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Historic challenge awaits Buck Showalter

Updated: August 2, 2010, 9:13 PM ET
By Jayson Stark
Now that we've got all those minor trade-deadline distractions out of the way, Three Strikes is free to resume its regularly scheduled programming. So here's a look at the new Orioles manager, the A-Rod Watch and a bunch of wild on-field stuff that got trampled by deadline developments beyond Three Strikes' control.

STRIKE ONE -- THE BUCK STOPS WHERE DEPARTMENT

When Buck Showalter walks into Camden Yards this week to start managing the Orioles, he isn't just facing a challenge. He's facing a historic challenge. Here's exactly what our buddy Buck is getting himself into:

Baltimore Orioles

• He'll be taking over a team that's 41 games under .500 (32-72). And in the past 70 years, only two other managers were handed the reins of a team that was at least 40 games below sea level and then (because, like Showalter, they weren't just interim space-fillers) managed that outfit the next year, too.

I've got a funny feeling you've heard of those two men. They were Billy Martin (took over the 48-91 Rangers in 1973) and Chuck Tanner (with the 53-93 White Sox in 1970).

The bad news: Martin's and Tanner's teams went a combined 12-27 the rest of the year. The good news: Martin's Rangers went 84-76 the next year, and Tanner got the White Sox to 87-67 within two years.

• Simply being 40-under heading into August is a feat unto itself. Only four other teams in the 42-season division-play era have ever done that. Here they are:

• To give you a better idea of how tough it is for any team to get buried 40 under before August, here's another way to look at it: We've had 14 first-year expansion teams arrive in baseball since 1961 -- and only one of those teams ever dug itself that many games below .500 through July, even in its first season on earth. That was -- who else? -- Choo Choo Coleman's '62 Mets (at 26-76).

• Meanwhile, these Orioles also found themselves 34½ games out of first heading into August. And that ain't easy, either. Since those '62 Mets (who were 43 out after July), just two other teams have been that many games behind when they flipped the calendar from July to August:

• And, finally, by bringing in Showalter, the Orioles are on track to do something that no team has ever done, according to the Elias Sports Bureau -- have three different men manage at least 50 games apiece in the same season.

Obviously, that's always been a mathematical challenge, especially back in the days of the 154-game season. But it's still impressive. So unless Showalter quits before the finish line, the Orioles are going to pull this off.

The first two Orioles managers this year, and their records:

Dave Trembley 54 games (15-39)
Juan Samuel 51 games (17-34)

Showalter is one of the brightest, most inventive, most prepared people I've ever met in baseball. And every team he's ever taken over had a winning record by his second full season in the manager's office. If he can make it four for four with this team, we may never see him on the "Baseball Tonight" set again.

STRIKE TWO -- THE A-ROD WATCH

It isn't every year you see a guy get stuck on 599 homers for more than a week and a half. But our man A-Rod has done it.

Alex Rodriguez
Rodriguez

Monday will mark Day 11 of the A-Rod 600-Homer Watch. And you won't be surprised to learn that's one of the longest waits anyone has ever endured to hit a major milestone homer.

The amazing Sultan of Swat Stats, SABR home-run historian David Vincent, passes along this list of the longest droughts ever before a guy's 500th, 600th or 700th homer:

It's a great group. And I'm positive it's just a coincidence that A-Rod is the only guy in there twice. … Uhhhh, right?

STRIKE THREE -- USELESS INFORMATION DEPT.

Random madness from this past week:

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