After two months under the guidance of interim manager Juan Samuel, the Baltimore Orioles finally have a permanent captain for their floundering ship with the hiring of Buck Showalter to take over the team beginning on August 3rd.
After hiring the interim manager to eventually be the permanent manager after each of the last two managerial firings, the former manager of the Yankees, Diamondbacks and Rangers becomes the first Baltimore manager to be hired from outside the organization since Lee Mazzilli in 2004.
Showalter began his coaching career in the New York Yankees organization and became manager in 1992. He led the Yankees to the best record in the American League in the strike shortened 1994 season and in 1995 led them to the first wild card playoff berth.
Despite the success, a deteriorating relationship with Joe Torre led to his dismissal following the 1995 season. The Yankees went on to win the World Series in 1996 and again from 1998-2000.
Hired by the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks in 1996 to serve as their skipper when the team opened play in 1998, he helped craft a roster that won 100 games and reached the playoffs in just their second season. However, a disappointing third place finish in 2000 led to his dismissal after three seasons.
In a repeat of his New York experience, Showalter left a team that went on to win a World Championship (ironically over the Yankees) in the year after his departure.
After moving to television as an analyst for ESPN, Showalter returned to the dugout in 2003 with the Texas Rangers. He led the Rangers to an 89-73 record in his second season, but after consecutive losing campaigns was fired following the 2006 season.
He returned to ESPN and served as a studio analyst until being hired by the Orioles.
Only 54 years old, Showalter has spent 11 years as a major league manager and has an overall career record of 882 and 833 (.514). He was named the American League Manager of the Year in both 1994 and 2004.
Showalter will have his toughest managerial assignment turning around a franchise that has a storied tradition, but has developed a culture of losing over the past decade. Baltimore has not had a winning season since reaching the American League Championship Series in 1997.
The 2010 Orioles have the worst record in baseball with a 31-70 record and have shown only brief glimpses of hope. A four game sweep in Texas the weekend before the All-Star Game has been the brightest highlight for the Orioles in 2010. The team also has demonstrated a surprising propensity for comeback victories and has a 7-3 record in extra inning games.
Hiring Showalter now gives the new manager nearly two months to review and analyze the team as they prepare for 2011. Despite the struggles this season, the team does include a number of talented young players and with the right tutelage could make great strides in a short span.
Unfortunately, as a member of the American League East it is likely that any significant improvement will simply get the team closer to the middle of the pack. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are both built to annually contend and both the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays have developed a bevy of young talent.
So, Showalter will have his work cut out for him. However, he has turned around teams before and should bring a much needed new attitude to the clubhouse as the Birds look to regain respectability.