Showalter impresses, but MacPhail’s actions will tell real story


New Orioles manager Buck Showalter said all the right things when he was introduced to the Baltimore media on Monday afternoon.

Showalter spoke with conviction and respect for the organization’s storied past, citing a desire to involve former players with the present organization.

He stressed the goal to win as many games as possible—for the rest of this season and beyond.

He talked about the only way to get people to return to the ballpark—a winning product.

Showalter even plans on making Baltimore his permanent residence, embracing the fabric of the local community.

As for playing in the top-heavy American League East? He insists it cannot, and will not, be an excuse for failing.

He reminisced about his first trip to Memorial Stadium and his affection for late Orioles manager Johnny Oates—a friend and mentor of his—and how he’ll wear No. 26 in his memory.

And despite the stoic, hard-nosed reputation that precedes him, Showalter showed a warm sense of humor in his first appearance as Orioles manager.

However, through all of the rhetoric, one statement struck a chord more than any other throughout the 40-minute press conference.

“One common denominator of all great organizations that are able to sustain some success over a long period of time is the relationship between the general manager and the manager,” Showalter said. “That’s one thing that is attractive here with [Andy MacPhail’s] background.”

Of course, the general manager sat right next to Showalter as the two looked very much on the same page on the first day of the MacPhail-Showalter era. MacPhail was complimentary of Showalter’s past managerial experiences while the 54-year-old manager acknowledged MacPhail’s success in Minnesota.

However, it’s hard not to be skeptical after the speculation that MacPhail preferred former Indians manager Eric Wedge to Showalter. The president of baseball operations always chooses his words carefully and deliberately while Showalter was very blunt today in expressing his desire to win as many games as possible—even in the AL East.

“I don’t think they handicap games, do they?” he asked rhetorically. “They don’t give you runs before it starts, and that’s not going to change. You hear people talk about realignment and adding a Wild Card. I don’t really care. The Yankees aren’t going away, the Red Sox aren’t going away, and Tampa’s not going away and Toronto’s getting better. You have to figure out a way to do it. Tampa Bay’s eliminated a lot of those excuses.”

The primary excuse of financial inequality is what we’ve often heard from MacPhail in his three seasons with the Orioles. And while no one expects the Orioles to have a $200 million payroll, Showalter emphasized the need for talented players to win over and over again during the press conference.

You have to wonder how those statements marinated for MacPhail and his future with the organization. His contract expires following the 2011 season while Showalter has inked a three-year deal through the 2013 season. MacPhail has reiterated throughout this miserable 2010 season that he has no doubt in staying the course with his current plan.

But how much time does he truly have left when faced with a 100-plus loss season?

MacPhail acknowledged the new manager would have input in offseason decisions, whether trades or potential free agent targets. For a man who enjoys complete autonomy, it will be interesting to see how much influence Showalter truly has with MacPhail come November.

Showalter has every intention of winning and doesn’t expect fans—or anyone else in the organization—to feel any differently.

“It’s about the product on the field,” Showalter said. “You can do all the promoting and this and that you want to do, but the bottom line: are you doing something on that field that as an organization, as a team, that people want to sell their souls to and feel comfortable about trusting that the players are going to give effort, players are going to be sincere about what they’re doing and the way they go about it? Some people don’t like that accountability, and we’ll sort that out.”

With Showalter now in the fold, that same accountability will rest with MacPhail and majority owner Peter Angelos. There’s no question that—in addition to plenty of money—the two promised Showalter an improved commitment to winning and spending on free-agent talent.

We’re not talking about a rookie manager like Dave Trembley who’s simply happy to be leading a big league club. It’s clear Showalter has high expectations of the front office, or he wouldn’t have taken the position.

If recent history is any indication, he may regret his decision to pass up potential openings elsewhere to accept the daunting task of turning around a franchise with a losing culture—from top to bottom.

“Because a club has struggled for so long, everyone thinks everything there is bad,” he said. “That’s not the case here. There are a lot of good things, and I’ve done my homework.”

For his sake, I hope there’s enough good to turn things around, sooner rather than later.

But he’ll need some help from the man sitting beside him.

We can only hope he follows through.

– Former interim manager Juan Samuel will remain in the organization in a special assignment capacity, assisting with efforts in the Dominican Republic. Gary Allenson will remain as the third base coach.

– Showalter will maintain the remaining coaches on the staff and evaluate their roles after the season despite being hesitant to label the final two months of the season as an evaluation period for them.

He has not yet spoken to any of the coaches and will meet with them on Tuesday.

– As Showalter spoke fondly of Oates and his decisions to wear his number, he was pleased to know the late manager’s family will be in Baltimore this weekend to celebrate his induction into the Orioles Hall of Fame.

Oates passed away at the age of 58 from a brain tumor on December 24, 2004.