Carroll County Times

Buck firmly in charge of Orioles

Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter stood outside the visiting dugout of The Ballpark in Arlington, arms folded, watching as his team celebrated a win over the Texas Rangers in the American League Wild Card game last October.

Showalter had said throughout the 2012 season how much he enjoys taking in special moments. He did just that as the Orioles high-fived and celebrated their first postseason victory since 1997.


It was a memorable moment from Baltimore's turnaround season, during which Showalter was far more than an interested observer.

"He does a great job of getting everybody on the same page," Orioles first baseman Chris Davis said in January during FanFest, "and making sure we're always ready."


The organization was in shambles when Showalter took over as Orioles skipper in late 2010. Baltimore was mired in a stretch of what eventually became 14 consecutive losing seasons.

Managers had come and gone since Davey Johnson's back-to-back postseason teams in 1996-97: Ray Miller, Mike Hargrove, Lee Mazzilli Sam Perlozzo and Dave Trembley all tried and failed to return the Orioles to the elevated place they held for more than three decades.

But few managers have a resume like Showalter's. He has repeatedly turned around ballclubs, making him more than qualified to take over a team in desperate need of a turnaround.

In 1992, his second year as a manager, Showalter took the New York Yankees to the playoffs. Then, in 2000, Showalter won 100 games with the Arizona Diamondbacks in his second year, a 35-win improvement over his first. Showalter did it again with Texas, spearheading an 18-win turnaround in 2004 and once again leading his team to the postseason in his second year.

When Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette signed contract extensions with Baltimore through 2018 in January, Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis told reporters the organization before the duo, Baltimore had had "a revolving door of managers and general managers."

Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones, who is also signed through 2018, said those days are gone.

"Right now, that door's shut and we've got Showalter and Duquette here to do their plans," Jones said during FanFest. "Six years is a long time. But I think in that time, we can do a lot.

"I'm glad that they're going to be here for a long time. It makes me signing my contract feel so much better."


Showalter not only improved the record of the team last season, but also changed the beliefs and expectations of the players while fostering a team environment.

Baltimore's leader is quick to defend and support his players.

When a reporter asked Showalter about shortstop J.J. Hardy's slump in mid-July, Showalter quickly shot the entire premise down and turned it into what Hardy does well for the team.

Showalter also is quick to come to his players' aid when needed. When Markakis broke his hand in early September, Showalter consoled him mid-game. Earlier this week, when Wilson Betemit tore his PCL, Showalter left the dugout in the seventh inning to accompany him.

Several Orioles players have said the team has gotten closer under Showalter, and also now believe they can win any game.

"I feel like this team prepares themselves really well, and it starts with Buck," Davis said.


Orioles left fielder Nate McLouth could've gone elsewhere as a free agent last winter. He stayed in Baltimore and Showalter played into that.

"I really enjoyed playing for him," McLouth said when he re-signed. "What you see is what you get with him, and he was definitely a big part of my decision [to return]."

Showalter has become an integral piece in the Baltimore organization, while also becoming a fan favorite in Charm City. Showalter was involved in the Orioles' playoff marketing with the "BUCKle Up" slogan.

But if it were up to Showalter, all the attention would be on his players.

"It's about the team, it's about the players," Showalter said at the news conference announcing his extension. "They play the game."

With Opening Day just two days away, expectations from fans and experts are different for the Orioles in 2013. For the first time in more than a decade, most won't be surprised to see Baltimore in the playoff hunt.


As for Showalter and the team, expectations are the same as they were last season. And the same since Showalter became the manager of the club.

Be a winning team.

"I used to talk to the players about what the city could be and what it was like [when we win]," Showalter said. "For them to be able see it, they might actually think I know what I was talking about.

"We've got some things we've got to do better. Our guys know that. There are some things we've got to solve. But I like where we are."