"I think that's why we've been able to overcome so many things this year," said Orioles utility man Steve Tolleson, whose father, Wayne, played for Showalter in Fort Lauderdale. "We know he's got our back. ... That's what gains respect."
Added Hardy: "Not once have I questioned a move that he's made. It makes you kind of relaxed. You trust it. You know you're playing for a reason, that you're in a certain spot for a reason. It's not all just, 'Let's put these guys in the lineup and see what happens.' There's a reason for everything he does."
The key is knowing each of his players well and which buttons to push. On Monday night, 20-year-old rookie third baseman Manny Machado — who has stabilized the position since he was called up from Double-A Bowie in early August — made an error that led to three unearned runs, the difference in a 5-3 loss to the Rays.
"Yeah, I'll go up to Manny Machado today and go, 'Hey kid, I made three errors in one game in Triple-A and lost a game,' " Showalter said before Tuesday's game. "That's the thing. Guys are out there every day, and you try to go out there and put yourself in their shoes because you're here to protect an organization's precious commodities. These guys are ours, so why would you make it tougher on them?"
Steve Tolleson tells a story from late May, when the Orioles were in the middle of a season-long six-game losing streak and Showalter called a rare team meeting inside the visiting clubhouse in Toronto.
"He told us, 'We haven't played well lately, but if you look at the standings, we're in first place. You belong here even though we've struggled a bit,' " Tolleson said. "I think that put it in perspective. He's kept us even keel. There hasn't been sense of urgency that we have to get it done or else, or any added pressure."
Even after Wednesday's loss to Tampa Bay in the regular-season finale — a defeat that forced the Orioles to play a do-or-die wild-card game on the road — the mood in the clubhouse as players packed their equipment bags for Texas was one of calm.
But the feeling of finality was there. The Orioles' dream season is nearing its conclusion —whether it ends in celebration or frustration.
Then Hardy strolled over, his right shoulder wrapped in ice.
"Like Buck says," Hardy said with a smile, "we're just going to roll the dice."