The Baltimore Orioles have named 54-year-old Buck Showalter their new manager, taking over from interim manager Juan Samuel. The former Yankees, Diamondbacks, and Rangers manager had been previously out of baseball since he was fired by Texas in 2006.
Since his time as Yankees manager, Showalter has had a sort of " Midas touch" getting the best out of under-performing franchises. When he took over the helm in the Bronx in 1992, the Yankees were far from a championship caliber team.
Showalter turned the over-paid Yankees around by changing the clubhouse atmosphere into one of seriousness and dedication. Along with then general manager Gene Michael, he shipped out veterans who were unwilling to conform to his demanding methods.
In 1995, Showalter led the Yankees to their first playoff appearance since 1981, but possibly could have done so the year before if not for the 1994 strike, as the Yankees, at the time, held the best record in the American League.
A falling out with owner George Steinbrenner led to Showalter's exit from the Yankees, but the pieces were in place for a championship run as Joe Torre entered the manager's office. Torre deservedly got the credit for the future success of the franchise, but Showalter had done much of the work in restoring the Bronx Bombers.
He then became the inaugural manager of the newly former Arizona Diamonbacks, and with all expansion teams, it takes time to win.
Showalter, though, was able to do so in his second season in the Arizona desert, as the D'Backs went 100-62 and won the NL West. He was booted the following season as Arizona struggled, but again he had set the path to their World Series championship under Bob Brenly.
His next stop was in Texas, where he inherited a team of stars that finished the season 79-91 while Jerry Narron was at the Rangers' helm.
Showalter struggled to the get the Rangers to play as a unit for most of his tenure in Texas, but found success in 2004. He won the Manager of the Year award as the club finished 89-73 despite a serious lack of pitching and the loss of superstar Alex Rodriguez, who was traded to the Yankees.
The Rangers fired Showalter after the 2006 season, and for once, he was unable to breathe life into a struggling franchise.
Showalter now takes over a Baltimore Orioles team that is buried in the AL East and realistically will never compete as they share the division with the powerhouses that are the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays. The Orioles have been willing to deal away their best talent every year, and there isn't much of an end in sight to the club's misery.
Baltimore hasn't been able to eclipse 70 wins since the 2005 season, and Showalter has a huge rebuilding job ahead of him.
For the Orioles to finish near .500 over the next three seasons would be a tremendous accomplishment, especially considering the last time they came near that mark was the 1998 season, when they finished 79-83.
Despite the lack of talent available on the Orioles' roster and their inability to lure free agents due to the AL East division being a perennial "three-horse race," Showalter is the sort of manager who can achieve steady progress in Baltimore.
It would be foolish to count him out, based upon his track record, and if owner Peter Angelos is patient, it is possible that Showalter can get the team playing near .500 baseball during his contract that runs through the 2013 season.
To call the Orioles a "stepping stone" might be a bit harsh, but it is justified in this case.
If Showalter can make decent progress early in his tenure, there is a strong chance contending clubs will come calling for his guidance. Once he gets his feet wet and proves that he hasn't lost his managerial ability, there is no doubt that Showalter will surface as a hot candidate for future vacancies around baseball.