Friday, August 16, 2013
When baseball changed in Baltimore
By Adam Jones
Adam Jones has seen losing in Baltimore. He says it all changed with Buck Showalter.
August 3rd, 2010 is a day that changed not only my life but changed the culture in Baltimore and even changed Orioles fans. That was the day Buck Showalter was hired.
We had heard so many different things. There was, “He is very detail-oriented" or, "He’s a tireless worker.” And we quickly learned that all of it was very true. The players I talked to ultimately described his demands in a way that I think fits perfectly with the type of player that I am: You have one job to do; come and do your job. And since the day he arrived, I think everybody in this entire organization, top to bottom, has taken a different approach when it comes to baseball.
Showalter gets the biggest ovation of anyone, hands-down, when his name is introduced before the game, because he’s brought resilience, a never-say-die attitude and a winning mentality back to Baltimore. Now our fans are getting to see a resurgence and style of baseball that is reminiscent of the Orioles of the past. I remember myself as a kid, watching the Orioles on TV and, even as they struggled, thinking it would be cool to play in that city. Getting to play here and winning makes a big difference.
And it comes back to the manager. Showalter understands all the aspects of the game -- the clubhouse, the organization, the front office, the clubhouse staff, how the food should be, how the travel should be. He brought real organization to this organization. The saying is, "Let’s do it the right way the first time.”
We might as well. It takes just as much energy to do it wrong as it does to do it right.
Buck Showalter has changed the baseball culture in Baltimore.
I think the fans can relate to our current team and the teams we’ve had over the past few years because of the personalities that we have in our clubhouse. I think we have one of the best clubhouses in the entire game. And Showalter also has a lot to do with that, because he lets us police ourselves. All he asks out of us is to be prepared and show up, and I think that’s all you can ask. That alleviates most of the problems and conflicts that teams could possibly have.
When you use the word "chemistry," to me, it’s synonymous with “trust.” If you trust your teammates, as I do, you could be down by five runs headed into the ninth, but still believe that if you get a couple guys on, you have a chance to make it interesting. You're never out. We trust each other to take the right approach. It goes one through nine, one through 25 and one through 40. I think we all have trust in whoever comes up and whoever has an opportunity.
The chemistry we have starts with the belief that everyone wants to succeed. Regardless of who is on the mound, I have complete faith that he wants to perform at the highest level. Some of us remember the years of being the cellar dwellers in the East, and no one wants to go back to that. There have been a lot of changes since then. Showalter and the organization have worked to get players in here that are similar to each other in terms of personality. This clubhouse is very, very, very colorful that way, but there’s always something that links everybody together, and that’s the hunger to win. I think Showalter went out there and searched for players that not only have talent but also have the hunger to win, the hunger to be successful and the hunger to work hard for that success.
If I describe the typical player in this clubhouse, I'd use the phrase blue-collar. I know, everyone is making money here, but it's about an approach. These are hard-working men trying to get a "W" every night. The cool part about our team is that it’s a diverse group, but we're all about the same age. You’ve got the youngest in Manny and the oldest in B-Rob, but in between, we're basically a bunch of 25- to 29-year-olds. I think that similarity has enabled us to get along and avoid the dumb things that can sidetrack teams.
But that started with Buck. He helped put this team together and is still working to try and find the players that want to work hard, do not care about egos and only care about results in the win-loss column.
Notes and links from Buster
• The adoption of increased use of instant replay is at least two years overdue, so the system presented to owners Thursday -- no matter its form -- is bound to be an improvement.
But the problem with the incoming replay format and the system of managers’ challenges is that it does not entirely fix the current problem: Some incorrect calls will be accepted and embraced when they don’t have to be.
The question of when to use a challenge will become one more piece of strategy for fans to debate from the stands, as it is in the NFL, and maybe that’s ultimately what the goal of this is -- to create a little more buzz while helping the product.
But maybe a better goal would be this: Get as many calls right as possible.
Imagine if the proposed system was implemented 30 years ago, and Whitey Herzog ran out of challenges, and there was nothing to be done about this call that altered a World Series.
Imagine if replay had been in place in 2011 and through some quirky set of circumstance, Clint Hurdle didn’t have the ability to challenge this call by Jerry Meals.
The whole point of replay is to correct mistakes. Why adopt any system in which egregious mistakes can still stand?
Research done by Outside The Lines a couple of years ago demonstrated that if you take ball/strike calls out of the equation, the number of contested calls is actually lower than you think it is, around three to four a game.
If Major League Baseball wants to make sure the time of game is not affected by replay, then the best course of action is to allow oversight through a constant silent partner of each game, whether it be a fifth umpire at the ballpark or through a video supervisor in the central office as the NHL does. When a call is under review, an umpire on the field can signal to the others on the field to wait a few moments, as confirmation or reversal is weighed by the replay official.
Instead, under the proposed system, the managers will inevitably throw in layers of delay before hearing from their own people whether to challenge. A manager whose team is on the field will have the pitcher step off; a manager whose team is at bat will have the batter linger before getting in the box. There is no play clock in MLB, as there is in the NFL, to move things along, and as we have seen, baseball players and managers can be really, really adept at slowing down a game. Next year will be the year of the There's A Bug In My Eye excuse.
If a challenge is needed, the manager will have to come out onto the field and have a conversation with the umpire to trigger the replay challenge. Removing the managers from the replay process is like cutting out the unnecessary middle men, who will only add to the time required to get calls right.
And just because a manager botches a replay challenge in an earlier inning shouldn’t mean that a game-changing call like this -- Twins fans, avert your eyes from this nightmare in the 2009 playoffs -- will stand later in the game.
• The Cardinals have summoned top prospect Kolten Wong, which could mean less playing time for David Freese. As Derrick Goold notes in his story, the left-handed hitting Wong could play against right-handers and provide more speed for the Cardinals’ offense.
3. There are more concerns about Carlos Quentin’s balky knee.
1. The Tigers beat the Royals in Game 1 of a key weekend series. From ESPN Stats & Info: The Tigers have won 10 straight home games, marking the team's third season in the past 35 years during which they have had a double-digit home win streak: 2006 (10) and 2012 (10). The longest home win streak in Tigers history is 17 in 1909.
The Tigers have been crushing their opponents with a high-powered offense during this stretch. They've outscored teams 57 to 11 and are batting .293 with 14 home runs, while allowing just two long balls.
2.Zack Wheeler was awesome. From ESPN Stats & Info: Wheeler recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts against the Padres. Per ELIAS: Wheeler is the first Mets rookie with at least 12 Ks in a start since Dwight Gooden struck out 16 on Sept. 17, 1984. His slider was hot. He threw 32 sliders, 22 for strikes and recorded five strikeouts (all career-highs).