for the taking. His team had a lead of 10 1/2 games over Atlanta on June 1, then needed only one win in a three-game series at Truist Park on the last weekend of the season. They failed, even with Scherzer, Jacob de Grom, and Chris Bassitt lined up to start each game.

In 21 years as a manager, Showalter has never won a pennant or reached a World Series. But he’s somehow charmed his way to Manager of the Year awards with the 1994 Yankees, 2004 Rangers, 2014 Orioles, and 2022 Mets.

It staggers the mind to wonder how he could have convinced the voting writers — two in each of the league’s cities — to bypass Roberts, who led the Dodgers to a club-record and best-in-baseball 111 wins, or Snitker, who survived a series of severe player injuries (Ozzie Albies, Adam Duvall, Eddie Rosario, Luke Jackson, plus a slow-to-recover Ronald Acuña, Jr.) to post baseball’s best record after June 1.

He fearlessly promoted 21-year-old Michael Harris II from Double-A and fellow freshman Spencer Strider from a relief role to the rotation. Coincidence or not, those two moves triggered a 14-game winning streak that put the Braves on track for their fifth straight NL East crown — the longest division winning streak in baseball.

Showalter, 66, is a no-nonsense guy who pays attention to detail and knows the rules better than most umpires. His career record is 1,652-1,578, putting him on a potential path to Cooperstown. Only 18 others have managed their way to more wins.

Backed by baseball’s biggest payroll, Buck should’ve done better. But an inexplicable 14-5 record against the Phillies prevented his club from finishing third.

And speaking of the Phillies, Buck’s spot as one of three finalists should have been filled by Rob Thomson, the bench coach who replaced Joe Girardi in June and took his troops to the World Series after taking the league’s last wild-card spot.

Before Showalter surfaced in Queens, Davey Johnson came closest to winning the managerial honor, twice finishing second (1984 and 1986). Willie Randolph ranked second in 2006.

HERE’S THE PITCH Weekend Editor Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has been covering baseball since 1969. His byline appears in forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Memories & Dreams, and other outlets. Also the author of 40 baseball books, he speaks and signs at libraries, civic groups, and synagogues. E.mail him via ballauthor@gmail.com.

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