The election season is routinely fraught with hollow rhetoric and inevitable contradiction, so maybe now is a good time to remind people of a useful guide: judge people by their actions, not their words.
We’re talking about you, Buck Showalter.
In case you missed it, Orioles closer Zach Britton was not among the three finalists for this year’s American League Cy Young Award, something that came to light when the Baseball Writers’ Association of America revealed the preliminary results of its annual balloting. In the immediate aftermath, a disbelieving Showalter shook his head in disbelief. More importantly, he flapped his gums.
“What do you think our record is without Zach Britton?” Showalter rhetorically asked reporters. “You could make a case for him being the Most Valuable Player in the American League this year. He had an historic ERA, and he’s not in the top three. Are you (kidding) me? He does it every night. He’s like an everyday player. That’s even more reason. You cannot win without people like him.”
Oh, Buck. You. Epic. Fraud.
The voters? Hey, look, they’re fair game. No election process is ever perfect. (Ain’t that the truth.) But we all know that Showalter and the Orioles were involved in a riveting one-game playoff to start the baseball postseason. And in the most important game of the major league season to that point, Showalter caged Britton in his own bullpen while the Toronto Blue Jays advanced to the American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers.
So let’s repeat that: in the most important game of the year, with the fate of his entire organization on the line, Showalter elected to bypass a player that he deems to be not only a candidate for the Cy Young Award, but the Most Valuable Player Award, too.
Well correct me if I’m wrong, but that makes you the biggest dope in the room, Buck.
Or maybe you’re just now stumping for Britton because you have finally acknowledged the colossal error in judgment you made. And make no mistake: you screwed up worse than any voter did.
Let’s make something clear here: there was an argument to be made for Britton — a good one, in fact. Showalter just wasn’t the guy to make it after the managerial hack job of losing an elimination game without ever employing the man he now deems to be the Most Valuable Player Award winner. If Showalter wants to lambaste the voters, fine, so be it. But there’s no way he can do that without ultimately turning the attention on himself for completely whiffing at the biggest moment of Baltimore’s season.
Lest anyone forget, back in July, Showalter pitched Britton in the late innings (plural) of a tie game at … Toronto. And then he defended the decision. Showalter went so far as to thumb his nose at the infamous managerial “book,” stressing that “regardless of the score and what conventionality tells you, I’m putting my best pitcher out there on the field. Not gonna save him around for a close that may not happen.”
Unless, of course, the season happens to be on the line in October.
Look, nobody is here to defend the voters, who have had more than their share of screw-ups in history. The BBWAA is hardly a collection of MENSA candidates. But it sure feels like Showalter wants to condemn a group of voters for doing exactly what he did — and not what he said — in a game he absolutely, positively had to win.
But then, maybe rhetoric like that helps someone win an election, say for something like Manager of the Year.
Some people, it seems, will do anything to end up in the oval … er … manager’s office.
Tony Massarotti is an avid Boston sports fan and has covered sports in Boston for more than 15 years for both the Boston Herald and Boston Globe. He now serves as a co-host on afternoon drive on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. He was a two-time Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year as voted by his peers and has written four books, including “Big Papi,” the New York Times-bestselling memoirs of David Ortiz. You can follow Tony @tonymassarotti.