I'm not sure what Buck Showalter has been up to this winter. If I had to guess, I imagine the most interesting manager in the world has stayed busy by bench-pressing plow trucks, head-butting abominable snowmen and striking fear in the hearts of nor'easters.

And as he does that and whatever else bad-ass baseball managers do to kill time in the offseason, Showalter is probably playing the theme to "Orioles Magic" on a saxophone while scheming up a plan to build on his team's strong finish in 2010.


Meanwhile, bummed-out bird-watchers are turning an eye back to Camden Yards after the Ravens fell three wins short of their Super goal, and are imagining the Orioles' possibilities with an upgraded roster and a full season of Buckmania.

The former American League Manager of the Year took over the Baltimore bench  on Aug. 3 and the hearts of hopeful fans shortly thereafter. He held rookies and veterans equally accountable and scared the last-place Orioles into playing good baseball for once. They went 34-23 under Showalter and had the best record in the A.L. East in the season's final two months.

As Showalter was presumably scowling at Christmas carolers back in December, Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail was in Florida wheeling and dealing to improve Buck's roster.

MacPhail traded for a new left side of the infield during baseball's winter meetings, acquiring third baseman Mark Reynolds -- a glorified softball ringer who is a threat to hit 30-plus home runs -- and shortstop J.J. Hardy. He has since bolstered the bullpen with veteran reliever Kevin Gregg and inked Derrek Lee, who seemed to be the team's Plan Z at first base. Now all MacPhail needs to do is sign Vladimir Guerrero and call it an offseason.

Those upgrades to the batting order mean Showalter will actually have a major-league lineup to work with in 2011. You can't tell me this guy wasn't thrilled when he learned that he would no longer have to write the words "Cesar" and "Izturis" on his lineup card five or six days a week.

Even with the addition of these proven commodities, the Orioles still need their young nucleus of talent to live up to the lofty expectations to seriously compete in the A.L. East. Showalter has said he was glad he started in August (opposed to taking over after the season) because it gave him a chance to see how the youngsters ticked and to learn how to push their buttons.

And with Showalter breathing down their necks down the stretch, Brian Matusz, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and other ballyhooed twenty-somethings took steps forward and experienced winning baseball in the majors for the first time.

Watching the Giants and the Rangers play in the World Series, it was hard not to think about the Orioles. Like the world-champion Giants, the Orioles have a hyped-up homegrown pitching staff, and it has been well-documented that Showalter laid the groundwork for the Rangers' run.

It's too early for me to be a party pooper by pointing out the pecking order in the A.L. East. Needless to say, Showalter will have to squeeze every last drop out of this improved bunch to give the Red Sox and the Yankees a run for their money.

But with the most interesting manager in the world calling the shots, anything is possible, including the Orioles head-butting their way to that elusive winning season.