Could there be joy eventually in Mudville?
Mudville is baseball's version of Baltimore in 2010, seemingly always on the short end of the stick, like in the 1888 immortal Ernest Thayer baseball poem, "Casey at the Bat." Like the mighty Casey, the cocky star slugger of the Mudville nine, the Orioles in 2010 have been sending their fans home unhappy, too.
Going into this week's All-Star break no team is having such a stinker of a season as that of the Orioles - the worst record in the majors at 29-59. How bad? Their lone All-Star representative is a utility infielder, Ty Wigginton. The winningest pitcher on their staff is second-year reliever David Hernandez with four victories. Their No. 1 and No. 2 starters, Kevin Millwood and Jeremy Guthrie, are a combined 5-18. Their No. 3 starter, "phenom" Brian Matusz, has been marginalized to 3-9 at the halfway point.
Mudville never got its joy after the big-chested Casey struck out.
But could things finally be looking up this season for the Orioles? The All-Star break brought with it a rare, four-game road sweep of the AL West-leading Texas Rangers, including the Saturday night massacre of just acquired lefty Cliff Lee.
The four wins aside, now comes the news that Orioles president Andy MacPhail is on the verge of hiring former big-time manager and ESPN "Baseball Tonight" analyst Buck Showalter, supplanting interim skipper Juan Samuel.
Reports from Fox, Yahoo! Sports and ESPN say William Nathaniel "Buck" Showalter, 54, is poised to take over after the All-Star break.
After suffering through the likes of Lee Mazzili, Sam Perlozzo and Dave Trembley, conventional wisdom says Baltimore would do well to get a name like Showalter at the helm at Camden Yards. Maybe so. Showalter, having managed the Yankees, Diamondbacks and Rangers, counts as a big-name field boss, sporting a respectable managerial record of 882-833 over 11 years and twice winning Manager of the Year awards.
Showalter's a baseball guy through and through who has turned around big-league clubs before. He brings with him a somewhat odd-seeming Howdy Doody persona (Showalter earned his nickname from his penchant for walking around the locker room during his playing days "buck naked," according to Wikipedia).
But it could be worse: Bobby Valentine, Eric Wedge, Rick Dempsey.
All three reportedly were interviewed in the days following Trembley's merciful firing June 4. Valentine's a big name, but why do visions of the quirky, imitable former big- leaguer Jimmy Piersall pop up when you think of him? Wedge had success in Cleveland when the franchise was lucky enough to have Lee and C.C. Sabathia on the same staff, but he gives off the personality of a tree. And Dempsey, a former Oriole great who copped the MVP award from the Orioles' 1983 World Series win, can't seem to shake a backstabber reputation in Baltimore.
So maybe the best choice for a club like the Orioles is Showalter. Many credit him for setting the table for Joe Torre with the Yankees before he was fired after the 1995 season. The next season the Yankees won the World Series for the first time in 18 years. In Arizona, the Diamondbacks won their only title the year after he was let go.
When it comes to the Orioles over more than a decade of losing seasons, nothing appears what it seems. You ask yourself why didn't MacPhail just hire the new manager to start the season rather having the team struggle through the start of 2010 with a clearly overmatched Trembley.
If Showalter indeed is announced as the next man up in Baltimore within a few days, here's hoping he'll do well enough to relegate old Casey to Mudville.
DMA 7-22 Sports is a blog about sports in the Washington-Baltimore market, covering amateurs, colleges and pros. The title DMA 7-22? Means "Designated Market Area," per use of media rating services, signifying Washington is the 7th largest media market in the United States, and Baltimore is the 22nd. You can reach M.V. Greene at DMA722Sports@gmail.com
Photos: Buck Showalter, AP; "Casey at the Bat," Paramount Pictures, movie poster, circa 1927.