Buck Showalter makes debut as Orioles manager
BALTIMORE (AP) — Arriving for his first pregame news conference as a major league manager in nearly four years, Buck Showalter placed his crisp Orioles cap on the table just so, orange brim facing him, and immediately apologized to all assembled for the too-warm temperature in the Camden Yards interview room.
Yes, all the stories you’ve heard are true: Showalter insists that things are done right, done his way. And, not surprisingly, before making his debut as Baltimore’s skipper against the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night, Showalter promised not to be shy about making changes to his last-place team.
“I have respect for what they try to do, and what they’ve been trying to do, but obviously it hasn’t worked out well,” Showalter said, adding that he will “try to identify some of those things and try to clean slate and start over from here, from this day, in a lot of ways — more than just Ws and Ls.”
As if to make sure the message was clear, Showalter said: “Believe me, if there’s some adjustments to be made, I won’t be overly cautious.”
The players are quite aware of that.
“He’s going to do what he feels. He’s been watching us. He’s been scouting us. He’s been on the outside looking in,” center fielder Adam Jones said. “So I’m sure he has ideas. We’ve got two months to see how we mesh with him.”
Showalter is Baltimore’s third manager of 2010: Dave Trembley was fired June 4, replaced by Juan Samuel on an interim basis. The Orioles entered Showalter’s tenure with a majors-worst record of 32-73 — a whopping 34 games behind the AL East-leading New York Yankees in Tuesday’s standings.
Showalter said he has a to-do list drawn up and he began gathering more information by meeting with his coaching staff before Tuesday’s game. He also held a closed-door session with players, some of whom said that “accountability” was a theme.
“Maybe that’s something we were lacking a little bit around here,” right fielder Nick Markakis said.
Showalter would like to see Markakis and second baseman Brian Roberts take on leadership roles in the clubhouse, and the manager spent much of Tuesday’s batting practice chatting with those two players in the outfield.
During his pregame talk with reporters, Showalter made reference to past success enjoyed by the Orioles, who are heading for a 13th consecutive losing season.
“When you put on a major league uniform and, more importantly to me, the Baltimore Oriole uniform, there are a lot of people who’ve worked and sweated and toiled very hard to make it something that it was — and needs to be again,” he said.
This is, remember, a franchise that boasted of making sure everyone adhered to the “Oriole Way” en route to three World Series championships, and a team that featured such household names as Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray, Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer and manager Earl Weaver.
After a procession of four consecutive first-time managers, Baltimore is turning to a veteran in Showalter. In his previous stints in the majors, Showalter went 882-833 with the New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers, getting credit for overseeing quick improvements at each stop and twice winning Manager of the Year awards.
He last was in a major league dugout at the end of the 2006 season with Texas, and while acknowledging there have been changes in the game since then — in terms of technology and statistical analysis, for example — Showalter insisted that he can adapt.
“There’s a lot of things that weren’t happening a couple years ago, three years ago, when I was there,” Showalter said. “We didn’t do advance reports on (online calling service) Skype or whatever it is. Is that the right way you pronounce it?”
After the revolving-door procession of Orioles managers — Jones called the uncertainty before Showalter’s hiring “annoying” — players and fans sounded thrilled to have some stability.
Before Baltimore’s starting lineup was introduced Tuesday, the video board that looms above center field showed clips from Showalter’s introductory news conference Monday, eliciting cheers and a partial standing ovation from many of the orange-clad spectators.
Another round of applause greeted Showalter’s jog from the dugout to the plate to present the lineup card to the umpires.
Earlier, Showalter had concluded his news conference by saying: “I’ve done this for a long time ... and I still enjoy it. I enjoy the look in those guys’ faces, and I want them to understand the privilege it is to play in the big leagues and put on an Oriole uniform.”
Then he paused and, before heading out to the field, asked aloud: “Anybody in here hotter than I am right now? How do the vents work in here?”