Seeking another makeover during what could be the worst season in franchise history, the Orioles have hired an experienced manager with a reputation for joining moribund or fledgling clubs and turning them into winners.
Buck Showalter will officially become the Orioles' 17th full-time manager at a noon news conference Monday and will take over on the field Tuesday at Camden Yards against the Los Angeles Angels, kick-starting a three-plus-year contract that will expire at the end of the 2013 season.
Most recently an ESPN baseball analyst, Showalter, 54, will manage his fourth big league team in his 12th season in the majors. He'll be the Orioles' 10th manager since principal owner Peter Angelos took over in August 1993.
"My job with ESPN allowed me to follow this organization closely over the last several years, and although the current record may seem to indicate otherwise, I see enormous potential with this club," Showalter said in a statement. "I look forward to the challenge of competing in the American League East. Baltimore is a tremendous baseball town with passion and pride in its club, and my family and I look forward to making it our new home."
Showalter replaces interim manager Juan Samuel, the club's third base coach who took over from Dave Trembley on June 4 and compiled a 16-31 record heading into Thursday night. Samuel was given the choice to return to the third base coaching box, but has not decided whether he will.
The rest of the coaches are expected to stay in their current positions — with the exception of interim third base coach Gary Allenson, who will return to manage Triple-A Norfolk if Samuel remains with the Orioles — giving Showalter time to evaluate the staff for 2011.
"One of the benefits of Buck coming in and finishing off the season is he can make whatever judgments he feels necessary" regarding the coaching staff, Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said.
MacPhail interviewed four candidates for the post — Showalter, fellow former big league managers Bobby Valentine and Eric Wedge, and MASN broadcaster Rick Dempsey. He said this week that a hire wouldn't be made until after the trade deadline but said Thursday that he always felt the beginning of August would be a good time to bring in a new manager and allow him to observe and work with the club for two months.
"I think it is important for him to get a feel of the team, and it will be important this offseason for [Showalter] to be able to have made appropriate evaluations of our organization," MacPhail said. "It will give him an opportunity to get comfortable with the staff, which will help us make better decisions."
MacPhail remains the primary decision-maker in the organization, but his contract expires at the end of 2011 — two years before Showalter, his subordinate.
"It really doesn't matter to me. I couldn't care less," MacPhail said. "What matters to me is getting this franchise to where it belongs, to make the proper steps to get back. [My contract] is the least of my concerns."
Showalter hasn't managed since 2006 with the Texas Rangers. He has had plenty of success, however, compiling an 882-833 record with the New York Yankees (1992-1995), Arizona Diamondbacks (1998-2000) and Rangers (2003-2006), twice being named American League Manager of the Year (1994, 2004).
"Buck's baseball IQ is off the charts. He knows the game, and I think he would be great for that job over there," Rangers third baseman Michael Young said this season. "He's really good at building something up, especially with young players, and building them into something where they can be a contender."
Showalter takes the reins of a team that has had 12 consecutive losing seasons and has the worst record in baseball this year. He has been at helm of struggling clubs in the past. The Yankees hadn't made the playoffs in 14 years when he got them into the postseason in 1995.
A year after taking over a last-place Rangers team, he had Texas in playoff contention for most of the 2004 season. He built the Diamondbacks from the ground up as the first manager in club history, guiding them from 97 losses in their debut in 1998 to 100 wins in 1999.
"He understands how to create a winning atmosphere and a winning team, and I have no doubt he'll have a lot of success in Baltimore," said former major leaguer Jay Bell, who played for Showalter in Arizona. "He's all you want as a player. All you want from a manager is somebody who will be prepared and understand the game. I never saw Buck get surprised in a baseball game."
The son of a high school principal, Showalter is known for his discipline and expertly detailed preparation, something his former players say fostered confidence.