Don't look now, but it'll be October any minute now. So Three Strikes is back with another edition of the September History Watch before we all start gathering up pumpkins.Showalter• When Showalter took over on Aug. 3, the Orioles had won 32 games -- out of 105 (i.e., 32-73). Since then, they've won 30 games -- out of 51 (i.e, 30-21). The all-time record for most wins by any team after its 73rd loss is just 34 -- held, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, by Terry Francona's 1997 Phillies. (That team started 36-73, then somehow scraped together a 34-21 finish.) These Orioles would need to go 4-2 the rest of the way to tie that record. • Ah, but those '97 Phillies didn't change managers, did they? And these Orioles have -- twice. So if the Orioles go 3-3 in their last six games, Showalter is going to do something that's just about impossible: He's going to win more games than the previous two Orioles managers this year combined. And that's not easy, considering those two (Dave Trembley and Juan Samuel) managed more than 50 games apiece. Amazing. • Since these Orioles are the first team in history to have three different men manage more than 50 games in the same season, Showalter automatically would become the first manager to outwin two guys who managed about as many games as he did. But if he does get to 33 wins, we can put this in even better historic perspective: According to Elias, he'll be the first manager since 1900 to take over any team in August or later and win more games the rest of the way than that team had won before he got there. • The latest previous date any manager took over and did that? July 19 -- more than two weeks earlier than Showalter's debut. In 1902, John McGraw took the helm of the 23-50 New York Giants on July 19 and went 25-38 the rest of the way. And in 1976, Don Zimmer assumed the reins of the 41-45 Red Sox on the same date and finished the year 42-34. • The most previous games into a season where any manager pulled this off? That would be 88, according to Elias. The 2004 Astros were 44-44 before Phil Garner showed up -- and went 48-26 thereafter. • But that means Garner's Astros had a 17-game head start on the post-Buck-fied Orioles, right? So if Buck Showalter can get to 33 wins, he may not win the manager of the year award. But he sure deserves the reclamation-project manager of the year award.MauerWe found this fascinating. So we did a little research to see just how unusual it is for a guy to have three seasons like this: • First off, it goes without saying that no catcher in the live-ball era has ever had three straight top-two finishes in the batting race. Mauer owns as many batting titles (three) as all the other catchers in history combined. So not much competition there. • Next, we found only two other players in the live-ball era who won back-to-back batting titles and then finished second the next year. One was another Twin, the great Tony Oliva (won in 1964 and '65, finished second to a Triple Crown winner, Frank Robinson, in '66). The other was someone named Ted Williams (won in 1947-48, finished second to George Kell, by .0002 of a point, in '49).
Strike One -- Big Bucks Dept.It's obvious now that Buck Showalter is one of the great managerial magicians of all time. But his work since he took over the Orioles is more than just astonishing. It's historic. Here's exactly how historic it is:
Strike Two -- Mauer Power Dept.Joe Mauer won the batting title last season. He also won the batting title the season before that. But this year he's tailspinned all the way into second place in that batting race. He sure is slipping, isn't he?
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