The Showalter influence

I’m sure plenty of you are still recovering from the Ravens’ loss yesterday. One friend of mine is inconsolable. She sent me a profanity-filled text message late in the fourth quarter because she couldn’t curse at home in front of her kids.

That’s what I’m here for.

I guess the countdown to spring training intensifies. There’s one less distraction.

Not long after the Orioles confirmed that they’d hired Buck Showalter as their third manager of 2010, I was asked whether free agents would be more likely to sign here because of his presence. I usually responded that money talked and the chance to win carried a lot of weight - all still true. However, I’ve noticed the Showalter thread running through the last two conference calls.

First baseman Derrek Lee and reliever Kevin Gregg brought up Showalter and how the club responded to him. They noticed the changes. And they seem to respect him and what he brings to the table.

Lee admitted that the Orioles weren’t on his radar earlier in the winter, but his agent, Mike Milchin, convinced him to keep an open mind. Lee did a little research, and the rest is history.

“I’d watch ‘SportsCenter,’ go on their Web site,” Lee said. “I saw the guys they were signing, how they finished up, and I looked at their lineup and I saw what Buck did over there. They’ve always had great fans. I warmed up to it, it grew on me and here I am. I’m looking forward to it.”

Lee didn’t speak to Showalter until after he agreed to terms, but it’s obvious that the manager’s reputation worked in the Orioles’ favor.

“Obviously, we all know Buck’s track record. We know how professional Buck is, how much he wants to win,” Lee said.

“Buck is a prepared, organized, positive guy. I’m really excited to get a chance to play for him. I saw what he did with those guys last year. He really turned them around. I’m sure he’s excited to get a full year under his belt with them and I want to help him any way I can.”

Fast-forward to Friday’s conference call with Gregg, who also mentioned the improvement under Showalter.

“I really liked what I saw last year of the team,” he said. “I know early on that wins weren’t coming at the pace they wanted, but I saw a lot of potential with this team. And once Buck took over, I noticed a change in attitude and direction, along with all the moves made this offseason so far. I just wanted to be part of it.”

Showalter hasn’t hit the recruiting trail, but he’s been actively involved in organizational meetings and has remained in steady contact with president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail. His opinion counts, and so does his reputation.

It wasn’t strong enough to convince Victor Martinez or Adam Dunn to take less money. It didn’t persuade Adam LaRoche to leave the National League. But the Showalter influence has been felt this winter.

I wonder if Prince Fielder is paying attention?

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