For Buck Showalter, Mariners represent everything that could have been

Buck Showalter carried a fungo bat as he walked towards the dugout with an urgent step and a do not disturb look in his eyes that would lead him to another meeting ahead of another series.

Yes, it was just another game with an American League team at a National League park on a foggy May Friday night and ultimately a pretty meaningless 2-1 loss, even with Max Scherzer on the mound. The Mets still dominate their division and are still the only team in baseball to have lost a series.

But for their leader, Seattle can never really be a nondescript team on the other side of the field. In another time and place in New York, the Mariners were the adversaries who changed Buck Showalter’s life.

So after he stopped and claimed he wasn’t thinking much about the epic best-of-five AL Division series his Yankees lost to the Mariners in 1995, on the series’ opening day (and after winning the catcher) not having enough time to reflect on a long-ago playoff loss James McCann (due to injury) was overwhelmed by memories. Had his Yankees won Game 5 at the Kingdome and been promoted to the ALCS, Showalter might not have been forced out of his job by George Steinbrenner.

Showalter may have won two or three of those four championships that his successor, Joe Torre, won over the next five years.

“It broke my heart; believe me, I didn’t want to leave,” the Mets manager told the Post. “I was there 19 years, but I remembered one thing my father said to me over the years He said to me, ‘There’s going to come a time in your life when you have to put your feet up and take a stand, and it’s going to be really painful.’ ”

Buck Showalter, right, and George Steinbrenner
Buck Showalter, right, and George Steinbrenner

Showalter made this painful stand on behalf of some coaches Steinbrenner wanted removed. The Yankees’ owner offered his manager a two-year return deal, but the deal was conditional on the firing of those Showalter loyalists, including Glenn Sherlock, now the Mets’ bench coach.

Buck had no intention of sacrificing his friends to keep his dream job.

“I remember my wife saying, ‘What are you doing? Are you sure?’ ‘ Showalter recalled. “We had nothing. I said, ‘Hey, were we happy when I was manager at Albany? Did we pay the bills? Have we broken even?’ I refereed six nights a week and said, ‘We’re going to be okay.’ ”

Sherlock followed Showalter to Arizona to work for expansion Diamondbacks, which only entered the field in 1998. He also left Pittsburgh four months ago to follow Showalter again, this time to Queens. Sherlock first worked for Showalter in the Yankees system in 1989 as a player/coach in Albany. As he finished throwing practice on Friday, Sherlock recalled wanting to learn from a master strategist whose mastery of the basics earned players respect.

“Buck is always thinking about the players’ perspective and what’s best for them,” Sherlock said. “Even in spring training, when we’re setting the schedule, he’s thinking about how best to rotate and what’s best for the players as we move from field to field.

“He always pays attention to details and is very defense oriented. …When we were in Washington [on Thursday] and we have these two outs on third base, Buck says to me right away, ‘What was it that impressed you most about that game?’ And I know he’s considering Starling Marte backing the play. … That’s important to Buck, and because it’s important to him, it’s important to our players.”

Buck Showalter
Buck Showalter

Sherlock said his boss is separating himself from the majority of his peers on that particular side of the ball.

“A lot of the teams I’ve been on have a designated coach who runs the team’s defense,” he said. “In our situation, Buck controls the entire team defense. He’s on the field, he’s directing it. I think the players see that and they know he knows where they are supposed to be at all times and that rubs off on them.”

All these years later, after things ended badly in the Bronx, Sherlock said it “meant a lot that Buck had our backs” when Steinbrenner called for change.

“That he’s back in New York and winning [a championship] To come full circle, that would be incredible,” said Sherlock. “I don’t think there’s a better way to write it, and that’s what we all strive for.”

The Showalter Yankees were stripped of their title opportunity in 1994 when the World Series was canceled due to labor disputes. The following year, he led the Yankees to their first postseason appearance in 14 years, only to be rejected by a Seattle team that included Joe Cora, now his third base coach, who homered and the winning rally started in the 11th inning in Game 5.

“His name at the time was Joey Blankin’ Cora,” Showalter said Friday. “He reminds me all the time, so I had him show it once in the spring just to make him feel good.

“But what I took away the most from this series was the fact that people said it rekindled their love for the game. This is a proud moment for me. I’m trying to address that.”

Especially with the Mariners in town reminding Showalter of what could have been. For Buck Showalter, Mariners represent everything that could have been


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