Buck Showalter took over the Baltimore Orioles in August last season, and promptly turned a 32-73 team into a squad that finished the year 34-23, the best record during that span in the American League East. If those two months weren't enough of warning to the AL East's big boys, Showalter is making sure the message is getting through this offseason.
In the April issue of Men's Journal, Showalter shared his thoughts on the division's top two teams, firing shots at the New York Yankees' Derek Jeter and the Boston Red Sox' Theo Epstein.
"The first time we went to Yankee Stadium, I screamed at Derek Jeter from the dugout," Showalter told the magazine. "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."
Then he "ripped" Theo.
"I'd like to see how smart Theo Epstein is with the Tampa Bay payroll," he 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?' "
The obvious retort to Showalter here is to point out that he was once the manager of the high-spending Yankees, from 1992-1995. But that's a bit unfair -- in only one of those seasons did New York have baseball's highest payroll: 1994 (which, granted, also happened to be the one season that the Showalter-led Yankees won the division, with an at-the-time MLB-high team payroll of $44.7 million). In fact, in 1992, the Red Sox had a bigger team salary than the Yankees. For the record, Epstein declined response via email.
But perhaps an even better defense for Theo comes from SB Nation's Rob Neyer, who reminds that the Red Sox' GM faces constant pressure with the large payroll, because it means he has to win.
My guess is that if Theo Epstein had been running the Rays these last five years, they would have been pretty good. Maybe not quite as good as they've been, if only because it's hard to imagine them being better than they've been. But pretty good. And I suspect that if the men running the Rays had instead been running the Red Sox, the Red Sox would have done about as well as they've actually done.