Showalter facing a challenge unlike any he's ever seen

New Orioles manager is entering a seemingly irreparable situation

August 02, 2010|Peter Schmuck

Juan Samuel officially left his post as the Orioles interim manager Monday with no hard feelings or regrets and an overwhelming hope that he'll get another opportunity to lead a major league baseball team under far better circumstances than he has dealt with the past two months.

Samuel, who finished with a 17-34 record at the helm, told president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail on Monday morning that he wasn't comfortable accepting a position on new manager Buck Showalter's coaching staff. However, wanting to keep Samuel in the organization at least until season's end, MacPhail will use him on a couple of special assignments, including evaluating the organization's baseball academy in the Dominican Republic.

"I think he's uniquely qualified in a lot of respects to give me the sort of objective and independent view on how much progress we're making there," MacPhail said. "I thought it was important that he stay in the organization. Juan did a nice job for us. He's well-respected by the players, and rightfully so. I did not want him to walk away. I didn't think it was right for him or this franchise. There are some other places we can use his talents."

The original plan was for Samuel to return to coaching third base, the job he held for nearly 31/2 seasons until he was tapped June 4 to replaced the fired Dave Trembley as manager on an interim basis. However, Samuel felt that remaining on staff for the next two months could create an uncomfortable situation for everyone involved. Gary Allenson, who has been coaching third under Samuel, will remain in that role.

"I wasn't going to be happy with myself if I stayed on staff," Samuel said in a phone interview Monday. "I didn't think it was fair to [Showalter], myself and the players. The next thing you know, the players are confused, like, 'What is going on here?' I'm glad that it worked out this way. [MacPhail] didn't have to do this. I didn't expect this. I was walking away, knowing I was going to leave [the rest of his contract] behind. That was not important to me. Me being happy was.

"I just didn't think it would be fair. I'm in the manager's office, and next thing you know, you're at third base. You have a reputation in baseball, and I want to keep that."

Samuel, who started coaching in 1999, one year after his 16-year playing career ended, will return home to Florida for a couple of weeks and then head to his native Dominican Republic this month. His contract with the Orioles will expire in October.

"This is the first time I'll be home in August since I first came to this country in 1980," Samuel said. "It can be pretty emotional. You just see what opens up. Probably once word comes out that I'm not under contract with the Orioles, hopefully my phone will start ringing."

Most in baseball circles don't expect Samuel to be working in the background for long. He's a very popular figure in Philadelphia, where he was a two-time All-Star over seven seasons with the Phillies and was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame. He is very close friends with Cleveland Indians manager Manny Acta, who nearly lured Samuel to the Washington Nationals' staff a couple of seasons ago. Samuel served seven seasons as a coach with the Detroit Tigers, and he still communicates with several members of the organization.

Even with a number of expected managerial vacancies this offseason, Samuel acknowledged that it's much more likely that he'll be offered coaching jobs. However, his name has at least been mentioned in connection with the Toronto Blue Jays' managerial job, which will become open when Cito Gaston retires after this season. Gaston, who managed Samuel in Toronto, figures to have some influence in deciding his successor, and he has spoken very highly of Samuel.

"Well, hopefully this opportunity will give me that and people will probably notice that Sammy can do it," Samuel said. "And when managerial jobs open, my name will be in there. I think I can do this. Yes, if the opportunity comes up, I'd love to do it again."

Though the team didn't fare much better under Samuel than it did under Trembley, who was let go with the Orioles at 15-39, Samuel's calm demeanor in the dugout impressed team officials and players.

"He just showed a real good presence in the dugout and a real good ability to read and feel the flow of the game," said Jeremy Guthrie, who has been the Orioles' only reliable starter. "I think he understands the game tremendously well. I think he has the experience that allows him to understand the way he does, and I think he's a great manager of the different personalities in a long season. I think he does deserve another opportunity."

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