William “Buck” Showalter has a proven reputation as a program builder. As the Yankees manager from 1992-95, he was instrumental in building the foundation for the franchise’s four World Series titles between 1996 and 2000. He guided the Arizona Diamondbacks to 100 wins in 1999 and won American League Manager of the Year awards in 1994, 2004 and 2014 with the Yankees, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles respectively.
Now Mets owner Steve Cohen has turned to Showalter to provide the team with the acumen and stability to steer them back to prominence. On Tuesday, the 65-year-old former analyst for ESPN and the YES Network was introduced as the club’s new manager, succeeding Luis Rojas who was fired in October after two straight losing seasons.
“Steve continues to eliminate excuses for things that we might have for things we can’t do,” Showalter said of the Long Island native Cohen, a lifelong Mets fan who purchased the team for $2.4 billion in November of 2020.
Showalter has the third most managerial wins in history without capturing a World Series title. Only the Houston Astros’ Dusty Baker has more victories (1,987) without a World Series championship on his resume. The similarities run deeper. Cohen has followed an example set by the Astros and Chicago White Sox in hiring older, veteran managers whose managerial skills were shaped predating the new age of analytics.
The Astros hired the 72-year-Baker in January of 2020 following the termination of their previous manager A.J. Hinch, who was a principal figure in the team’s sign-stealing scandal that shook Major League Baseball. Baker took the Astros to the AL Championship Series in 2020, falling to the Tampa Bay Rays, and the World Series this past season, losing to the Atlanta Braves.
The White Sox brought back 77-year-old Tony La Russa in October of 2020, 34 years after he managed them from 1979-1986. The 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee is second on MLB’s all-time wins list with 2,821 and is a three-time World Series champion, garnering titles with the Oakland A’s in 1989, and the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006 and 2011. La Russa immediately put his imprint on the White Sox as they won the AL Central Division last season.
After acquiring All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor last January in a trade with the Cleveland Indians and signing him to a franchise record 10-year, $341 million deal, then adding free-agent pitcher and future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer, outfielders Starling Marte and Mark Canha, and infielder Eduardo Escobar over the past month, Cohen, the richest owner in baseball, has provided new GM Billy Eppler, who was hired in November, and Showalter the talent to be a World Series contender. MLB is in the midst of a labor dispute and work stoppage caused by an owners-imposed lockout which is now in its third week. The league’s collective bargaining agreement expired on Dec. 2.
The Mets have not made the playoffs since 2017, last played in the World Series in 2015 and haven’t claimed a World Series championship since 1986. Showalter said the Mets’ objective “isn’t to be competitive or try to win more games than you lose. It’s to be the last team standing.”