I've been covering the Orioles on a full-time basis since 1997 and I can't recall a team being more supportive of its manager than the current group.
These guys seem grateful for everything that Buck Showalter has done for them and for an organization that had lost its way. A manager can't please everyone, but Showalter's batting average is pretty impressive.
Discussions about the playoff run in 2012 inevitably lead to a Showalter reference. It happened with Jason Hammel during Saturday's "Hot Stove Baseball" show on WBAL Radio. And outfielder Adam Greenberg mentioned Showalter while discussing why the Orioles appealed to him as he searched for a job earlier this month during the Winter Meetings in Nashville.
"The thing we saw last year was a lot of young guys who had taken their lumps really mature at the same time," Hammel said. "You see that a lot with very successful teams. Young guys who have kind of been sitting back and learning, myself included. I consider myself a late bloomer. We all just put it all together at the same time and really believed in each other. And the head of the snake, Buck Showalter, really just letting us go out and do our thing.
"He was confident in us from the get-go and he said, 'Hey, we're going to put you guys in a position where we think you can be successful, and we're just going to run with it.' And I think everybody took that to heart and wanted to do everything we could to help the team."
I've heard Showalter called many things, but never "head of the snake." Let your T-shirt ideas run wild.
Greenberg booked a flight to Nashville on his own. He didn't have a hotel room. All he wanted was another chance in the majors.
Greenberg played against Lew Ford in the independent Atlantic League and he saw the opportunity that the Orioles gave the veteran outfielder. He wanted to follow in those footsteps.
"I definitely was like, Buck Showalter's style of play and to have an organization be that open-minded, man, what an opportunity that would be," Greenberg said. "And now here it is in front of me."
Showalter's style of play. Another selling point.
Two weeks ago, I wrote that Showalter sat down with owner Peter Angelos to discuss a contract extension, among other things. (The Sun reported yesterday that they also met several times last week.) That first meeting got the ball rolling toward the inevitable conclusion, and it's now picking up speed.
There's never been a doubt that Showalter would manage the Orioles beyond 2013. The extension talks were put on hold for a while, but only because Showalter wasn't pushing for a resolution.
He's going to sign his new deal in January because it isn't going to happen during the week between Christmas and New Year's and it isn't going to happen so close to spring training in February. The back burner doesn't sit that far back.
All of this is welcomed news for a clubhouse that offers its full support of Showalter.
Hammel said he hasn't been keeping tabs on the various rumors surrounding the Orioles and their search for another veteran starter or a big bat for the lineup.
"I'm not a GM, so I don't get to push buttons like that," he said. "I do trust what Dan (Duquette) and Buck did together. I'm more worried about getting healthy. When I'm healthy, I'm a cog in this machine, so that's my prime objective.
"Obviously, I see the things going on around us. The Blue Jays are going to be impressive. The Angels, I don't know where they get their money. They keep buying and buying and buying, but it's good. We like a good challenge. We exceeded outside expectations last year. We knew we could do it. It's our job to not really worry about moves being made. Just come in and duplicate what we did last year and exceed what we did last year."
Hammel hasn't been leaning on pitcher Joe Saunders to re-sign with the club, though he's hoping for that outcome.
"I haven't talked to him," Hammel said. "I think in the offseason guys say their hellos and exchange Christmas cards. That's really family time. But I hope he comes back. He was an essential part of what we did late. He's more than welcome to come join the team from my angle."
Note: I had to jump back into this blog entry to note the passing of Jack Klugman.
"The Odd Couple" is one of my all-time favorite shows, and Oscar Madison was a big reason why I decided as a kid that I wanted to become a sportswriter. Sit on your bed in a T-shirt and boxers and produce a column on a typewriter between bites of a tuna sandwich and swigs of beer.
Today, we call that "blogging."