Phil Garner on O’s job: “Losing can sometimes be a culture, and that’s something you have to disrupt”

June 10, 2010 | Ryan Chell

Phil Garner has manged over 2000 games in the majors, and with the Orioles looking for a permanent solution to their managerial search, Garner could be an attractive option for a club looking for an experience leading the ball club.

Phil Garner

Garner, who last managed the Houston Astros from 2004-2007 and took the team to the World Series in 2005, is on the big list of candidates the club may invite for a chance to manage the Orioles. While he has not been contacted just yet, he is likely to get a call from Orioles general manager Andy MacPhail when the search for a manager escalates.

But before that, Garner joined Drew Forrester and Glenn Clark Thursday morning on “The Morning Reaction” to give his opinion on the Orioles and what kind of an opportunity managing a team with 12 straight losing seasons would appear to him.

“Losing can sometimes be a culture,” Garner said. “And that’s something you have to disrupt.”

Garner, 61, has spent close to 40 years in professional baseball, and has managed in both the National and American Leagues. And he also has many Orioles references to his resume. ‘Scrap Iron”, as he was known, hit .500 in the 1979 World Series against Baltimore, a series that the Pirates won in seven games.

He also began his managing career in 1992, replacing former Oriole third base coach Tom Trebelhorn. His rookie year, the Brewers went 92-70 and finished second in the AL East. But Garner had problems replicating that success in Milwaukee, and later in Detroit, which he managed from 2000-2002.

Garner said that the ingredients have to be present and the situation has to be a good one if everything is going to move smoothly in a winning organization.

“You have to have a general manager who you’re comfortable with,” Garner said. “You need ownership that’s willing to step up if you get it right, and to go that extra mile.”

Garner has a history with Orioles GM Andy MacPhail. When he played with Houston, MacPhail was a young executive in the organization. When the Cubs job was available a couple years ago, Garner interviewed for the job with MacPhail on the other side of the table. They may be repeating that process yet again.

He said that the Orioles players and staff just have to put themselves in the right mindset for winning and the success should follow itself.

“You have to get everyone saying ‘we’re tired of what’s been happening..and we’re going to do things that make us uncomfortable so we can get this thing back in shape’.”

“You have to get everyone on the same page, and I’m sure Baltimore can do that.”

The other benefit with Garner is that he can quickly turn a team around, and he is one to not let past struggles bother him. His recent struggles in Detroit and Houston are a thing of the past, Garner says.

“I’m always one to turn the page,” he said. “When we’re winning, I enjoy every minute of it. I don’t like the losing part, but when I’ve been asked to leave the managerial role, which I have a few times, I turn the page and go to other things and enjoy it.”

But Garner did say that the situation is a lot different in Baltimore than it was turning Houston a few years back.

“Your much younger than we were with the Astros. We had veteran players. Those guys were stalwarts who had been around the game a long time, and understood what you needed to do…I suspect Baltimore’s a little different.”

But Garner said with that youth, he would be more patient than with a veteran team who was shutting him out.

“If its an older ball club, you don’t have hardly any patience at all. Either the guys put up or that’s the end of the conversation.”

“You might have a little more patience with Baltimore, and that’s a decision your GM, ownership, and manager make going in.”

Garner actually said that he lost patience with his Astros’ teams on several occasions, including the year the team went to the World Series. He said he was ready to tell management to blow the team up and trade away the veterans, but it was at that moment Garner became surprised.

“If the game plan is to turn it around and do it this year, you never quite know when it’s going to happen. You just have to keep fighting.”

And finally, Garner was actually kind of hesitant to throw his hat in the ring for the O’s job. He’s never been that kind of guy, he said.

In fact, he never put his name forward for the Astros job. He actually called the Houston ownership to put someone else’s name in, and he got talked into it during the call himself.

He did say though that he’s not looking for just a job right now. He enjoys taking a break from baseball and the situation would have to be ripe for his interest to be peaked.

“I have not contacted anyone to say ‘I’d like to do it’. It would have to be something that really interested me. It wouldn’t be just a job. I dont want to go back to anything that’s just a job.”

Garner concluded his talk with “The Morning Reaction” talking about those other candidates out there who are also well-qualified to handle the task of rebuilding the O’s-guys like Buck Showalter, Eric Wedge, and Bob Melvin, but he was also quick to say that if Andy MacPhail and Peter Angelos decided to stick with Juan Samuel and just remove the interim tag, that would go just fine as well.

“Juan Samuel is a good man. He is a good baseball man. If he’s their choice, that’s a good choice.”

Whoever is the manager, Garner wants this organization back physically to what he imagines the organization-a winner.

“When I think of Baltimore, I think of Boog Powell, 20-game winners, Jim Palmer, fabulous players over the years, and a great history. I dont think of Baltimore as a losing organization. I think of them as a winning organization. I think they can go there again.”