Duties call for Showalter's expertise
Senior advisor to baseball operations has freedom, to-do list
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Buck Showalter is still figuring out what it means to be a "senior advisor to baseball operations."Sure, the title is impressive, and Showalter has worn it proudly here in the dog days of Spring Training. But when camp breaks, what, exactly, will Showalter's role with the Indians be? "I asked [general manager] Mark [Shapiro] what I should do at the end of Spring Training," Showalter said. "He said, 'Go home.'" That doesn't mean Showalter's duties with the Indians are complete. But he will be given the freedom to spend more time with his family, which includes wife, Angela, and kids, Alex, 20, and Nathan, 15. It's freedom the 50-year-old Showalter didn't necessarily get to enjoy during his days as the manager of the Yankees, Diamondbacks and Rangers. Still, the pull of baseball is a powerful one, and Showalter hopes to stay busy in the season ahead. Armed with a Shapiro-provided list of players to evaluate, he'll make visits to the Minor League affiliates, and he'll also join special assistant to the GM Neal Huntington in scouting out Spring Training complexes in Arizona to gather ideas for the Tribe's project in Goodyear. "I was in New York when their Tampa site was built, and I was in Arizona when their Tucson complex was built," he said. "So I'll give some insight and some examples of stuff that works and doesn't work and things I would have done differently." The Indians brought Showalter aboard for a different perspective on their organizational procedures. Some will label him a manager-in-waiting if Eric Wedge finds himself on the hot seat; others will believe the adamant claims of the front office and Showalter that he's not here for such an ulterior motive. Whatever the case, his only job, for now, is to be a sounding board for Shapiro, Wedge and their respective staffs. The work of those staffs in camp has genuinely impressed Showalter, who has seen the good, the bad and the ugly, when it comes to running a ballclub.
"These are great, great people and a great organization," Showalter said. "To think you can contribute is challenging, because they're ahead on a lot of things that challenge organizations. They're on top of it. They're proactive, instead of reactive."Showalter pointed to the Cliff Lee injury as an example. At the first sign of the abdominal strain Lee is suffering through, the Indians were lining up their depth starting alternatives and figuring out how best to prepare them for Opening Day. "They never talk about failure," Showalter said, "and the players feed off that." Without naming names or teams, Showalter said he's seen other Spring Training clubhouses where veteran players feed prospects to the wolves. That is, refreshingly, not the case at Chain of Lakes Park, he said. "If you have 'Cleveland' across your chest, [the veterans] want to make it easier for you," he said. "They view [the youngsters] as part of the solution. You don't see that all the time. There are no egos and there's a real singleness of purpose." As for his own purpose, Showalter doesn't seem overly anxious to get back into managing. While it might fly in the face of his reputation in some baseball circles as being something of a control freak, he said he's content to let any such opportunity find its way to him. Showalter said he won't throw a pity party for himself if his managing days, which saw him compile a record of 882-833 (.514) with a pair of American League Manager of the Year Awards in 1994 and 2004, are over. "I was lucky," he said. "I came from the smallest public high school in the state of Florida and went from having 45 people in my graduating class to managing the Yankees and two other teams. I don't feel like I got [ripped off]. I was lucky."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.