BY BRIAN REID, @bshupresident
Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter needed to change when he came to Baltimore. Rumors of Showalter’s strict disciplinary ways with players dogged him for years, even though many were untrue.
In a story done by USA Today's columnist Bob Nightengale, Showalter noted he heard rumors and perceptions about himself while he was pursuing a managerial job with the Kansas City Royals in 2002.
Showalter also carries the weight of knowing that both the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks won the World Series the season following his dismissal. Perhaps for these reasons, Showalter felt he needed to more publicly display his support for his players. Thus, the phrase, “I like our guys,” was born when Showalter was asked about trading a player or two away at the trade deadline.
Many fans, myself included, loved the phrase and took to it immediately. T-shirts and posters were not far behind. It became the rallying cry during the 2014 season as the team pushed for their first AL East crown in 17 years. When the Orioles achieved that goal, the quote took on an almost hallowed quality that it did not possess previously. “Our guys” proved baseball statisticians and national experts wrong when they won that division crown, and we, the fans, really liked them.
Two and a half years later, that quote remains with the Orioles. Fans still have the Charm City chip on their shoulders, and “I like our guys” has taken on a new meaning: “Keep our guys at all costs.” The new meaning is mostly clearly evidenced by widespread fan support for the Orioles to re-sign catcher Matt Wieters, despite two major facts. First, the Orioles already have a solid starting catcher in Welington Castillo, and second, they boast a glaring lack of depth in both starting pitching and the outfield.
The quote also came up when Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo became free agents after the 2015 and 2016 seasons, respectively. Fans desperately wanted to keep "our guys" together, no matter the cost. Now, I like Davis and Trumbo, but would I have rather the Orioles offered a large contract to say, Edwin Encarnacion? The answer is yes, of course. Trumbo is a one-trick pony whose other talents include striking out and an inability to play the field. Encarnacion had a better average, on-base percentage, and OPS, along with fewer strikeouts and more RBIs than Trumbo. However, since Trumbo is one of “our guys,” the support for his return was much larger than the support for the addition of Encarnacion, even though the latter is clearly the better player.
The other problem with overzealous support of “I like our guys” is the complete opposition many fans harbor towards trading anyone on the 25-man roster. The Orioles’ window for success is closing fast, if it has not closed already. If the Orioles cannot extend Machado, Tillman, and other key players, it makes sense to trade them to rebuild the farm system instead of allowing them to reach the open market and get nothing in return. The Orioles are rapidly approaching a point where they need to go all in or fold. As fans, we have to understand this and be more rational when it comes to trading our players.
The point is that as fans, we must be open to new guys on our roster. We must also be open to trading some of "our guys" to improve the team and/or its future. We should support Castillo and our other new acquisitions, rather than demand Wieters’ return. “I like our guys” means rooting for whomever steps onto the field in an Orioles’ uniform that day, whether it be Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, or Ubaldo Jimenez. Losing one player will not affect the team overall too much, assuming the player is replaced by someone equally capable (or in the case of Wieters/Castillo, someone who may even possibly be better). Though players may come and go, we can all take heart in the knowledge that Showalter will keep the Orioles on the right path.