Showalter: ‘You’ve created a semi-monster here. And the feeling should be, bring it on’
I recently sat down with manager Buck Showalter for a story on his time in Baltimore, which you can read here on Orioles.com, and wanted to pass along a quote that really struck me as interesting. Asked about his team’s hot start and the shift in culture and expectations for a first-place club, Showalter –who challenged his team to raise the bar this spring –is well aware of the huge task that lies ahead.
“We have a lot of people involved here who have a stake in the Orioles doing well,” Showalter said. “There’s a connection to the town and the city and the people and the struggles. There’s a burn there, but it’s challenging as well. We’ve got three-fourths of the season left.
I told them, you create this, you do this completely out of what their expectations are, and now what if it goes a little the other way? They go the other way. I said, ‘You don’t get a marker for this. You don’t get a marker for this effort’. It’s not “You are exceeding expectations early, so we will give you this.” No, you created a semi-monster here. And the feeling should be, ‘Bring it on’.”
I’m curious as to how much the Orioles’ expectations have changed among fans. The longer this Orioles’ team remains competitive, does the bar continue to rise? Would a .500 season now be a massive disappointment?
The clubhouse expectations have certainly changed this season. This year’s roster is littered with players who have won with other organizations, and those who are tired of being the American League East’s doormat. Every loss is met with sincere anger and disappointment — not the under-the-breath jokes and hushed giggles of clubhouses past – and every issue has been confronted head on, as Showalter likes to point out. He made it a point to remove any coaches, bullpen catchers, or other assistants out of the home clubhouse, leaving only the players to bond together and police themselves during the ups and downs of a 162-game season.
“With other [Oriole] teams, it was ‘OK, it’s good if we come close to .500,’” closer Jim Johnson said of an organization that hasn’t had a winning season since 1997. “That’s not what the goal is here. Guys put the work in, guys are expected to perform at a certain level. The expectations have been raised, starting with the manager.
That’s the way [Showalter] does it. You got to have guys respond. It’s fight or flight. So, the people that want to stick around and fight are still here.”
“He’s puts us in line,” centerfielder Adam Jones said of Showalter. “He’s kept up in the Minor League system, we have a lot of depth that we haven’t had the last few years here. I’m not saying everything is golden but you can just see the effort by him and [executive vice president of baseball operations] Dan Duquette and it starts obviously by getting the ownerships approval. Everything they do, it starts at the top. They understand the importance of winning and getting this city back.
This city is a baseball city. You get us and the [Baltimore] Ravens being good, I know we would outdo the Ravens. But we aren’t trying to outdo the Ravens. We are just trying to be on the same level. It’s a great city with two teams that are successful. You see the Phillies, both teams are successful, Boston both teams have success, new York, their teams are successful. We don’t want to be on the back burner anymore.”
Showalter, who turned 56 on Wednesday, is 131-133 since taking over in August 2010 and his fingerprints are everywhere in an organization that is trying to establish continuity at all levels and expect nothing but excellent.
“Oh, I see after they lose a game. they’re pissed, and it’s sincere,” Showalter said of his club. “There’s a lot of false competitiveness but this is a sincere team. They are sincere about competing. And they ain’t going to be happy about losing. And they will identify the problem and if it in the mirror, they will fix it.
I want them to be themselves, but I want them to fit in the realm of what’s best for the team. I’m not trying to make a bunch of robot guys, but there are certain things that have to fit in the scheme of a team and winning the game. nobody has put themselves above the team here. 90 percent of the stuff I don’t have to deal with, because they deal with it themselves in the locker room.”
Every team Showalter has managed has made significant strides in his second full season at the helm, and while he’s the last to admit it, he deserves a portion of credit for the O’s 28-17 start.
“[He deserves] a lot of it,” shortstop J.J. Hardy said. “You can’t put a number on it. this clubhouse has 25 guys, we’ve had some injuries, we’ve had some depth that has kept us going. But he’s just as much a part of it as we all are.”
Added Johnson: “A lot of it has been him. But a lot of it has been the guys that are in here. Obviously without him we wouldn’t be where we are. So, yeah [the team's record] is a direct reflection of the manager.”
“It’s the coaching staff, too,” Jones said of the group Showalter brought in which includes pitching coach Rick Adair, hitting coach Jim Presley, bench coach John Russell, third base coach DeMarlo Hale and first base coach Wayne Kirby . “We got some great coaches. The thing about the coaches is they understand the game completely. They offer their feedback, but they’re going to get on you. They aren’t going to pamper you. And you need that. …everybody is loose and our coaching staff is a big part of that. They are a big part of the cheering that goes on the bench. They are pulling for everybody. We are like one big family. As a team you got to pull for every single person on the team. This is 25, this is what you got.”