By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Buck Showalter is, without a doubt, a baseball man. Some may even say a great baseball man. Hey, you could even call him The Baseball Man™. He played baseball, and he’s managed baseball for more than 30 years.
His credentials are well-established.
So why does he often feel the need to preen his neck and inform the world that it smells like lilies when he cuts the cheese?
The latest example came Monday night at Fenway Park, where the Red Sox were largely returning to health after multiple flu bugs swept through the clubhouse and ravaged the roster. Considering the illness has taken Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez out of regular-season games, has forced Mitch Moreland home early from spring training, sent Robbie Ross Jr. to the disabled list and even forced broadcaster Dave O’Brien out of the booth, it’s gotten some attention.
But Buck? Ol’ Bucky Showalter? He doesn’t want to hear about it.
“I don’t know where we are with the flu today. I haven’t gotten updated by [head athletic trainer Richie Bancells]. Everybody in the league has had that issue. I’ve had it and it’s a different strain, I’ll tell you. It lingers for a long time. Some of them seem to be a little more noteworthy, it seems like, but our guys have fought their way through it. I know we’ve got a lot of guys that aren’t 100 percent with it, but so do a lot of clubs. So nobody really wants to hear somebody else complain about it. Our guys have done a good job not broadcasting it to the world.”
Jeez, man. In internet parlance, I have to say:
It wasn’t even a one-line thing. It was a slow-build, a crescendo, to the epic finale of wagging his finger at any team that chooses to “broadcast” its flu bug to the world.
Everybody’s had it … seems like some are more noteworthy than others … AT LEAST IT SEEMS THAT WAY. Nobody wants to hear about it and … TELLING PEOPLE YOU’RE SICK IS BAD. (Also my team is sick, too.)
Strange, really — especially when you consider that the Red Sox kind of had to broadcast their illnesses to the world. Otherwise, John Farrell’s daily chats with the media might be a bit strange.
Reporter: John, Mookie Betts is 24 years old, finished second in the MVP voting last year and is your best player. We couldn’t help but notice you haven’t inserted him in your starting lineup for the past couple of days. Care to explain why?
Farrell: Well, I would love to, dear reporter, but I am a man of principle, and I know that The Baseball Man™ will not approve of my disclosing this reason, so I will just say that Mookie needs a few days of rest after that 12-inning game last week.
Reporter: Okaaaaay. Well, we also noticed that Hanley Ramirez, your $22 million designated hitter, doesn’t even appear to be here. Did he get traded? Did he quit baseball forever?
Farrell: Hanley’s at home.
Reporter: … doing … ?
Farrell: Doing stuff. He’s at home doing stuff.
I don’t think Farrell was calling for the baseball world to throw a pity party for the Boston Red Sox when he told the public that these players were sick. It was more that he had to explain the absences of some key members of his team.
Could he have kept it in house that Andrew Benintendi was upchucking between innings one game? Yeah, probably, but it spoke to the level at which the bug had attacked the clubhouse. It ultimately isn’t really a problem — unless you’re The Baseball Man™. Then it’s a big problem.
Of course, The Baseball Man™ is somebody that doesn’t mind being considered the smartest guy in the room. In fact, Men’s Journal once wrote a story about him in which he explained how smart he is. It was titled, “Is This Man Too Smart for Baseball?”
(The lede may or may not state that Bobby Valentine was a brilliant baseball mind, too, but The Baseball Man™ would prefer that we not broadcast that part to the world.)
“I’d like to see how smart Theo Epstein is with the Tampa Bay payroll,” Showalter said of the man who was Boston’s GM at the time. “You got Carl Crawford ’cause you paid more than anyone else, and that’s what makes you smarter? That’s why I like whipping their asses: It’s great, knowing those guys with the $205 million payroll are saying, ‘How the hell are they beating us?'”
Showalter’s actually done quite well vs. the Red Sox in his tenure as O’s manager, going 65-54 vs. Boston. But the Red Sox have also won a World Series in that time; the Orioles own a 6-8 postseason record. Epstein — whom The Baseball Man™ determined to be not as smart as everyone believes — went on and won a World Series with the Cubs — the Cubs! — after starting, basically, from scratch with his organizational roster.
(Hey, speaking of postseason baseball, Showalter has also stopped inspiring articles titled “Is This Man Too Smart For Baseball?” and has instead inspired stories titled “Why Buck Showalter made the stupidest managerial decision I’ve ever seen.” True story!)
I don’t know. Seems like Theo is pretty smart, to me. But I’m not The Baseball Man™, the decider of what is and isn’t allowed in baseball, and the man who determines who is and who is not smart in baseball.
But … oh no, Buck … oh no. The internet … it … it never forgets, Buck. Oh dear.
Roll the tape! From July 20, 2016:
The Orioles just can’t catch a break, but it appears they can catch the flu, however.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter has been stung by the same flu bug infecting his players, and sat out Wednesday’s game against the Yankees. Bench coach John Russell took over for Showalter.
Third baseman Manny Machado and first baseman Chris Davis — who have a combined 41 home runs this season — also were sidelined with the flu.
The news media … reporting on … the Orioles having the flu?
Frankly, Buck should have sucked it up and gone to work. Nobody wants to hear about his flu bug.
But Russell provided details: “Buck’s been texting back and forth with me a little bit when he’s able to not be in the bathroom. It’s a tough one. It’s a pretty good virus that’s hitting some of our guys, and it’s knocking them out.”
One more time, for emphasis: “Buck’s been texting back and forth with me a little bit when he’s able to not be in the bathroom.”
Buck would probably tell you that in that hotel bathroom, it smelled like fresh roses.