It has been whispered that the Orioles should do something decidedly old-school and name manager Buck Showalter GM as well.
There hasn’t been a manager/GM since Bobby Cox went back on the field to replace Russ Nixon as Braves manager in 1990 and that didn’t last long as John Schuerholz was hired as GM after that season and Cox stayed on the field for…well, forever.
Jack McKeon was the GM/manager for the Padres in the late-1980s; Whitey Herzog did it for the Cardinals in the early 1980s.
It’s all but impossible to do both jobs correctly in today’s game of GM-rock stardom. There’s really no way Showalter could do it and maintain his sanity and/or health.
That said, there’s a way to go about it if the Orioles want to give Showalter final say in the direction of the franchise.
Herzog joined the Cardinals as manager in 1980; late in the season they fired GM John Clairborne and named Herzog GM as well. Completely out of contention, Herzog handed the managerial reins to Red Schoendienst for the rest of 1980. Herzog didn’t do both jobs simultaneously. That’s a good thing given Herzog’s penchant for saying whatever popped into his head without concern as to how it was framed or perceived (think J.P. Ricciardi to the tenth power); it would be a PR disaster in today’s game.
But he was able to find players and he’d do the same thing today.
Showalter can do it in a similar fashion if he steps off the field because he’s more tight-lipped and manipulative of the media than Herzog was. Herzog was a gruff, intimidating type; Showalter is more nuanced and calculating.
Herzog built the Cardinals for the spacious dimensions of Busch Stadium with improved speed by getting Lonnie Smith, and installing Tommy Herr at 2nd base; he shored up the defense and attitude by trading Garry Templeton for Ozzie Smith; traded for a defensive minded catcher, Darrell Porter; brought in pitchers who threw strikes like Joaquin Andujar; and got the game’s best closer in Bruce Sutter.
By 1982, the Cardinals were World Series champions and won two more pennants under Herzog in the next five years.
Could Showalter do that as GM?
The Orioles can hit, but their top-to-bottom pitching is so awful that they’re going to have to consider trading some of their young bats Nick Markakis or Adam Jones to find some arms. Those arms would have to strike people out or coax ground balls to mitigate the bandbox of Camden Yards; he needs to improve the bullpen and the infield defense.
Trading talented bats like Jones, Markakis and Matt Wieters are not easy decisions to make.
If someone is going to make that call, it has to be the man who’s entrusted with the future of the organization and is completely responsible for what happens, good or bad.
Showalter would have to stop managing for a time to do the GM job properly; he’d have to be given an autonomy that owner Peter Angelos might balk at providing, but if the Orioles are going to have Showalter give his approval to whom is hired as the new GM, it’s probably easier to let Showalter do it while the Orioles are rebuilding and then have him go back on the field when he has the players he wants.
That’s the only way it could work.