October 23, 2001

Doubly Cursed

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Now that the Diamondbacks are in the World Series and the Yankees are joining them, let’s look at the real victim of this matchup. No I’m not talking about the Twins, Cubs or Phillies. who had breakthrough seasons despite their front offices’ tight purse strings. I’m not thinking of the A’s, Mariners, Cardinals or Braves that were victimized through the playoff gauntlet. And no I’m not addressing those Yankee haters who would rather have bamboo shoots rammed up their fingernails than see George Steinbrenner steamroll over all competition.

Yes, I know this matchup is upsetting for many, but it will haunt one man more than any other as his worst nightmare comes true. That man is Buck Showalter.

He had a hard enough time after picking the Yankees out of mediocrity. When he came up through the Yankee farm system and inherited the club from Stump Merril in 1991, the Bombers had gone 71-91. In 1992, they did a little better at 76-86. He broke the .500 mark the following season and in 1994 could possibly have reached the playoffs — if not the Series — but the players were too greedy to finish out the year. Showalter was coach of the year for the abbreviated season. When baseball resumed he led them into the playoffs losing the Division series to Seattle.

Nonetheless, Showalter’s reign in the Big Apple wasn’t easy (especially with the Boss breathing down his neck). He left in 1996, after paving the way for his successor, Joe Torre, to began his run. And the Yankees became World Series Champions.

Showalter accepted the head managing position in Arizona for an expansion team that wouldn’t even play its first game for another two years. If that doesn’t make you feel sorry for the guy, read on.

He built the Diamondback franchise, which became the quickest expansion team to reach the playoffs. En route, Showalter acquired Randy Johnson, Luis Gonzalez and Steve Finley. Last year, the D’backs underachieved especially after shelling out big bucks for Schilling.

However in the wise words of Yogi Berra “It’s deja vu all over again.”

One year after his firing, Arizona makes it to the World Series.

Maybe getting one’s monkey off one’s back should be corrected to getting one’s Showalter off one’s back.

The guy is now relegated to designing minor league ballparks and being Peter Gammons’ lackey on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight.

The ’94 AL Coach of the Year is now best known in a blond pageboy wig parodying the Bad News Bears.

“Es su bandito,” he says as the TV screen fades to the Baseball Tonight moniker.

If he’s lucky, maybe it will air as Byung-Hyun Kim is coming out of the bullpen to pitch to Bernie Williams or Torre takes out Andy Pettitte in lieu of Mariano Rivera, all of whom played for Showalter at some time.

It wouldn’t be at all surprising if Showalter’s house in a week is a stop on Virgil’s personal tour for Dante.

It’s bad enough having a name like Buck, but isn’t it worse to be the answer to some seventh stretch Aflak Trivia Question: “Who spent seven years of his life cultivating talent for two baseball teams only to leave or be fired the year before they competed for the World Series?”

We can only hope that Buck will be designing the next minor league stadium, or taping another commercial when it airs.

Archived article by Amanda Angel