Juan Samuel has officially decided to step down from the Orioles coaching staff upon the arrival of Buck Showalter, and I don’t think any of us are particularly surprised. While fans and the front office were impressed with the way he handled this team, his record was almost identical to Dave Trembley’s on the field, and Samuel likely didn’t want to take a #2 spot for a team he just ran. Personally I don’t see how it wouldn’t cause at least a bit of confusion in the clubhouse; having the new and former managers on the same staff, particularly with the “new brand of leadership” that Showalter hopes to bring to bear on the young Orioles. You don’t want to have a situation where players can look across the dugout to Samuel for a sympathetic ear when Showalter starts to grate on their nerves. The entire coaching staff has to be on the same page, and it would have at least appeared on the outside that that wasn’t the case.
Samuel seems ready for reassignment on a number of projects through the res t of his contract, and that’s a smart move given his expertise. He is a veteran baseball mind, and anything the Orioles can get out of him is worthwhile. For a team that needs a stronger Dominican presence he could be a huge boon to the team and I for one am glad that he accepted some position to continue his involvement with the club.
That said, I hope it was good move by Showalter to keep the coaching staff intact through the end of this season. On one hand, you don’t want to have foreign coaches trying to step in and handle players on a much more micro level than the manager has to. Infield, outfield, pitching coaches, etc. all need time to evaluate their players, figure out where their strengths and weaknesses are and address them with a level of detail that the manager can afford not to know. Bringing in coaches now could lead to confusion and to players going backwards, lacking coaches who have time to review their tape and correct mistakes. However, these coaches are either auditioning for next season to stay with the club (unlikely) or they are auditioning for jobs next season. For the latter point I feel sorry for them, since it doesn’t look like this season has done them any favors to this point. Keeping the same coaches makes Showalter the new sheriff in town but all the deputies are the same. It’s tough to get order without his own group to back him up.
Which is probably why Showalter and the O’s organization is just writing the rest of this season off. They can’t bring in new coaches now (I would assume they would want to grab some coaches from good teams, which would mean waiting until the end of the season), and they can’t very well stay with the same group next season. This all adds up to the next two months being a lovely opportunity for Showalter to sit and watch the team, figure out their needs, and make a plan. Most likely next season this team will be largely unrecognizable, with a coaching staff that doesn’t make fans pine for the days of Dave Trembley. The Orioles have had a lot of good baseball minds put in bad situations and have been unwilling to surround them with talented coaches and players. But they have never had Buck Showalter, and I cannot think that he will accept whatever table scraps are thrown to him by Angelos and his crew. Showalter represents an opportunity to throw everything they have behind an experienced, winning manager. These two months may be written off, but come October this organization has to give their manager every tool he needs to be successful if they are ever going to find the same success on the field.