Orioles manager Juan Samuel walks back to the dugout after removing… (Baltimore Sun photo by Karl…)
SAN DIEGO — — Orioles interim manager Juan Samuel was a coach on the 2003 Detroit Tigers' team that flirted with a dubious piece of baseball history, finishing the season just one loss shy of the standard bearer for bad baseball, the 1962 New York Mets.
That Mets' team ended the season 40-120, the most single-season losses in baseball history. It took the 2003 Tigers winning five of their last six games to finish with a 43-119 mark.
The Orioles' team that Samuel inherited is at least on pace to give both of those teams a run for all-time baseball futility, though don't expect the interim manager to even bring it up with his players.
"I don't really dwell on those things. We have enough things going on that I'm trying to improve and make sure we stay focused on what the task at hand is," said Samuel. "For me, going into the season, you definitely don't know what's going to go on, but when you get to a situation like this, it's very bad for morale, the organization and the whole city. It is what it is. You're not trying to do it, but it just happened. I'm sure there will be better days ahead."
Heading into the second game of a three-game series here against the first-place San Diego Padres, the Orioles are 18-49. Through 67 games, the 2003 Tigers were 17-50, while the 1962 Mets were 19-48.
Samuel said that the 2003 Tigers and current Orioles had far different mindsets when the season began. The hope was that the Orioles would be a significantly improved team, while the Tigers were in the very early stages of the rebuilding mode back then.
"The  season was not as tough as the record showed," said Samuel who worked under Detroit manager Alan Trammell. "Going into the season, there was a meeting that the staff had and they said, 'Hey guys, we have to teach. We don't expect to win. We have to teach.' We stayed positive every day and brought in guys early and saw that the guys wanted to improve. It was more about teaching. Everything — offense, defense, pitching — we had to constantly tell these guys about."
Three years later, the Tigers went to the World Series and team officials viewed the 2003 season as a needed step that helped them get there. Samuel was managing Binghamton, the New York Mets' Double-A affiliate, during the 2006 season, but he took special pride in the Tigers' accomplishments.
"There was nothing more gratifying than to see the success even though you were not there," he said. "You know you had something to do with it. We knew that we didn't have enough to compete and we were trying to find out who were the guys that we were going to stay with when we were a championship-caliber team. What we were doing that year is we were trying to weed things out, like 'OK, we can win with this guy, we cannot win with these guys.' It was like an in-season tryout that we were doing and it paid off."
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