KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Juan Samuel called his team together Thursday night for likely the final time and told his players that even though he had only four days left in his Orioles managerial tenure, his expectations hadn't changed.
"I expect these guys to go out there and leave everything on that field for me these next four days," said Samuel, who had compiled a 16-31 record entering Thursday since taking over for Dave Trembley on an interim basis June 4. "I talked to the guys and said, 'Nothing will change.' They will go out there and take care of business, whoever manages the club. The manager shouldn't have any say in how hard you play. So I thanked these guys ÃÂ I [said], 'Let's enjoy these last four days that we can be together,' and I expect these guys to go out there and leave everything on that field for me these next four days."
The news that the Orioles had finally settled on Buck Showalter as manager after an extensive process was bittersweet to those in the visiting clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium, including Samuel, who had waited a long time to manage a big league club. Samuel, like the rest of the coaching staff, has been asked to stay at least through the end of the season, but he acknowledged Thursday that it would be difficult for him to go back to being the third base coach and he didn't want to create an uncomfortable situation with Showalter.
The Orioles players genuinely like and respect Samuel and wanted to see him get a shot under better circumstances. However, Showalter, who will take charge of the club Tuesday, brings a winning resume and a take-charge personality that could provide direction for a team that is on pace for their worst season in franchise history.
"I think he's definitely here to change things," starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie said. "It makes sense for them to bring in fresh perspective, bring in a different attitude, someone who hasn't necessarily been part of the Orioles but has seen what we have gone through the past years. In the four years I've been here, that's an approach we haven't taken yet.
"It will certainly provide stability and give us a foundation to start building off. As it is, it feels like maybe we've been building kind of on a temporary foundation, but now Buck will arrive next week and he will begin his project of getting this team back where it should be."
Orioles players have heard plenty about Showalter and his demanding and controlling style, which will certainly be in stark contrast to the team's most recent managers'. However, only Kevin Millwood knows what it's like to play for Showalter; he did for the Texas Rangers in 2006. Showalter also managed the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks and is a two-time American League Manager of the Year.
"It's going to take a lot more than a manager to get a team going in the right direction," Millwood said. "I think Buck's going to do a good job for us, he's done a good job every where he's been. It's just going to be coming down to the simple point of guys buying into what he preaches. I think cutting back on some nonsense wouldn't be a bad thing. Obviously, something needs to change, and I think Juan did a good job, but sometimes you got to take someone from the outside coming in to really make the kind of change that they need."
Second baseman Brian Roberts, the longest-tenured Oriole, has played for five managers in his 10 years with the club; Showalter will be his sixth.
"I think direction, I think stability is always a good thing," said Roberts, who has played for Mike Hargrove, Lee Mazzilli, Sam Perlozzo, Dave Trembley and Samuel. "I don't think any organization, any company wants to be in an unstable place. Hopefully, this will bring some stability, and hopefully, this will be something that will be a lasting decision, and it will maybe go even beyond that. I think it's a good starting point. When he gets here on Tuesday, we'll see where we're at. I've heard good things. I heard he's very prepared, and certainly his reputation over the years is very good. He's managed winning teams. Hopefully, it will be something good for us."
Said outfielder Nick Markakis: "With the situation we are in, it is nice to know that we are going to have a permanent solution as far as the manager goes. It's been tough, Juan's been doing a good job, but the organization feels that we needed to have a long-term manager. And I think for the team and the organization, it's the right decision."
Ultimately, while the players questioned offered positive feedback on Showalter's hiring, they acknowledged that there is only so much a manager can do and it's up to them to improve their performance.
"It's something that it doesn't really matter who the manager is, the players are going to have to play better and we're all going to have to pull together and play better as a team," second-year catcher Matt Wieters said. "Maybe this will give us a more continuous face at the head."