By Bob Elliott
BALTIMORE _ Buck Showalter nibbled at his meal alternating between watching the action on the three flat screen TVs mounted on the wall in his office.
“I’d pick ‘em to win,” said the Baltimore Orioles manager.
He was not speaking of any of the six teams on the TVs.
No, he spoke of the newly-crowned American League East champion ... the Toronto Blue Jays.
A year ago the Jays watched the Orioles celebrate clinching the AL East at Camden Yards and the O’s watched as Toronto clinched its sixth title in franchise history Wednesday in the opener of the doubleheader.
The Jays flew out of Baltimore after a 6-4 loss headed for the season-ending, weekend series at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg Thursday night. But not before Showalter made the walk to the Jays clubhouse to offer congratulations and wish Jays management good luck in the post season.
“Toronto is like the little engine that could -- except they’re a big engine,” he said. “They play with a chip on their shoulder.”
Showalter said he had plenty of friends in the visiting clubhouse: manager John Gibbons (“I like him a lot”), bench coach DeMarlo Hale, who coached under Showalter for five seasons, four with the Texas Rangers and one with the Orioles, pro scouting director Perry Minasian, who began with the Rangers and R.A. Dickey, who Showalter helped convert into a knuckleballer with the Rangers.
Showalter said it was a struggle initially as Dickey learned the knuckleball. Said Dickey: “He’s been in my corner for a long time.”
Home run leader Chris Davis went deep twice Wednesday in the Orioles 8-1 win in the nitecap of the doubleheader. The man who went deep off Ryan Tepera and Steve Delabar giving him 45 on the season said the Jays deserved to represent the AL East.
“It’s tough to see another team accomplish what we did last year on our own turf,” Davis told reporters. “It’s tough to watch the sheer joy and excitement of winning something you strived to do as a team.”
Davis is headed for free agency and isn’t expected back with Baltimore.
“They have a great team, they’re good enough to win the World Series,” Davis said. “I may have a bias towards our division. It’s a tough division, the AL East is always a grind. They were strong coming out of spring training with a high ceiling.
“I thought they were a good team before the all-star break, but they became a complete team when they changed shortstops, added a No. 1, a left fielder and bulked up the bullpen. They deserve to advance.”
General manager Alex Anthopoulos received a ninth inning chant from Jays fans “Thank you Alex! Thank you Alex!” behind the dugout in the clincher. He and his assistants Andrew Tinnish, Tony LaCava, Dana Brown, Minasian and others made the deadline deals to bring Troy Tulowitzki, LaTroy Hawkins, David Price, Ben Revere, Mark Lowe and Chad Pennington to Toronto.
Anthopoulos heard the cheers of the fans at Camden Yards but he says he has yet to hear from Rogers Communications on whether he’ll be retained next year or what his role will be under incoming president Mark Shapiro.
Orioles catcher Matt Wieters wouldn’t go as far as Showalter or Davis and pick the Jays to win the Series.
“That’s a great team over there with a tough lineup,” Wieters said, “but like we found out last year in the second round against Kansas City ... it’s a case of whomever gets hot. The Royals got hot.”
The Orioles swept the Detroit Tigers beating David Price in Game 3 in the ALDS, but were swept by KC in the best-of-seven ALCS.
“They had some real nice additions, they improved,” Wieters said. “At some point a team has to step forward to win this division. This year they were the team.”
Showalter also had praise for Jays Luis Rivera, saying the AL East is the toughest division to coach third what with the short left field at Fenway Park, the short right at Yankee Stadium and two turf fields.
“Brian Butterfield does a good job with Boston, I’ve seen him go into fair territory on a ball into the left field corner to get a look because the seats are so close, our guy Bobby Dickerson does a great job and so does Rivera,” said Showalter.
Showalter is a seasoned skipper having won manager of the year honors every 10 years like clockwork in 1994 with the New York Yankees, in 2004 with the Texas Rangers and last year with the Orioles. He has managed 2,580 games and is as close and you can to this era’s Whitey Herzog or Sparky Anderson.
“Toronto has it going on with their club pretty good right now,” Showalter said. “They made some really good additions which bettered the chemistry of the club and changed the karma.”