With the MLB season entering the final weeks of the regular season, former Yankees manager Buck Showalter takes a spin in some questions and answers with Post reporter Steve Serby.
Q: How would you compare Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez as potential customers?
A: Derek had the ability to always dial in what the situation required. If he sacrificed a contact, he probably would have scored more home runs than he’d finished, but it wouldn’t have been Derek. He stayed on top of his body, never let it slip away. It is difficult to do. I had Alex in Texas … this guy was a man who played with kids at that point. Everyone was talking about that contract in Texas at the time, but if you look at it statistically, it lived up to the contract.
Q: Your reaction when A-Rod moved from shortstop to third with the Yankees.
A: For Derek Jeter? Yeah. It wouldn̵
You should have seen what else we could have achieved in that trade.
A: Robinson Cano. He was on the list of guys we could choose from. The Yankees did a great job of disguising it.
A: We had a group of about five players to choose from. And we could get someone for [Jose] Reyes, we could have ended up with Reyes and Cano in that deal.
D: You preferred [Alfonso] Soriano on Cano?
A: No, no, no. We had Soriano, there was a player [Joaquin Arias] to be named later. … When you have these players, and you go around looking at them, and you know one of them, they keep you from seeing him a lot, and they might not have a jersey number on him, or a name on the back. It suggests who they are trying to stop you from taking.
Q: When you had Don Mattingly, did you think he might one day become a manager?
A: You don’t go into it looking at it like that, but it doesn’t surprise you at all. Donnie – very cerebral, had great human abilities. It was like E.F. Hutton. Donnie has such a pure heart that players quickly see him. There is no self-promotion, nothing look at me. I still talk to him and he’s the same Donnie I knew in Nashville. I was with him at a basketball game, one of his sons was playing in college. It was as if we were back to eat at the all-you-can-eat buffet on the street.
He probably could have continued playing with his back, but without going into many reasons, his kids needed him at home, and that’s what he did. That conversation on the plane back from Seattle when he told us in advance he wasn’t coming back – we were able to pick up Tino Martinez before the whole world knew Mattingly wasn’t going to play.
Q: How was the flight back after the Seattle defeat (Game 5 ALDS)?
A: I don’t wish it to anyone. It has been a long journey. I wouldn’t want anyone to land in daylight and take that bus ride to Yankee Stadium and remember how you left Yankee Stadium with [Jim] Leyritz’s home run, and then come back.
Q: What allowed you to stay focused as you worked for George Steinbrenner in the New York market?
A: I’ve been with the Yankees for 19 years and have seen a lot of things come and go. I knew the job description. And n. 1, Yankee fans didn’t want to hear you complain about anything regarding Mr. Steinbrenner or anything. He would have been involved and wanted to win as much as I did. And I learned along the way that if you didn’t stand up for what you thought was right, you wouldn’t be around very long. And if you were wrong, you would take the Dixie Highway. We banged our heads along the way, but I was lucky we did [GM] Stick [Michael], which was a great buffer and gave me great confidence. About five days in the camp, he’d been around every drill, because he thought I was probably a little young. One morning he walked into my office and said, “Hey, you can do this. You got it right. “He turned and walked away. His way of telling me,” It may not have been my first choice, but it will work. “You had to be ready for anything and there were some things you couldn’t win, regardless of How right I was. Knowing what to fight and what not to fight. Stick would say, “It’s wrong, but we’re not going to fight it. It will not stop us from winning. “
Q: What impresses you about the day you were hired as manager of the Yankees?
A: My wife and I were in a clandestine downtown hotel – I don’t know if it was supposed to be a surprise or something. I remember arriving in town with a fictitious name. I remember my wife [chuckle] watching me say, “What are we doing here?”
Q: What was the fictional name?
A: I don’t even remember. I should know.
Q: What do you remember from the press conference?
A: We were getting back in the car after it was all over, I said, “How did it go, what do you think?” He said, “Damn, where did it come from?” I said, “This is what a one-year contract will do for you. You get overly cautious or say,” Hell, I’m trying. “I took the route of” Hell, I’m in. “The challenge would have been to leave. that those young players were going through growing pains without Mr. Steinbrenner getting completely angry and wanting to get rid of them. Mr. Steinbrenner was suspended, which really helped us stay with Bernie Williams, the Jeters, the Posada, the Pettittes and the Riveras. .. gave us the opportunity to grow and develop these guys, so to speak.
Q: As a manager, what would you not tolerate?
A: I think someone who doesn’t care what their teammates think. You will have some problems. And it’s the same as saying you don’t care what the fans think. There must be sincerity in their efforts.
Q: Was there a manager you liked to combine ingenuity with?
A: I’m not saying if it was a [Jim] Leyland or a Sparky [Anderson] or a [Tony] La Russa. It wasn’t easy or you liked it, you just knew they had seen the game and you had to counter what they saw. They saw the game within the game, but you knowing they saw it, you were able to counter it.
If I had to walk into the baseball field and watch a thing for a day to tell me about a manager, I’d look at the bullpen. No drama, there is some efficiency, the guys are ready when they should be but they don’t throw for 20 minutes early [if] they don’t enter a game. Steve Howe gave me a great lesson years ago. I hated raising a guy and not letting him in the game. So I go back to the hotel that night, I was getting ready to go to bed, it’s about one in the morning, I hear this noise. I looked at the room list and it’s Steve Howe’s room. So the next day I’m passing by and I say, “Steve, how are you sleeping? Are you okay?” He says, “Well, you asked, here’s the deal – you can’t get up and not put me on the line.”
D: The young Mariano Rivera.
A: His speed had increased. The hitters were telling you this guy had a chance to be special. And then he didn’t have a cutter. He had that throwback action on his fastball, that late life in the zone. You never felt like he was throwing the ball to the glove, you felt like he was throwing it through the glove. At first you thought that due to the lack of a shattered ball, it would probably end up in the bullpen, and everything would be fine. He had a great delivery, that’s what people miss about him. He had real problems with his elbow, I remember for a year, he was playing ball in the back fields of spring training with Whitey Ford and Ron Guidry. I remember they would come in and almost freeze their hand because they could never catch the ball in the glove tape with this guy, they said as much as they tried, the ball was always old and they could never catch it where it was it didn’t hurt. I had him in the Instructional League, and he was our best central defender.
D: Young Bernie Williams.
A: Well, you wouldn’t think Bernie would have the personality to play in New York. His mother and father did a great job with him. Bernie recognized right from wrong. Bernie didn’t want to change his shot, but he worked his way through it.
D: Paul O’Neill was the opposite personality.
A: Paul was such a determined guy. He pursued perfection every day. It was very important to get Paul off well, he didn’t hit the left throw when we first caught him, so we called him into the squad at the beginning. Boy, was he mad at me for it! I tried to tell him that: “It’s very important right after the [Roberto Kelly] exchange that starts well here in New York. “
Q: The day you resigned because you refused to sacrifice most of your coaching staff.
A: Until now when I see a manager giving up on a coach who knows how to be good just to save his ass, I never understood it, because you lose so much trust and credibility in the locker room with the players. So, to me, from my father – he said that at some point you will have to plant your feet and take a stand, you will know when that is. It was really painful.
Q: The Boss will ask you to come back not long after.
A: I shook hands with [Diamondbacks owner] Jerry Colangelo on a deal when I was out there, so when I did, the way I was brought up, it was over. It worked well for everyone. Everyone got to see how good a manager Joe is [Torre] era. Joe played a good hand well, and it’s really hard to make.
D: Jacob deGrom and Gerrit Cole.
A: The hardest thing for a team to do in sports is to win when you are expected to win, that’s why guys like it. [Bill] Parcells and [Bill] Belichick and [Nick] I admire Saban so much because the ability to maintain a level of excellence when it is expected. … Cole and deGrom don’t take a day off, they embrace expectations. Every game is like the first Little League game, that youthful exuberance that they compete with whenever they’re out there.
Q: Can the Yankees win a World Series without Aaron Judge?
A: Yes. If you say the sky is falling because a guy is out, then you haven’t built a very good mindset in your club.
NRAMA: What would you tell the Yankees fans who are pulling their hair right now?
A: It’s an unconventional season, so unconventional things are happening. I’ll say this – I think the last two weeks of the season bode well for them as they should be at their best.
Q: When I think of a Buck Showalter player, DJ LeMahieu comes to mind.
A: Bring that pro joke, that, “OK, what’s the team to do? They need me to shoot a ball the other way, they need me to hit a home run.” Aaron [Judge] can do that too, this ain’t a hit on him, it’s just that I saw this guy the first year they got him … the versatility it gives to Aaron [Boone] to “Where do you need me to play today, first base, second base, third base? What do you need me to do?” Don’t waste bats. And he’s never comfortable with his success. As a manager when you say, “OK, here’s a guy I can trust, let me put him in the bucket of trust.” Look what I do, not what I say. They don’t have to worry about what they say, they just show it to you. It has a real sincere game. There is no stage in the game that he is not good at.
Q: Your approach is similar to Mattingly’s, right?
A: Yes, there is no ego in his bats. If the fence is 279 feet, I can hit a 371 ball. They don’t give you two runs to hit a 500 foot ball.
D: Gary Sanchez.
A: Pitchers need to know that even if you’re fighting offensively, the most important thing that day is those 120 fingers you put down.
Q: Your Orioles controversy in the 2016 AL wild card game when you didn’t call Zack Britton and lost to the bottom of 11th in Toronto.
A: You just have to wear a few things, and I can sit here and tell you 10 things you may not know about that situation, but nobody wants to hear it. I am at peace with this.
D: Pete Alonso.
A: I love her body language, I love desire. Regardless of what it’s statistically doing, you can tell it’s grinding.
D: The Rays, and the rivalry now with the Yankees.
A: They know who I am. They know who they are not. When was the last time they had to swap or move a pitcher who came back to haunt them? There is a great moral in The Little Engine That Could, We-Against-the-World mentality. And some players know they will have a chance to thrive in that environment. People know their launch is good and people know they have a good farming system and they move players at the right time.
Q: Would you consider the Marlins Cinderellas for a World Series?
A: For me, with Donnie and Derek and the way they were doing things, it wasn’t a question of if, it was a question of when. They know the formula and you have to have the courage and fortitude to stick with the formula. The hard thing will be, can you support it?
Q: The biggest lesson you have learned from Billy Martin.
A: It gave me a lot of confidence at a young age. Everyone thought he was a guy with a hot temper, which he could be, and a cartoon character. When he left at 10:30 in the morning [spring training] sessions, it was something to watch. I remember he said, “Don’t let stats form your instinct, make sure a stat confirms your instincts.” … What your eyes tell you.
D: John Harbaugh.
A: It’s consistent, it’s sincere. John once asked me, “Hey, would you talk to the team?” When we’re done, I say, “John, who are you all playing this week anyway?” It says, “Oh the patriots.” “Oh, thank you, John. Could I have had a team that was 0-12 or something? “… What drives players crazy is the unknown. John never lets players have any uncertainties about how he will react to what situation, he doesn’t panic and they know he will be there for them behind the scenes. He knows a player. winning. Ozzie [Newsome] and he was a great team.
D: Bill Belichick.
A: Same thing. There are some absolutes they don’t stray from. But they listen. They allow players to be themselves. If you have a strong base and a strong core, you can take the guy who might be on the fence. They create strong peer pressure.
D: Bill Parcells.
A: There was absolutely nothing fake about him. Over the years he has put his head in the office and I have always loved talking to him. I was fascinated by his yards of positive and negative kicks, and Belichick was alike. … You see people who have been successful for so long, there is a reason why. … What was right for Harry Carson may not be right for Lawrence Taylor. Bill knew what was right for every guy.
D: Two guests for dinner.
A: My father and my mother.
D: Favorite movie.
D: Favorite actor.
A: Robert Duvall.
D: Favorite meal.
A: You can’t spoil the burger.
Q: I assume you want to manage again.
A: It doesn’t keep me awake, if it happens, that’s fine, otherwise I respect it and understand. Regardless of what happens, I am at peace with it. It is an honor to be involved in the game period.