Given the chance to remain in his current role, Orioles manager Buck Showalter would make defense one of his points of emphasis in spring training. Defending at a level that they need get back to or the losses will continue to mount.
“There are some things offensively,” he added, “without delving into it too deeply.”
Establishing leadership within the clubhouse also could aid the process, but who’s a logical candidate with Adam Jones expected to leave as a free agent?
The large roster turnover has lowered the average age inside the clubhouse and removed some voices that carried the most weight. And this is going back to Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz, Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy, among others, prior to trades that sent relievers Zach Britton and Darren O’Day packing.
“I mean, you can’t expect Cedric Mullins to do that Day One, right?” Showalter said.
“A lot of the people you’re talking about was by example and the peer pressure that’s applied by the examples they set on how they play. There’s like three or four different sides to it. One, good players. But you also have to have a certain standard.
“I think the word I keep trying to come back to is ‘efficiency.’ I look at how Jonathan Villar has, since he got here, has been, it’s not a transformation, but there are some things that he’s really doing well that we’re in need of. There’s pieces that kind of fit into the mode of what you’re trying to do and everybody isn’t the same, thank goodness. But it’s not like those guys that you’re talking about were calling private team meetings every other day and stuff. It was efficient, here’s how we’ve got to do it, and people fed off of that.”
Showalter didn’t want to use the word “void” when discussing leadership. And he noted how it isn’t a role that’s got players lining up to fill it.
“Maybe the next guy is there,” he said.
“I’ve said many times, one of the biggest changes in the game since I’ve been around it is how challenging it is for guys to want to be that guy. You could name one or two on each team because it was a vocal thing back then. When you walked in you knew who it was. Nowadays, with the social media and all the consternation and attention to anything, a lot of people don’t want that responsibility. And does that make them wrong? In the world we live in?
“You see (Jonathan) Papelbon and (Bryce) Harper get together, what was the end game with that when the smoke cleared? That’s what players and people look at nowadays in our sport. It’s different in other sports because you’re not playing as many games, you’re not up against each other. But naturally when you trade that many people and have that much turnover there’s going to be, I wouldn’t use the word ‘void.’ It’s kind of yet to be determined.”
The Orioles are tied the club record for most losses in a season with 107 and there are 12 games left. Pretty hard to run the table. Can this season serve as a marker of sorts for the returning players?
Don’t let this happen again. Don’t fall to such depths.
“I look at it on the flipside,” Showalter said. “I want them to realize this is not what you want. Let’s do everything possible to not have this going on in September.
“I remind them, we have an advance meeting not too long ago where I played some of the stuff from the playoffs. Some games where the place was full and this is what can be. And it’s up to us.
“Just understand there’s a different side of this, especially in our hometown. The onus is on us, but our fans are waiting to embrace it. Very much like when I got here. If we can stay consistent to an approach and a plan and know who we are and know who we aren’t and grind the heck out of it. Our town is that type of town.”
Showalter and his wife Angela were on the field before first pitch to receive the 2018 Oriole Way Award, which recognizes a member of the organization who’s made significant contributions both on and off the field and also demonstrates a sincere desire to serve the community.
Since joining the Orioles, Showalter has been active with KidsPeace and the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS), among other organizations.
Update: Cedric Mullins’ leadoff home run gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead.
The lead increased to 4-0 after DJ Stewart’s first major league hit. Chris Davis scored on an error by right fielder Billy McKinney and Stewart was awarded home plate on an error by pitcher Aaron Sanchez.
Update III: Back-to-back one-out doubles by Aledmys Díaz and Dwight Smith Jr. in the fifth reduced the lead to 4-1.
Update IV: The lead is down to 4-2 in the sixth after McKinney scored on Justin Smoak’s ground ball.
Update V: The Jays scored four unearned runs in the seventh to lead 6-4. Steve Wilkerson bounced a throw past Mancini with two outs to let two runs score and tie the game, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. followed with a two-run single.