The Baltimore Orioles fired manager Dave Trembley in May. It was the first week of August before they hired his permanent replacement. It appears as though Buck Showalter was worth the wait. When Showalter was hired, the Orioles had a losing record. That in itself was unremarkable, since they have not had a winning season since 1997, when they last were in the play-offs.
But the Orioles were a stunning 41 games under .500. They could have gone undefeated for a month and still been another long winning streak away from breaking even. Once a model franchise, the Orioles had turned into a punchline. When teams such as the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees visit, the visiting teams' fans sometimes outnumber those rooting for the Orioles. But with Showalter's hiring, the Orioles may finally heading back to respectabilty, if not contention. In his first dozen games in the Baltimore dugout, the Orioles went 9-3 to demonstrate an immediate upturn in fortunes.
Showalter, of course, is not swinging any bats or throwing any pitches. And as optimistic as he is, not even Showalter believes the turnaround will happen overnight. He has, however, instilled a culture of accountability that was missing with the Orioles. Players are expected to play hard and play smart. There will be no shortcuts and things will be done Showalter's way, or else. Driven and devoted to detail, Showalter expects plenty from himself and plenty from his players.
"Winning and playing good baseball is contagious," hitting coach Terry Crowley told the New York Daily News. "The overall feel now is, 'We're going to show up and we can play with anybody.' "He has a way of bringing that out in the players, and in this division, you better have that feeling." Showalter has a track record of pulling teams out of the abyss. He took over the Yankees in 1992 and in the strike-shortened 1994 season, led them to a 70-41 record. A year later, the Yanks were in the post-season for the first time in more than a decade.
He then moved to the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks, and in the second season of their existence, directed them to a 100-win season. He later managed the Texas Rangers and while he did not get them to the playoffs, he oversaw a 17-game improvement by his first season in the dugout. Stuck in a division with powerhouses like the Yankees and Red Sox and talent-rich Tampa Bay, the task of making the Orioles winners again will not be simple. But getting there is half the fun.
"I enjoy the climb," Showalter said. firstname.lastname@example.org