Showalter brings winning track record to O's
New manager has improved struggling teams in the past
KANSAS CITY -- He is the full-time successor to ex-manager Dave Trembley, the man who took over the reins from interim skipper Juan Samuel on Tuesday.
Friends and colleagues describe him as a disciplinarian and a family man, a son of a high school principal who is meticulous, yet simple. A 54-year-old shrewd baseball mind who grew up with the game in his backyard and still devours notes and numbers with a voracious ferocity, as if the 1,715 Major League games he's managed aren't enough. He has been called overbearing and controlling, but is credited with building the Yankee dynasty of the '90s and has twice been honored as the American League Manager of the Year (1994, 2004).
Buck Showalter was introduced during a news conference Monday at Camden Yards, and all of Baltimore -- arguably, all of the collective baseball world -- will be left wondering if this is the man who will halt a skid of 13 consecutive losing seasons.
"You're looking for 25 nuggets," Showalter said at the news conference. "When you get 25 nuggets, you get to play in October. It's as simple as that. It's not nearly as complicated as everyone makes it out to be. ... It's got to be a product of everybody."
When asked if turning around an Orioles club playing in the tough American League East was a draw given his competitive nature, Showalter admitted there was a certain satisfaction in doing what others say is impossible.
"I have respect for what the challenges are," he said. "And I am not naïve. ... [Winning in the AL East] can be done if you know who you are and you stay with the way you have to do it to be successful. You've got to stay the course."
Former D-backs pitcher Brian Anderson said this of Showalter, who has spent the better part of four years as an ESPN baseball analyst: "He's got that hunger [to manage] again. So you know he's going to come in swinging for the fences."
Anderson played under Showalter in Arizona, where the upstart expansion team hired him well in advance to help the front office develop and manage a winner. Showalter built the D-backs from the ground up, leading them from 1998's inaugural 97-loss season to 100 wins the following year.
"There's no question about it, if Buck goes into a certain situation he's absolutely going to evaluate and figure out who he can deal with and who needs to go," said Anderson, who signed with Texas in '06 following elbow surgery because of the opportunity to play for Showalter again.
"He wants to have 25 guys on that team who are all pulling in one direction and willing to do it the way he wants [it] to be done. It's not about having 25 robots, but it's about [saying], 'Hey boys, we are going to do it this way. We are going to do it the right way.' And he's going to fill a team with those guys."
Known for his iron will and refusal to cater to superstars -- including a well-documented clash with Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez while both were in Texas -- Showalter thrives in situations that make other managers cringe.
"Putting yourself on the line is very exhilarating, it also can be heartbreaking," Showalter said. "We are ready for both."
In addition to his work in Arizona, he took a Yankees squad that hadn't made the playoffs in 13 years and guided them to a postseason berth in 1995. New York went on to win the World Series the following year, after Showalter had left, and began a string of Yankees dominance which continues today.
"Buck brings organization, direction and discipline," said Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, who was former GM John Hart's assistant during Showalter's tenure in Texas. "He's helped teams establish an identity before, and I'd expect he'll have success doing the same [in Baltimore]."
Showalter won't just be tasked with improving the team's record, he will be counted on to stop the regression of Baltimore's young core, a startling problem that president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said has been even more "disconcerting" than the Orioles record.
"We were really looking [to get] someone in here who has a reputation as good as anyone in the game as getting their players prepared to win and compete that day," MacPhail said. "And give them every tool they can possibly have to be as good as can be. And if they're not as good as the industry has dubbed them or we think they are, than we will move accordingly."
MacPhail is speaking of a young group that includes position players Nolan Reimold, Matt Wieters and Adam Jones, in addition to a crop of promising arms like Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta -- all of whom have taken their collective lumps this season.
"People will not underachieve [under Showalter]," said Bobby Dickerson, who played for him in the Yankees' Minor League system before later joining the D-backs as an infield instructor.
Dickerson was named the interim manager for Triple-A Norfolk in the wake of Trembley's dismissal, and said Showalter's best quality -- other than his obsession with fundamentals -- is the ability to come in and set a strong precedent.
"He taught me to be professional, how to respect the game, and the effort that I was going to have to make," Dickerson said. "I know I got the most out of my talent. And our young players will get the most out of their abilities."
ESPN's Tim Kurkjian, who worked with Showalter on "Baseball Tonight," said his former colleague's presence in Baltimore will "change the atmosphere immediately".
"He understands completely how important it is to reconnect with the great past and great heritage of the Orioles," Kurkjian said. "And I think you will see something about that virtually every day he's there, trying to restore the tradition."
Andy MacPhail, the Orioles' president of baseball operations, said on Monday that was part of what he was seeking in a new manager.
"We need an identity as a franchise," MacPhail said. "We need somebody that can put his stamp on this franchise. ... He has a reputation that exceeds or equals all others in that category."
First, Showalter must restore the faith and give beleaguered Baltimore baseball fans a reason to believe their once-proud franchise will be resurrected from the AL cellar.
"I'm going to need and warrant and solicit help from people who have been here before and walked this walk," Showalter said. "I don't think there is a prouder organization in baseball. ... I really, sincerely believe that can happen again, but it's really about the product on the field."
It won't come easy or quick, and will require cultural, organizational and development changes. And it will ultimately come down to the 25 players on the Orioles' roster playing fundamentally sound, disciplined baseball and believing they can win.
"I know he has gotten a bad rap in the past as far as being overbearing, he has a huge rule book and all these crazy things," Anderson said. "For me it was simple -- be prepared, show up on time and play hard for however many innings you are out there.
"That's the kind of player that Buck Showalter wants, expects and demands. That's exactly the way that it should be."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.