A true rebuild & Samuel's thoughts
ESPN.com’s Tim Kurkjian writes what most Orioles fans have been thinking most of the season: this could be the worst of 13 straight years of losing.
Last night Brian Matusz took the loss, his eighth of the year, and you have to wonder how long the Orioles will continue to flail about before a permanent successor to Dave Trembley is put in place. I don’t pretend to know when that will be. Heck, I don’t even know if Andy MacPhail knows. (He said yesterday it all depends on the process).
But I think we can all agree that at this point in the season it’s becoming damaging for these young guys to be marred in the losing culture that has swamped the Orioles.
My question is, how do you turn this around? Do you wait this season out, or do you make a move at the midseason mark and forget about the first 81 games? Do you get rid of everyone who isn’t a part of the Orioles’ future (ie. make a flurry of trades)?
I recently sat down with Juan Samuel for a little Q & A when I was in San Diego. It was going to be an off day story, but sometimes you have to let other news dictate what goes up. So, before this all gets stale, I wanted to share a few of his more interesting comments on what’s going on here and what he reasonably expects going forward…(Note: that this was done before Wednesday’s failed bunt attempt with Matt Wieters. So please spare me the emails about Samuel’s bunting strategy)
MLB.com: When you took over the team was already 15-39. How much of a challenge is it to managing a team that far in the hole, and how much can you, as a first-time manager feasibly expect to turn things around?
Samuel: Honestly, I’ve taken the approach that anything that I can do to improve the attitude, to change the philosophy and mentality of some guys, is a plus for whoever might take over. Or whatever the decision might be.
To me, it’s a no- lose situation because we were already in the situation that we were in, and I’m using this as a learning experience. I’m enjoying it. I don’t think you know you can do something until you start doing it. You see things that you could do and things that are working and you say, ‘Wait a minute, I think I can do this.’ But until you are put into this situation you aren’t sure how close you are.
That’s what I’m using this for. For me, its keeping those guys positive, continuing to push and encourage them and have them play a little better.
MLB.com: Given the Orioles injuries and lack of depth, you have a bench that’s short on big-league experience and productivity. Does it make you think twice to call on guys like Scott Moore, who is 1-for-19 with 10 strikeouts as a pinch-hitter, or Lou Montanez -who is batting .140 — in critical situations?
Samuel: Not at all. Because, to me, this is what I have. This is the right guy; a righty [pitcher] up there, Scotty is the left-handed guy we have right now. It’s not an easy job to come off the bench, but I’m going to do it.
Those guys are here. Yes, you’d rather have better choices, but this is what we have. And I’m going to use them in situations probably where they haven’t been used before. But I’m not afraid to throw guys out there. I’m really not.
MLB.com: With that being said, this team has yet to win a series since you took over. Have you seen any improvements, be it in the team’s fundamentals or the general attitude?
Samuel: One thing that I’ve noticed is we’ve been able to run a little bit, we’ve been able to sacrifice [bunt] a little bit.
I remind them, ‘Hey don’t just anticipate or think I’m not going to do certain things. Just be prepared because I do anything at any moment. Be looking for something. I always remind them, we need to stay the course, continue to do what we do and be ready to run. I’ve seen some of those things and some of those guys run the bases the way I think you should run it. [They do need] to take advantage of the mistakes; take the extra base a little more.
MLB.com: When you were named interim manager you talked about accountability and holding players responsible by calling them out. Has there been any of those situations with you as interim manager?
Samuel: Not yet. A lot of guys are passionate, a lot of guys are emotional. And sometimes when guys miss pitches down the middle, they show some passion, some frustration. And I played. I understand. But if you see certain things, repeating itself too much you have ways to get the message across.
MLB.com: President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail has made it no secret that he values experience for the next Orioles manager. Given that this is your first shot at the helm, do you view this as a job interview, not just for the Orioles, but for the rest of baseball?
Samuel: Exactly. And if it doesn’t work out [in Baltimore] at least I know, ‘OK I could have done this differently. Next time I get a job I will do this’. You find out where things don’t work and you say ‘OK, I needed to do this’.
I got an opportunity from Andy to basically show to the folks out there to take notice, maybe a Latino player could manage. Because there’s not a whole lot of us
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