One of the great pleasures of watching Orioles baseball coverage on television is watching Buck Showalter handle questions and interact with the press. He is really skilled in this regard: he reveals substantial thoughts in a way that is enlightening and oft entertaining.
During the season we are feasted with a daily download of perspectives, but the winter is, well, what the winter is – cold and empty. So, what is the manager thinking about – especially with all the changes and hosts of new personnel?
The following assortment of Showalter perspectives and comments are mostly from FanFest. A few things he said on that occasion are already dated by subsequent moves. But the following should give some broad indications of what he is pondering as we head toward spring training.
Regarding the perception that the off-season was not productive: “I like laying in the weeds a little bit. People feel the off-season was quiet; I think it has been very active.” Showalter then went on to comment upon the competitiveness of players being enhanced by the multiple additions – a theme we know he embraces significantly.
Regarding being competitive in the AL East: “The biggest separator between our club and the other teams in the division is the ability of the starters to get deep into the game.”
Regarding younger players becoming productive regular major leaguers: “The biggest jump in all of sports is from the minors to the majors in baseball … you’re gonna get your nose bloodied. I’m looking for guys who will come back and fight.”
Regarding who will bat in the leadoff position: “The first choice of course is Brian Roberts, which is an unknown – just like I don’t know how to get into a cockpit and land a plane, I’m not a doctor to know what is going to happen. Beyond that, Andino is a frontrunner – a guy who can move all over the field. And then we have others like Antonelli, Flaherty, and let’s not forget Ryan Adams.” (This was also before the Wilson Betemit signing.)
Regarding signing free agents (this was when Fielder was still unsigned): “Last year we signed Lee and Guerrero, and of course we’d love to have a 27-year-old with Fielder’s talent, but we want to build them from within. We’ve got to get our young guys on the same trajectory as Wieters.” But isn’t that a great name – ‘Prince?’ I’ve never had a player named ‘Prince’ or ‘King’ but I’ve had a few princesses.”
Regarding how players have changed over the years: “Players haven’t changed much, players have new challenges; we make too much of changes in the game. The real thing is knowing the players – they’re not robots. I want to know what’s going on in their lives – everyone has a story of what’s going on. We played 204 games last year, counting spring training, and that is a challenge to handle every day.”
I don’t always agree with every move Showalter makes – especially with relievers. But I have less criticism of him than any of his predecessors. He is a good baseball guy. A failure to thrive will not be able to be credited to his account. I saw on another blog or web page that in each of his three previous positions as manager, his teams made incredible quantum leaps forward in his second full season at the helm. Can lightening strike a fourth time in the same spot? It is only a 12 win improvement to get to .500 … and that would surely be deemed a legitimately successful season.