The Orioles are the worst team in baseball this season with a record of 32-73, but today they finally gave the fans reason to believe they want to be competitive in the AL East by announcing Buck Showalter as the team’s 17th full-time manager.
Am I excited about this, even with the start of Ravens training camp?
Damn right I am.
I am not an orange kool-aid drinker, but the hiring of Showalter fills a major piece of the puzzle — a legitimate major league manager. Since the Orioles last appeared in the playoffs, the team has gone 886-1160 for a .433 winning percentage. That is slightly better than their total winning percentage over the last 5 seasons. In 2004, I thought the hiring of Lee Mazzilli was a good move. Mazzilli came from a winning organization, learned quite a bit from Joe Torre and was hoping to instill that winning attitude in a team that had suffered through 6 straight losing seasons prior to his arrival. Sadly he was undermined by management when he was denied the opportunity to bring in his own coaching staff and was dismissed after finishing 11 games under .500 in a year and a half (the best winning percentage since 1999)
The other pieces of Andy McPhail’s original puzzle are already in place. You know he wanted things to progress a helluva lot better than they have since he took over 3 years ago. There have been quite a few kinks in his original plan as they were forced to call up players who may not have been ready to assume a major league role just yet. The “arms” Matusz, Tillman, Arietta, Guthrie, Bergesen, Hernandez, Berken, Albers, along with Wieters, Jones, Markakis, Roberts, Pie, Scott and Wigginton have seen playing time. Wait a minute…….those same guys are currently 32-73, surely that can’t be right, can it?
McPhail needs to, rather, HAS TO open the pocketbook to sign a legitimate #1 starter (not a retread on the down side of his career) along with bonafide power threats to be an everyday DH, play 1st base and left field. I realize Ty Wigginton and Luke Scott lead the team with 35 combined HRs, but Wigginton has broken down as the season wears on and Scott is consistently inconsistent. When not installed as a DH, those 2 offer something the Orioles haven’t had since the Benny Ayala days, viable pinch hitters that can be called upon when needed.
Buck Showalter will spend the final 57 games evaluating the players and trying to find the right combinations to win baseball games. Even though it could be perceived as “coach speak,” I like what he said in his press conference today, which taken out of context was him basically saying, “the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Blue Jays aren’t going away, and MLB isn’t going to change the division, so we must get back to the winning ways the Baltimore Orioles were used to having in the past.” Showalter does not want to dwell on the past 13 seasons but simply wants to start fresh and get rid of the losing smell that has been stuck to the team since 1998.
Yes, we’ve heard this before, but maybe this time it will actually come true. I predicted the Orioles would finish 70-92 this season. A 38-19 finish doesn’t seem likely based on the team’s remaining schedule plus their .305 winning percentage thus far.
If they can win 25 or more of those final 57 games season, I think most Oriole fans (at least the ones still showing some type of interest) will be happy and be looking forward to what the front office does during the off season and hopefully not have to start that nasty roller coaster ride come opening day 2011.