Is This Man Too Smart for Baseball?
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In his years of soft exile after Texas fired him, Showalter worked for ESPN, classing up the dais on Baseball Tonight and rarely tempering his sometimes-withering critiques. It surely burned him to trade opinions with dopes like John Kruk while managing jobs went begging in prime markets, but Showalter wouldn't bite when I raised the question. "A couple of teams called to kind of kick my tires, but the fit wasn't right either way," he said. Nor was he disposed to take my bait when asked how it felt to fix three teams, then watch them go to the Series with someone else. "If that's my epitaph, I'm OK. I think Joe Torre was the perfect guy to take the Yanks to the next level. I consider all those guys my friends."

Really? Even Bob Brenly, who replaced him in Arizona and won the World Series his first year? Didn't he take the rule book Showalter wrote and toss it into the garbage in front of the players?

"He did that to promote himself, and probably pissed a lot of people off," said Showalter. Moreover, he clarified, it was a manual, not a rule book, that was trashed. "I've never had a set of rules. I take the senior players and go, 'You make the rules – but when you leave here, they're your rules.'"

But his tough sangfroid had chipped a bit, a spider-crack in the ice. And if it happens with Baltimore, too, I persisted, that they go on and win without you?

He began by saying that Orioles' owner Peter Angelos had been gracious and supportive thus far, even offering to spend on big-ticket stars. Then he paused and, after a moment's reflection, said, "Look, I'm at a state now where I'm not naive. I lost that when I left New York. To this day, that breaks my heart."

And here I recalled that parting in '95, after he'd taken the bedraggled Yanks from worst to first. He'd just lost an indelible playoffs to Seattle on a game-five, walk-off double, and stood in the dugout, scribbling notes, as the Mariners and their fans went bonkers. Later, when the Boss barged into his office, presumably to skin his hide, he found the skipper slumped over the desk, sobbing into his hands. Quietly, Steinbrenner slunk from the room while Showalter wept for a half hour. A man can only stand so much, said those tears; he needs to see a return on all his labors. No one in baseball has worked harder than Showalter and gotten less back for his toil. It'd be something other than human not to wish him luck on his last push up the mountain.