Can we all agree that we're ready to stop thinking about the 2011 baseball season and ready to start watching it?
We're ready to find out what the Yankees will do about their rotation and ready to see how the Manny Ramirez/Johnny Damon reunion goes down in Tampa. We're curious about what looks like a much improved Red Sox offense and a pitching staff that seems just as questionable as one in the Bronx. Most of all, though, we're ready to stop finding filler to kill time until the season starts.
The most recent entry comes from Buck Showalter, manager of the Baltimore Orioles. Showalter did an interview with Men's Health and decided to take some shots at two of the sacred cows of the division. He went after Theo Epstein first, calling into question whether or not the Red Sox G.M. is actually a personnel genius or just a guy blessed with a big enough payroll to go out and get the players that he wants.
"I'd like to see how smart Theo Epstein is with the Tampa Bay payroll," Showalter said. "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 butt. It's great, knowing those guys with the $205 million payroll are saying, 'How the hell are they beating us?'"
Yankee fans are probably quite pleased with their old manager for poking some holes in Epstein's reputation. Slow your roll, though, because he was just getting warmed up. Once his dander was up, Showalter took aim at the kid who started winning World Series rings the year after Big Stein sent Showalter packing.
"The first time we went to Yankee Stadium, I screamed at Derek Jeter from the dugout," Showalter said. "Our guys are thinking, ‘Wow, he’s screaming at Derek Jeter.’ Well, he’s always jumping back from balls just off the plate. I know how many calls that team gets – and yes, he [ticks] me off."
Bob Klapisch of the Record actually had the quotes over the weekend, but they took off to a wider audience on Wednesday and Thursday. They've now appeared in every daily in New York and Boston with a cameo in Tampa as well. Not sure what they think in Toronto, but if Showalter can't be bothered to slam them we can't be bothered to find out.
The reports on Showalter's thoughts claim that he is ripping two of the bigger stars of the American League East, but it doesn't really feel that way. It feels like he's working a couple of angles to burnish his own team as they prepare for a 162 game season as decided underdogs once again.
He wants his team to feel like they can beat anybody and that they can compete with payrolls twice as big as their own. No matter how he frames the Jeter story, it seems clear that Showalter's real problem is with umpires who consider the Yankees and star players to be worthier of calls than the Orioles. That he also finds a way to throw in something about his players realizing that it is okay to yell at Jeter just feeds the other intention.
Showalter has won everywhere he's been and he's done it with teams that weren't winning much before he got there. Part of that is almost certainly a willingness to upset the status quo. Nowhere will that be more important than in Baltimore because they are playing in a killer division that features three of the better clubs in all of baseball.
That doesn't make what he said any worthier of headlines, but let's at least get the headlines straight if we're going to make a big deal about it.