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August 2, 2010

Some thoughts on O's before Showalter era begins

If former interim manager Juan Samuel tells Andy MacPhail today that he’s decided to leave the organization rather than go back to coaching third -- and that’s the way he was leaning yesterday -- don’t expect Samuel to have a hard time finding a job next year. Samuel is both beloved and widely respected in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. He’s very close friends with Cleveland Indians manager Manny Acta. He still has a ton of admirers in the Detroit Tigers organization. And his name figures to come up in the Toronto Blue Jays' search for a replacement for the retiring Cito Gaston, who has expressed hope that Samuel (his former player) gets an opportunity somewhere. Gaston certainly has enough influence in the Toronto organization to get Samuel consideration. I’d be surprised if Samuel gets a manager’s job so soon, but I can guarantee you that there will be a long line of managers trying to get him on their respective staffs.

Speaking of coaching staffs, it’s probably a little premature to start speculating on the Orioles’ 2010 staff when Buck Showalter hasn’t even managed a game yet. However, several people I’ve spoken to said that they’d be extremely surprised if Brian Butterfield, the Blue Jays’ third base and infield coach, is not part of Showalter’s staff. Butterfield, who coached with Showalter in Arizona and New York, is a very well-respected teacher whom everybody seems to love. Two other names I’ve heard mentioned as possibilities are former Yankees pitching coaches Nardi Contreras and Billy Connors. Both remain in the Yankees organization in different capacities. Current Triple-A Norfolk manager Bobby Dickerson, who has also worked under Showalter, figures to get some consideration, along with some former Orioles like B.J. Surhoff, Mike Bordick and Bill Ripken.

It was pretty obvious watching Josh Bell the past two games that the young third baseman is really pressing in an effort to make a good impression. He was tentative defensively and too anxious offensively, and he’s clearly putting a lot of pressure on himself. After Sunday’s game, in which he hit into a double play with the bases loaded and no outs in the sixth, Bell sat in front of his locker with his head down. Bell has made a really good impression in the clubhouse because he listens and observes, keeps largely to himself and goes about his business. The veterans have noticed. Now, hopefully they can get him to relax and not play every night like it’s a tryout and he needs to prove his status as the everyday third baseman.

The more post-trade-deadline talk I hear, the more I conclude that many reports, including a couple from yours truly, exaggerated the level of interest in Orioles infielder Ty Wigginton. The Texas Rangers were extremely interested, but they also liked Jorge Cantu, whom they eventually got. But aside from Texas, Wigginton’s suitors consisted of a few teams willing to take on his salary if the Orioles wanted to dump him and get nothing of any significance in return. The Yankees were in that group. The Phillies were more interested in Miguel Tejada than Wigginton. Now, with all that being said, Wigginton is the type of player Showalter respects. He’s starting to swing the bat well again, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s a guy Showalter would like to keep around for a few years.

This probably won’t be a popular opinion, but I think one of Showalter’s first orders of business should be reinstalling Michael Gonzalez as the team’s closer. I say that not because I’m down on Alfredo Simon, who has exceeded everyone’s expectations this year in converting 15 of 18 save chances. Simon can be a serviceable reliever but is probably better suited for the seventh or eighth inning. However, I think you have to see whether the guy you paid $12 million for to close games can do just that now that he appears to be healthy. In 6 1/3 innings since coming off the disabled list, Gonzalez has allowed one run on three hits and two walks. His velocity is back between 93 and 95 mph, and his slider is slowly coming back. Am I sold? Absolutely not, and I won’t be until he keeps consistently getting outs for several more weeks. But with the amount of money invested in Gonzalez, you really need to see whether he can close games. If he can’t, you probably need to go out this season and sign or trade for somebody who can.

Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 12:03 AM | | Comments (25)


Not sure I understand the thinking that says that because you invested X amount of dollars in someone you should therefore hand them the closer's role. You simply put the best man for the job there in that role. If that's Gonzalez or Simon, so be it. Gonzalez's salary should have no bearing on where he plays. $12 mil a year for a set-up man is fine by me, especially if we're, say, paying a minimal salary to an effective closer.

Jeff Z's reply: I agree with that in a sense Dimitrios, but the Orioles paid him $12 million because they obviously thought he'd be a successful closer for them. Now that he's apparently healthy, give him a chance to prove it.

I can only hope that Samaul gets the job in Toronto. It will give the Orioles a chance to win games. Juan has no feel for how to use a pitching staff. He made some bad in game moves. Managers need not be liked, loved, but instead just respected. Showalter I think is a terrible hire, but we shall see. Until you get pitching, power at 1b,3b-and a SS that hits his weight the losses will keep coming.

"Showalter is a terrible hire, but we shall see." Really, Dan???? So sayeth the expert Dan Shultz??? Who are you by the way?

Check out Mr. Showalter's managerial statistic's before you start belittling the hire prior to him managing ONE game.

I agree gonzalez should at least split the closer role to see if he can do the job.. I think you have to get a huge slugging 1B via trade or overpaying or face next year being like this one..I vote for Murray to be the hitting coach, he was a switch hitter with power like we need to develope with wieters and bell. I don't see all the negativity with izturis, he is leading the SS in fielding and has some big last inning hits too. He has been very steady in the field inspite of the parade of 2B he has played with this year..I would be OK with him next year while we build our SS of the future..

Simon falls apart too easily in closing situations. i agree with giving Gonzo the job if he has his act together. getting Jm johnson back at some point would make simon expendable.

Between now and the end of the year i want to see a killer instint from Showalter instead of rolling over in the culture of losing like trembley and samuel did.

Showalter needs to clean house, starting with the coaches.

The Crow must go! This move is "long" overdue. I don't understand how a career utility player who never hit .300 in a season w/500 ab became the hitting coach for life in the first place. Weiters,'regression, Jone's stagnation, Scott's continued feast or famine performance and the horrid hitting w/runners in scoring position call for an immediate change.

The only failure more glaring than the pitiful hitting has been giant step back taken by the pitching prospects. Matusz, Bergensen, and Tillman have all regressed substantially. Millwood has been a huge disappointment and Guthrie, our best starting pitcher, has a era well above 4 runs per game. Change the pitching coach pronto!


I don't really know that I agree about Gonzalez. I definitely don't think they need to invest ANY money in a closer during the off-season- that's how they got into this situation in the first place. If Alfredo Simon can come off of TJ surgery and go from Norfolk's rotation to closing at an 83% clip, then I don't see the need to throw more money at a reliever, especially with so many other areas of need.

The Orioles have so many in-house candidates for the bullpen (and the closer's role) that I just think it would be a waste. Gonzalez, Simon, JJ, Hernandez, Sarfate, Hoey, Pelzer, Mickolio, Lebron, etc.

Just my opinion, but I'd be happy if the Orioles never spent more than $1 million on a closer ever again. Find me one positive example of the Orioles spending major money on a FA reliever in the last 5-10 years.Hard to do, because relievers are so hard to predict year-to-year.

I agree we should give Buck the benefit of the doubt since he's coming rather we like it or not. So how about getting behind him for a change instead of ripping the guy before he get's in the dugout.

As for Izturis, he's ok if you have someone on the corners that can hit for power and average. What you can't have is three of four guy in the infeild hitting.250.

There are many things this team needs to address in the off season and Buck will need time to evelauate them before he put's his brand on this team.

As far as Samuel is concerned I believe he did a better job of managing the team than most people here will give him credit for and will get consideration from some teams for their open position. People in this town want everything yesterday and it just doesn't work that way. Keep in mind that 2/3's of this team is under 25 years old and are still learning the game without the benefit of veteran experience to lean on. This team will get better without a doubt.

If you listen to Mike Boddicker the last couple of days he said that many people outside of this area think the O's have a great stable of young talent and many would love to have the quality arms they have in this organization. Pitching is always the last thing to develop in a young player. It takes time and there are no guarantees, just look at Strasberg with the Nat's. Everyone had him in the Hall of Fame before he threw his first pitch and now he's on the DL. You can never tell what will happen to a career until you actually have one.

Point is, let's all take a deep breath at see what happens over the nest two months before we call for the next manager. At least give Buck a chance for a cup of coffee before we hang him.

Sure Ill check his Record:
He is 883-833- Not awful

Best comparison is when he managd the Rangers. I would compare them to the Orioles because they had no pitching. They did have some some hitters on the team that the O's do not. He won- 71,89,79,80. Also there is another pattern that bothers me. Wins in his first yr with the Yankees, Az,and Tx were 76,65,71. In his second year every club improved-88,100,89. Here is the part that is bothersome- With both Texas and Az, his win dropped to 85(-15), and 79(-10) IN the Yankees third yr they dropped 76 to 70(-6) You throw tr 2 with the Yankwads due to the strike. He is terrible hire because the O's need LONG TERM! His record shows he is 3yr and out manager. Do I think he can improve the Orioles, yes. But in no way is he the answer. The organization was once again did not make the right move.

Remember, Eddie was a hitting coach and didn't fare well. But, maybe he has learned from his previous tenure in Cleveland.

One thing I always liked about Eddie was that when he took batting practice, he worked on hitting pitcher's pitches, being off-balance and still getting enough wood on the ball to dump it over the infield. Eddie credited that work on his getting 3000 hits and doing that now would be a good thing for the Orioles. I'd love to see HoFer number 33 back in a Bird's uni.

About Samuel. The noted expert Dan says that Juan has no feel for a pitching staff and would be a good hire for Toronto from the rest of the division's point of view. Just like it's asinine to call the Orioles young players washouts after less than a year and a half in the majors, same it is to call Samuel a wash out. He managed not even half a season with an admittedly bad team, all the while knowing he was going to be replaced. He made moves the same way just about every manager does in baseball and didn't really do anything ridiculously wrong. I do agree that he over managed the bullpen, but that is what is taught in manager's school. If you have the relievers, use them. Every manager does it, you can't throw Juan under the bus just for that.

And I also agree that Gonzalez should be given the opportunity to close again. This was a sound signing, based solely on his numbers from last year and over his career, there was no indication he was losing effectiveness. Plus, for those who say he was only 10-17 in save opps last year, keep in mind that Sherril was given the job with no career saves, Mike Gonzalez has 55. The only thing I worried about with Gonzo was that prior to his 80 appearances last year, he made a total of 54 the previous two years. Did making 80 appearances covering 74.1 innings over-tax his arm? Looks like it. He's much more effective pitching 50 to 60 games a year and if they can do that with him, there's no reason to think he can't become a top closer. Plus, the Orioles have options at the back end, so if they need to give him a rest, they can.

I look forward to the start of the Showalter era. Since the Weaver days, this might the most significant manager signing, even more so than Davey Johnson or Hargrove, they've ever had. It immediately makes the Orioles relevant and if a guy like Buck, who likely would have been hot property for any number of openings, wants to come here, then maybe there's more here than meets the eye.

Jeff- any thoughts on Jim Palmer's pregame show comments from over the w/e? I only read the secondhand transcript, but it sounds like he really lit some people up.

With Showalter looking like he can bring his own coaches in, have we finally seen the last of Terry Crowley, and also Rick Kranitz? Both are probably nice guys, buit the job just isn't getting done, and someone needs to be held accountable (at the minor league level as well, as Palmer pointed out).

I know Palmer is around the team at this level, but I think it would be a great thing to have him work on a regular basis with the prospects in the minor leagues. Any chances of that happening?

Jeff Z's reply: Bill, it's been a real busy time with managerial hiring, two trades, and the traveling on the road. I'd like to hear or read them more closely before commenting. I will say this, if one of his main points was that some O's are in for a rude awakening with Buck, I wholeheartedly agree. I've seen Palmer work with some pitchers and he talks to them regularly. As for the minor leagues, Jim has a pretty busy schedule and I'm not sure I see him taking trips down to the minors to evaluate guys. Yes, Buck will bring in his own coaches after the season and No, I don't expect either Crowley or Kranitz to return.

This probably won’t be a popular opinion, but I think one of Showalter’s first orders of business should be reinstalling Michael Gonzalez as the team’s closer.

Hey Jeff, if that's the case, why didn't the Orioles trade Simon? From my viewpoint Simon has better stuff then Gonzalez. I don’t think Simon should ride the pine because of Gonzalez. It should be the other way around.

Also, if Simon is a middle reliever which I don’t think he is. What are they going to do with Hernandez? Who, I do think could make a very good middle reliever if given the chance over the long run.

Just because they clearly overpaid for Gonzalez doesn’t mean they have to use him as our number one reliever. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

I can’t wait for today’s press conference. I hope you all ask tough questions, because this is going to be the most important press conference in a very long time in Baltimore.
At least as far as Baseball is concerned!

Also, thank you for responding to my blogs. I do appreciate it.

Jeff Z's reply: You are absolutely right, Dan. There is very little that Gonzalez can do to justify that contract now. I don't think you would have gotten much for Simon plus he makes next to nothing so it wouldn't make sense to dump young pitching. A bunch of power arms in the back end of the bullpen is a good problem to have, one that the Orioles haven't enjoyed in years.

Which comes first? Jake Fox T-shirt Tuesday or Gary Allenson managing the team.

I'm thinking they'll probably coincide this time next year.


I have been on vacation a week and may have missed your comments on this subject. Do you know if Angelos and MacPhail are going to let Buck hire his own coaches? Or is he stuck with the likes of Terry Crowley since Angelos likes him?

Jeff Z's reply: The current staff, sans Samuel, will stay on for the rest of the season. Showalter will evaluate them and then form his long-term coaching staff after the season and by all accounts, he'll have the power to make the calls. Buck's reputation as a control freak is well documented and there's no way he would have taken this job unless he had full authority to hire his own coaches.

I cosign with Wayne U. If Buck is the manager that we HOPE to be, he'll bring in his own coaching staff (I hope he doesn't get rid of T Bone. He's been the only effective coach on the whole staff!). Buck has been a baseball-knowledgeable kind of guy, so hopefully he'll turn the Os around NEXT YEAR. If anybody is thinking that the Os will go on some magical win streak, keep dreaming. You won't see any changes probably until next year.

At least the club won one for Juan in Kansas City. I wish Juan well in his future endeavors and hope he chooses one of the many offers of employment coming his way.

I am hopeful the entire coaching staff will be turned over.

Jeff: Thanks for the updated theory on why Wigginton wasn't traded.

ESPN, as you know, considered it failure by the O's not to move Wigginton. MacPhail is sometimes criticized by other GMs for being slow to move. Yet the last-minute deal of Ohman looked good, and I wouldn't have traded Wigginton for a prospect less interesting than who they got from San Diego for Tejada.

I'd really like to know, post-mortem, what the best offer on the table for Wigginton was.

Jeff Z's reply: Me too obviously but front office execs often' don't like to divulge that info. All that I was hearing was the Orioles wanted one of the Rangers young shortstops (they have three ranked among their top 15 prospects according to Baseball American and a kid in Elvus Andrus starting in the major leagues and having already made an All-Star team). Profar, their top shortstop prospect, was not in play, but I would have to think the Orioles asked for one of the other two (Luis Sardinas or Leury Garcia).

I hope everything works out for samuel. I would love to know why Buck Showalter took this god awfull oriole job? It is really really sad that the ravens get more fans to attend there training camp then orioles do there games. !!!HEY ORIOLES WAKE THE HELL UP!!!. Anyway after venting my frustration hiring Buck Showalter is a step in the right directiong even thought we have seemed to take that right step a few times before and it hasn't pained out.

So, Dan, who do YOU think should have been the new manager?

The worst case scenario is that Gonzalez does very well down the stretch and we get lulled into thinking we have the closer position settled for 2011 - when who knows whats going on in that guys head as we head into spring training?

I'm not sure how much blame goes to Crowley for this year's batting regression. The club suffered immensely from Robert's (and Pie's) absence, but more important had no legitimate power threat from the get go. Lineups need to have balance.

Still, over one decade of losing baseball does have a common denominator - Terry Crowley. Without going to statistics, I would wager the Orioles over that time period were in the lower third or fourth quartile of American League batting. And that seems like a pretty decent sample size to me...

In response to Dan, I think that is EXACTLY why Buck is the perfect coach for us. Its almost impossible to find a coach that can both rebuild the team AND take them to a championship. Buck Showalter can clearly do the first, but for the latter we'll need to probably get someone else. but if we are a 85 win team in a couple of years isn't that good? In time to possibly install Machado and maybe even Rendon (if we stay this bad and his injury heals ok) to the left side of the infield?

Our biggest issue has been player development, and Kranitz and Crowley have to be held accountable. Can the prospects really be busts when ALL OF THEM have had success in the minors? The whole system was acclaimed by scouts and baseball personalities. Jones regressed, Wieters has super regressed, same with Matusz, Tillman hasn't improved. And our famr system is the most important part of our team, so if the kids aren't developing, then we are doomed. You can't sign or buy a whole team off of Free Agency.

Anyone who bashes Samuel clearly has not watched this team from Day 1.

Their record may not show it, but the attitude and competitiveness of this ballclub NOTICEABLY improved after Samuel took over for Trembley. You could visibly see his frustration and disappointment when the team came up short and he wasn't afraid to call guys out.

I do believe he'll be an effective manager somewhere, soon.

Dave, Juan and now Buck. Three managers in a baseball season. Managers don't hit or catch a baseball. Its time to admit that our team cannot play. They are a sorry bunch of players.

Welcome to Baltimore, Buck. We're glad you're here. There's fifty-seven games left in this miserable season as follows: Rays, 9; Yankees, 6; Red Sox, 6; Blue Jays, 6; White Sox, 7; Angels, 6; Rangers, 4; Tigers, 7; Indians, 3; and Mariners, 3. All but six games are against teams currently at or over .500. Twenty-six are against current playoff contenders (if the season ended today). Six are against a team we haven't beaten all year (in twelve tries!). In other words, to match the current win-loss percentage, the worst in the major leagues, you'll need to win seventeen games. If you achieve (or surpass) this, you will deserve AL Manager of the Year once again. Again, we're glad you're here! You can always take solace in the best crabcakes in America!!

Regards Josh Bell --- what does anyone see in him. Think the Dodgers would trade a legitimate power hitting 3rd baseman. I doubt it. Agree it's early, but to this point I see nothing much in Josh Bell.

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.

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