I had a nice chat with manager Buck Showalter earlier today, and Derrek Lee was the primary subject.
The timing seemed right.
Showalter wanted to make sure that Lee's signing was official before he commented. I assured him that the Orioles sent out the press release and arranged a conference call. We were good.
"I think he brings a presence in our lineup and in our clubhouse, and a certain pedigree, so to speak, of quality play," Showalter said.
"The thing that's intriguing is, the more I look into Derrek, ... you know the reputation he has, and people I knew in Atlanta said you couldn't get him to come out of the lineup, even though he had the thumb issue. That's impressive to me. They brought him over to help get them in the playoffs, and he's always a guy who posts up. It's important to him to set an example.
"One of the criteria when I look at players is, do they make their teammates better? And Derrek Lee makes his teammates better by the way he carries himself and the example he sets. And he's a physical presence."
Showalter began to rattle off the ages of his everyday players, and he noted the young starting staff. Lee's clubhouse influence carries a lot of weight with Showalter.
"Guys like Derrek bring so much more to the table than just statistics," Showalter said. "And he's still got a lot left. He takes very good care of himself. It's important for him to please the people he works for."
When I mentioned that Lee's got a chip on his shoulder, as if I was breaking news here, Showalter already was a step ahead of me.
"A lot of this is by design," he said. "We've got a few of those guys now. He's got a passion for the game, a quiet burn. I've always respected him from afar."
That respect grew when Lee asked Showalter whether he could obtain video of American League pitchers so he could study it and be better prepared.
"He's not coming there to kiss babies in the parade," Showalter said. "I'll tell you that."
Yeah, that's an early nominee for "Best Showalter Quote of 2011."