Orioles Developing New Culture Under Buck Showalter
SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Orioles have a 75 percent new infield, a new closer, a new designated hitter and a new coaching staff.
Before they make the step to contender in the American League East, Baltimore will need a culture change.
Buck Showalter is doing what he can to change an atmosphere created by (and the cause of) 13-straight losing seasons.
Instead of a team-wide meeting before Monday's first full-squad workout, Showalter had everyone come to the clubhouse Sunday evening. They piled into buses and went to a local movie theater.
Center fielder Adam Jones wondered if they were seeing the Justin Bieber movie. Instead, after Showalter introduced the front office and staff and made a short speech, the team watched a specially made video.
In between World Series-clinching moments from Orioles championships and clips of some Baltimore on-field brawls were inspirational speeches from movies such as "Any Given Sunday" and "Miracle."
The players gave it a thumbs-up.
"It was cool," new third baseman Mark Reynolds said. "Too bad we didn't have a game last night, because I think most of us were ready to roll."
The Orioles went 34-23 last year after Showalter became manager, the second-best record in the AL over that span. Baltimore won four of 34 series before Showalter and 11 of 18 under him.
It was an astonishing turnaround, but no one should expect it to translate into .596 ball over a full season (97 wins) just yet.
Asked if there is any carryover from that finish, Jones said, "A mindset, definitely."
That's part of what has to change. Jones has to realize he still hasn't fully realized his potential, catcher Matt Wieters has to come out of his shell and take charge with the pitchers and -- more than anything -- losing has to become unacceptable.
Showalter will do what he can. He gave coaches specific instructions on how to run drills efficiently because he couldn't bear to see anyone just standing around.
"Buck's going to make sure you do the job right," Reynolds said after Monday's workout, "and you're not going to quit till you do."
But to change the culture, Showalter will need help from within the clubhouse.
"It's up to us," Jones said. "It's not up to them (Showalter and the staff)."
Perhaps new first baseman Derrek Lee can set the needed tone. New reliever Kevin Gregg has the potential to lead. Someone will have to show Baltimore how to win.
"You don't come in stating you're a leader," Lee said. "You just be who you are and try to do things right."
The lone infield incumbent, second baseman Brian Roberts, made his big-league debut on June 14, 2001. In the 9 1/2 seasons since, the Orioles have gone 661-894 and haven't finished within 20 games of first place.
"It's kind of 'go time' for us," Roberts said. "Those last 60 games or whatever, you could feel the energy change and the confidence start to grow. That only goes so far. Last season's over.
"We know we can do this. We did it for 60 games, which is a pretty good stretch. And the guys that we brought in have already been there. Vladdy (Guerrero) has been there. Derrek Lee's been there. J.J. Hardy's been there."
But the culture of losing -- or to be more precise, a culture of not winning -- became so well ingrained in Baltimore that it will take effort to erase it.
Roberts said he was reading about last weekend's PGA Tour stop, the Northern Trust Open, and a quote from winner Aaron Baddeley struck him: "I thought Freddie (Couples) was going to be tough today, because definitely winning is a skill, and Freddie has been winning quite often recently."
Said Roberts: "When you learn that, people fear you. You start to show you know how to win, it gets to be that seventh, eighth, ninth inning, and the other team's going, 'Well, they know how to win. We better figure something out.'
"We've been on the flip side of that for too long."