BALTIMORE – Buck Showalter is pledging to restore the luster to the Baltimore Orioles, a legacy franchise that has fallen on hard times.
"All competitive people like the idea sometimes that people say it can't be done. ... I love the town, the tradition, the people, the feeling," said the 54-year-old Showalter, introduced Monday as the Orioles' new manager. "It's a challenge, it's our challenge."
Showalter built contenders with the New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers, but the 32-73 Orioles — the majors' worst team — will be a test for his renowned preparation, attention to detail and ability to work with young players.
"We have currently, in our franchise, a young core of players that are struggling, taking a step backwards. They haven't been exposed to a winning-type environment," Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said. "We ... have been trying to find somebody who has had some experience in creating that winning environment."
Hired last week, Showalter's first game will be Tuesday night at Camden Yards against the Los Angeles Angels.
Showalter inherits a lineup without a slugger, a rotation without a winning anchor, and an owner with deep pockets who hasn't always given his front office free reign to do its jobs.
"I'm not naive," Showalter said.
Showalter, who has a 882-833 career record, takes over a team full of problems and question marks. He succeeds for interim manager Juan Samuel, who was 17-34 after Dave Trembley was fired June 4.
MacPhail said he had targeted early August as a perfect time for a transition of power because it gave a new manager enough of the season to evaluate the roster before moving forward.
The job, MacPhail said, required experience.
"It didn't feel ... we could bring somebody in that had never managed at the major league level before. It was essential, in our view, that we being somebody in that had been there and done that before," MacPhail said.
Baltimore's rich tradition intrigued Showalter, who will be tasked with reversing some of the fundamental breakdowns that have plagued a team spiraling toward its 13th straight losing season.
"I understand some of the weaknesses that I've seen physically on the field. You want to identify why," Showalter said. "The '27 Yankees botched a rundown now and then, OK? It happens, but you want to identify why and not repeat it."
The Orioles are banking on Showalter repeating the successes he's already experienced.
In 1992, Showalter took over a Yankees team that hadn't reached the playoffs and led them to their first postseason birth in 14 seasons. Let go by New York, he joined the Diamondbacks before expansion and helped create them before taking over a manager and winning 100 games, a major league-record 35-game improvement, and an NL West title in 1999.
Arizona cut Showalter loose the season before winning the World Series, and Showalter ended up in Texas, where he oversaw an 18-game improvement in 2004, his second season at the helm. With the Rangers, he won his second AL Manager of the Year award.
"We need an identity as a franchise. We need somebody that can put his stamp on this team, have us play a certain brand of baseball that we're going to have to play to win," MacPhail said. "Again, (Showalter) has a reputation that excels and equals all others in that category."
Showalter said he intends to restore respectability to a moribund franchise that hasn't had a winning season since it last reached the playoffs in 1997.
"I don't think there's a prouder organization in baseball. ... I really, sincerely feel it can happen again, but it's about the product on the field," he said.
Only this time, he intends to see the process through.
"It's kind of like raising your daughter and then letting somebody else walk her down the aisle. ... I hope to get to walk down the aisle here," Showalter said.
MacPhail said Samuel will assume a special assignment role instead of returning to his previous job as third base coach. One of Samuel's first tasks will be to report on the Orioles' presence in the Dominican Republic.
The rest of the coaching staff will remain intact, at least through the remainder of the regular season. Gary Allenson, the Triple-A manager who took over as third base coach when Samuel was promoted to interim manager, will remain on the staff.