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For Buck Showalter, the Mariners represent everything that could have been

Buck Showalter wore a fungo bat as he walked with urgency in his step and a Do Not Disturb look in his eye, heading for the dugout tunnel that would take him to another meeting before another round.

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

But for their leader, Seattle can never really be any team on the other side of the court. In another time and another place in New York, the Mariners were Buck Showalter’s life-changing opponents.

So after stopping and maintaining that he didn’t think much of the AL Division’s best-five series epic his Yankees lost to the Mariners in 1995, that he didn’t have enough time. on the opening day of the series (and after losing receiver James McCann to injury) to reflect on a playoff loss a long time ago, memories overtook him. Had his Yankees won that Game 5 in the Kingdome and moved on to the ALCS, Showalter might not have been kicked out of his job by George Steinbrenner.

Showalter might 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 had been there for 19 years, but I remembered something my dad had told me over the years. He said, ‘There will come a time in your life when you have to plant your feet and take a stand, and it’s going to be very painful.’ ”

For Buck Showalter, the Mariners represent everything that could have been
Buck Showalter, right, and George Steinbrenner

Showalter took this painful position on behalf of some coaches that Steinbrenner wanted out. The Yankees owner offered his manager a two-year contract to return, but the deal hinged on firing those Showalter loyalists, including now Mets coach Glenn Sherlock.

Buck wasn’t willing to sacrifice his friends to keep his dream job.

“I remember my wife saying to me, ‘What are you doing? Are you sure about that?’ “Recalled Showalter. “We had nothing. I said, ‘Hey, were we happy when I was managing in Albany? Did we pay the bills? Did we break even? I was refereeing six nights a week and I said, “It’s going to be fine.”

Sherlock followed Showalter to Arizona to work for the expansion Diamondbacks, which only took 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 at Albany. When he finished pitching batting practice on Friday, Sherlock recalled that he wanted to learn from a master strategist whose mastery of the fundamentals earned the respect of the players.

“Buck always thinks about the players’ perspective and what’s best for them,” Sherlock said. “Even in spring training, when we’re making the schedule, he thinks about the best way to shoot and what will be best for the players as we move from pitch to pitch.

“He always pays attention to detail and he’s very defensively oriented. …When we were in Washington [on Thursday] and we had those two outs on third base, Buck immediately said to me, “What stood out for you in that game?” And I know he thinks of Starling Marte to support the play. … It’s important for Buck, and as it’s important for him, it’s important for our players.

For Buck Showalter, the Mariners represent everything that could have been
Buck Showalter

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

“A lot of the teams I’ve been on will have a designated coach who leads the defenses of the team,” he said. “In our situation, Buck leads all of the team’s defenses. He is on the ground, he directs it. I think players see that and they know he knows where they’re supposed to be at all times, and it affects them.

All these years later, after things ended badly in the Bronx, Sherlock said it “meant a lot that Buck stood with us” when Steinbrenner demanded change.

“For him to be back in New York and to win [a championship] come full circle, that would be amazing,” Sherlock said. “I don’t think you can write it any better, and that’s what we all strive for.”

The first-place Showalter Yankees were robbed of a title shot in 1994 when the World Series was canceled due to a labor dispute. The following year, he led the Yankees to their first playoff appearance in 14 years, only to be denied by a Seattle team that included Joe Cora, now his third base coach, who homered and started the winning rally of round 11 in game 5. .

“His name was Joey Blankin’ Cora back then,” Showalter said Friday. “He reminds me of it all the time, so I let 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 of the game. It’s a proud moment for me. I try to linger on it.

Especially with the Mariners in town reminding Showalter of what could have been.