Buck Showalter tasked with ending Mets managerial volatility
You may have noticed the Giants were in the head coaching business again, naming Brian Daboll as the fourth person to hold the position since 2017 – the fifth if you include Steve Spagnulo’s four-game interim tenure to close out the 2017 regular season.
Instability has been a persistent scenario.
But if you hadn’t noticed, the Mets have also had four managers since 2017 — five if you include the hiring and firing of Carlos Beltran before he was in charge of a game.
Buck Showalter is the Mets’ new manager — which, in a roundabout way, puts him back on familiar ground, not just in New York, but at a time when longevity in the role has been rare. But Showalter actually started his managerial career in a place that had the worst job security in professional sports.
When Showalter was named Yankees coach at age 35 after the 1991 season, it marked the 19th change (including interims) to the position in 18 seasons, including Billy Martin’s five terms. But Showalter’s rise has started a sea change.
Showalter is one of only four Yankees managers over the past 30 seasons – after Joe Torre, Joe Girardi and Aaron Boone.
Counting Beltran, the Mets had 11. The Marlins, particularly because of former owner Jeffrey Loria who opened the South Branch of the George Steinbrenner Institute for impatience and brashness, had 17 managers different since their inception in 1993, including John Boles and Jack McKeon twice each.
The only organization to have fewer managers than the Yankees since 1992 are the Braves with three: Bobby Cox, Fredi Gonzalez and Brian Snitker. The Twins, with Tom Kelly, Ron Gardenhire, Paul Molitor and Rocco Baldelli, also had four.
The Yankees also haven’t allowed downturns over the seasons to alter their course. They haven’t fired a manager mid-season since Stump Merrill replaced Bucky Dent in June 1990. Brian Cashman has been the Yankees’ general manager since 1998, and one of his principles is not to fire a manager or a coach over the course of a season. The only organizations that have lasted longer than the Yankees without changing managers mid-season are the Giants, who last did so in 1985 when Roger Craig took over from Jim Davenport, and the Twins, who did so. last done when Kelly replaced Ray Miller during the 1986 campaign.
Not all substitutions during the season are dismissals. Managers such as Gardenhire (Detroit), Larry Dierker (Houston) and Cito Gaston (Toronto) stepped down (at least for a while) for health reasons. If you include one-game bridge stints, the Marlins have made eight managerial changes in one season in their 29-season history — the most at any major in that span. They were also the most successful during this era, with Jack McKeon replacing Jeff Torborg and leading the 2003 team to a World Series victory over the Torre Yankees.
Perhaps the mid-season managerial change should be called “The McKeon,” since he’s done it five times across five different decades (and two centuries): with the 1978 Athletics, the 1988 Padres , the 1997 Reds, the 2003 Marlins and the 2011 Marlins.
Jim Riggleman has done it four times since Showalter became manager in 1992, including in 1992 for the Padres when Riggleman replaced Greg Riddoch – who, of course, had replaced McKeon. The most interesting interim was Joe Maddon, twice, for the Angels in the 1990s, once replacing Terry Collins. Maddon is now the Angels manager. He defeated Showalter to replace Ausmus. Billy Eppler, then the team’s general manager, preferred Showalter, but was overruled by owner Arte Moreno. With the Mets, Eppler was able to hire Showalter — just like one of his mentors, then-Yankees general manager Gene Michael, had done 30 years earlier.
When Showalter first became manager, Hall of Famers such as Cox, Torre (with the Cardinals), Tony La Russa (A’s), Sparky Anderson (Tigers) and Tommy Lasorda (Dodgers) were working. Showalter’s captain in those four Yankees seasons was Don Mattingly, who himself ended the Marlins’ managerial mode (in part under new ownership that includes Derek Jeter, who got his start with the Yankees from Showalter in 1995). Mattingly is tied with the man who replaced him with the Dodgers, Dave Roberts, as the National League manager with the longest tenure in one place. Both have been in office since 2016.
In 1992, the Mets didn’t have a Hall of Fame manager, they had Torborg. The team had won 77 games the previous year, costing first Bud Harrelson and then his interim replacement, Mike Cubbage, their jobs. The Mets went on a shopping spree after this season, trading for former Cy Young winner and World Series champion Bret Saberhagen and signing Eddie Murray, Willie Randolph (one of 11 Mets managers since 1991) and notably Bobby Bonilla , who earned the biggest annual contract in MLB history. This helped the Mets reach an MLB record payroll.
The club collapsed and became infamous as the worst team money could buy. In the following season, Torborg lost his job to Dallas Green, who had already been part of that Yankees treadmill of managers that had preceded Showalter.
In 2022 – whenever the season begins – the Mets manager will be Showalter. The team won 77 games last year which cost Luis Rojas his job. The Mets went on a shopping spree, signing Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, Starling Marte and, notably, three-time Cy Young Award winner and World Series champion Max Scherzer, who landed the biggest annual contract in history. from MLB – the $43.33 million. for nearly as much as that Mets’ record $45 million payroll in 1992. The Mets will likely have a record payroll again this year, possibly climbing toward $300 million before the season ends.
Showalter will be asked to lead the best team money can buy and bring stability to the Mets leadership role.