The three-point turn -- playing respectably, playing competently and playing competitively -- happening where Cal Ripken used to play regularly began with the appointment of Showalter and the adoption of a more optimistic view by the once mighty O's. Showalter took over a team on Aug. 3 that, one day earlier, was farther from fourth place -- 22½ games -- than three other last-place teams were from first. The standings remain a pretty grim picture for the O's, but they have won 10 of 16 games Showalter has managed.
Rest assured the corporate offices at Camden Yards are joyful, and the offices at Citi Field are at least curious.
If the Mets have decided to discard their manager, they haven't whispered their plan to anyone who types or talks to the public. But if they are moving in that direction, they may be considering their own kind of three-point turn -- dismissing Jerry Manuel, appointing Wally Backman and starting to perform better.
The recent renaissance of the Orioles stands as a reminder of what a managerial change can effect, especially one that brings in a new man with a reputation of not tolerating the kind of malaise that now exists at Citi Field. Showalter and Backman are akin in that regard. They ain't gonna stand for it.
Each may have worn out a welcome or two. But see what Showalter accomplished in the Bronx and in the desert. And Backman's teams have won routinely every step -- and misstep -- along his way. Through 58 games in the New York-Penn League, Backman's Brooklyn Cyclones have built a nine-game lead in the McNamara Division and the best record among 14 Class A teams at 38-20.
Jeff Wilpon didn't afford Backman a second chance without a thought of giving him a chance to manage the big league team.
Whether the time has come is another issue. The Wilpon Mets never have been comfortable paying more than one person at one time to do one job.
In one way, putting Backman in charge of the Citi would be reminiscent of another managerial move the Orioles made long ago, hiring a man long on fire, short on inches and accustomed to winning -- Earl Weaver.
Backman is a shade taller than the Earl of Baltimore and, given his own playing style, not necessarily as much of a three-run home run devotee as Weaver. But winning fuels him, as it fueled Weaver, and it is a reciprocal arrangement. Backman fuels his teams as much as he directs them. He was an igniter for the Mets teams of 1984-88. And the managers he later played for -- Tom Kelly, Jim Leyland and Jim Fregosi -- appreciated his on-field growling-and-grunting manner.
Moreover, Backman's drive is steadfast. The fire in Little Walter is the eternal flame.
Eventually, the Mets will benefit from his leadership; if not this summer, then next. And in Flushing, the battle cry already is what it used to be in Brooklyn: Wait till next year.