Buck Showalter made one thing very clear in his 40 minute press conference on Monday at Camden Yards.
He didn’t promise wins or a title or anything of the sort.
But he did mention something time and time again throughout the question and answer period: better players. Those were two buzzwords Showalter went back to when talking about the methods he was going to use to help raise the Orioles from the depths of the American League East.
“Everyone wonders how you compete with the Yankees and Red Sox and now, even Tampa Bay, and a Toronto team that’s improving,” said Buck. “I’ll tell you. You have to get better players in here and you have to make everyone accountable.”
“Get better players in here” — music to MY ears and, I assume, to the fans of Baltimore who have labored along through this shoestring-budget attempt over the last 3 years under Andy MacPhail.
While Showalter made it seem as if finding better players was easy, this much is true. He’s right. The Orioles can’t compete unless they bring in better players.
Hoodwinking a guy like Carl Crawford to play here instead of New York or Boston might be a tall task, but money talks and that other familiar thing walks. Showalter made it clear time and time again on Monday: get better players and you have a better chance to win.
MacPhail, for my money, looked fairly uncomfortable throughout Monday’s proceedings. He didn’t grant anyone one-on-one interviews except – naturally – for MASN and 105.7, so no one was afforded the privilege of actually asking him a legitimate question or two like:
“You’re about to conclude year 3 of your initial 4-year deal in Baltimore. Are you feeling any extra pressure having now produced three-plus seasons of dreadful, losing baseball?”
“Why didn’t you go out last October and lure Showalter to town?”
Those are both very fair questions, of course, and answering those might have given some more insight into not only the choices MacPhail has made during his tenure here, but also what he thinks the club’s expectations are for him heading into the 2010 off-season and the 2011 campaign.
It doesn’t matter now. Showalter has clearly been put in place by MacPhail as a last ditch attempt by Andy to validate all of his efforts since June, 2007.
Let’s be fair (as I always am) about the MacPhail era in Baltimore to date. It has NOT been a failure. The club has made some significant strides in their minor league developmen and their spring training complex…and their international scouting and signing efforts have been improved as well. MacPhail inherited a complete fuster-cluck 38 months ago. But while it’s OK to say “it hasn’t been a failure”, it’s also accurate to say it hasn’t been a “win” for Andy either. The team is worse now than ever before, they’re now on their 3rd manager since MacPhail took over the reins, and the blueprint in Baltimore – grow ‘em on the farm, keep ‘em around for the minimum, hope for the best – hasn’t yielded anything except major-league ass kickings at the hands of the American League East everyone in the American League.
In a strange twist of irony, MacPhail once stood at the same podium as Showalter did today and pledged to folks HE was going to fix the Orioles. 38 months later, a man HIRED by MacPhail is either going to save Andy’s job or bring it to a screeching halt.
Buck Showalter is Andy MacPhail’s new best friend.
Andy hasn’t been able to fix the franchise. And that’s meant with no disrespect to Andy. It’s not a job one person can do, frankly. That’s why keeping Trembley around was perhaps MacPhail’s biggest faux pas of them all, even bigger than the likes of Garrett Atkins or Mike Gonzalez or Felix Pie or Kevin Millwood. If MacPhail would have gone to Showalter a year ago, we might not be staring 110 losses in the face.
MacPhail needs Buck Showalter to come through for him, now, or the end might be in sight.
Showalter, starting tomorrow, will get a Hi-Def glimpse of what we’ve all been watching over the last 4 months. Pedestrian efforts in the field, lack of discipline at the plate, boneheaded base running and lack of overall efficiency and consistency.
That’s why the team is 32-73.
And that’s why Showalter is right when he says: “we need better players”.
It might turn out that Showalter lights a fire under a couple of the players who are on-again, off-again types. He’s been brought in to fix the team, not make friends. I’d almost predict that one of the team’s current starters (if I’m betting…an outfielder…pick your name) will get the boot at season’s end as Buck sends a loud and long message: “It’s my way…or the highway”.
In the meantime, though, the last two months will be interesting if nothing else. It’s been so long since we’ve had any hope during baseball season that today’s press conference was actually gratifying in that it did provide for a momentary ray of promise in an otherwise dark time for Orioles baseball.
I doubt that Buck Showalter can fix this mess, but that has nothing at ALL to do with him, personally. I think he’s the right guy for the job and I’m glad they hired him. I think he was the best fit for the position.
But that doesn’t mean he’s going to be successful.
I’m prone to the occasional wager — and I’d wager that Buck DOESN’T fix the Orioles, but I’d make that wager knowing full good and well that the team is most likely not going to spend any real money in this off-season or any other off-season with the current ownership/front office structure in place. Saying “we’re going to spend more” and then spending more are two different things.
I don’t see the Orioles spending the money necessary to compete in the American League East.
I hope I’m wrong.
I’d love to see the baseball team get fixed and people start going to the games again.
I’ve done radio for 8 years at WNST and I’ve never, ever, ever, ever talked about an Orioles game that mattered. Not once.
I’m rooting like hell for Buck Showalter.
But I’m not rooting for him nearly as much as Andy MacPhail is rooting for him.
My reputation isn’t on the line.
But Andy’s sure is.