BALTIMORE -- When he clinched the 1,000th victory of his managerial career on May 1, Orioles skipper Buck Showalter glibly referred to himself as "a passing ship in the night," preferring to deflect the limelight onto his players.
2012 AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR VOTING
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But those within the clubhouse walls and the fans who packed Camden Yards -- proudly sporting "Buck Truck" and "Thanks, Buck" T-shirts -- knew better. Yes, as Showalter kept reminding reporters during the 2012 season, it was about his guys and their efforts on the field, an accountability he demanded in engineering a total turnaround in personnel and performance expectations.
On Tuesday night, Showalter couldn't help but be recognized for his efforts that lifted the Orioles into the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. Showalter finished second to Oakland's Bob Melvin for 2012 American League Manager of the Year honors, as voted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
"Now I know how Miss America [feels] when you are sitting on the stage," quipped Showalter, a two-time winner of the award who had MLB Network camera crews in his Texas home. "The only disappointment is for our fans and for the organization because it was such an organizational award and a team award.
"I would have voted for Bob, he was deserving and what a great year they had. We had to play those guys. Washington, too" -- referring to Davey Johnson of the Nationals winning NL Manager of the Year.
Melvin, 51, and Showalter, 56, were listed first or second on all 28 ballots cast by two writers in each AL city, resulting in the fourth-tightest AL Manager of the Year total in the award's history. Melvin received 16 first-place votes in scoring 116 points (based on the 5-3-1 tabulation system), while Showalter got 12 first-place votes and 16 for second place in totaling 108 points. They were the only managers named to every ballot.
Losing in a close race is foreign territory to Showalter, who masterfully used his bullpen to help the Orioles go 29-9 in one-run games. The O's were 25-14 in two-run games and 16-2 in extra-inning contests, winning their final 16 extra-innings games in the regular season en route to a 93-69 record and a Wild Card berth. .
"I think the manager can influence the record in a number of games, but it's the close games that I think really distinguish Buck," said Dan Duquette, executive vice president of baseball operations. "Buck has a history of helping teams turn around and it's his leadership that helped turn the Orioles around.
"Our fans became re-engaged with the team because we had a good team, but we were also able to win the close games which I think really got the attention of our fans. That's when they really got behind the team. They could see that our team could execute in close games. Games that we had been losing for years, we were now winning."
The Orioles used 52 different players on the Major League club, as Showalter and Duquette left no stone unturned in improving the club. Famous for his no-nonsense approach, Showalter -- at his fourth managerial stop -- has softened some in Baltimore, allowing table tennis in the clubhouse and taking part in good-natured ribbing and practical jokes, a balance that struck a chord with players.
"Buck is an organizational guy. You know he has pull, you know he's going to voice his opinion. His opinion is stern and he's respected around this game and in the clubhouse," Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said of Showalter, who led the team to a 24-game improvement in his second season. "But he let us play for ourselves. He let us govern ourselves. He told us the first day of Spring Training, he walked in and said, 'You make your own rules,' and walked out.
"The team meeting lasted like five minutes because we said, 'Look, let's police ourselves. He put it in our hands.'"
And the Orioles ran with it, ending a stretch of 14 consecutive losing seasons that resulted in the organization's first playoff game since 1997. The O's lost in the AL Division Series to the Yankees and are 196-185 in regular-season games under Showalter.
"I hadn't really looked at it much but I was listening to some of the stuff [on MLB Network], and Bob Melvin, he did a great job with that club," Showalter said. "Their division was strong this year, too. That was a good division. ... I think I would have voted for Bob. Really, I do."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.