Buck Showalter's eyes were darting, left to right, right to left, while his mouth was moving. Try this, in your daily conversations. It's not as easy as it sounds. For the mind to carefully consider the words it releases to the mouth while simultaneously interpreting and analyzing the off-topic pictures presented by the eyes is a tricky two-fer.
And if you think Showalter's brain wasn't pulling it off in this particular moment, well, you don't know Buck.
"You're always looking," he was saying, while surveying the Orioles' daily ritual of batting practice, "for something to send somebody back to 'Go' on the Monopoly board, so to speak. Something that restarts the season a little bit."
He was talking about a temporary experiment with the struggling Chris Davis in the two-hole, but he might as well have been talking about any prominent personnel decision in the course of the 162-game schedule. Showalter has had to be particularly creative with this Orioles squad, which, in a low-profile year for the American League East, has built the biggest division lead in baseball (seven games, entering Monday) with a relatively unimposing rotation, a boom-or-bust batting order, its starting catcher on the shelf and its former 50-homer hitter in a slump.
"Around every obstacle," said center fielder Adam Jones, "we're finding a way. That's the definition of a team."
Jones (.284/.313/.476 slash line, entering the week) has done his part, as has Nelson Cruz (.260/.328/.511), the free-agent acquisition most clubs wouldn't touch last winter. Nick Markakis (.294/.359/.406) has had a nice rebound campaign in his free-agent walk year, and Manny Machado (.278/.324/.431) was recovering nicely from his first-half travails before he wrenched another knee.
But really, beyond that, this Baltimore lineup hasn't offered anything remotely outlandish in the realm of offensive output.
The rotation, meanwhile, hasn't offered anything outlandish at all.
The O's top starter, Chris Tillman, has a strikeout to walk ratio that leaves much to be desired. Their top free-agent acquisition, Ubaldo Jimenez, has compiled a 4.83 ERA when healthy and possibly pitched himself out of the starting five. Behind Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris and the young Kevin Gausman have all been solid, not superlative.
For a Baltimore team with a strong bullpen, a lot of power and a knack -- much like the 2012 club -- for taking care of business in one-run games and extra innings, that's been enough to build a substantial cushion, without a great deal of national fanfare.
"Our guys, that's not what drives them," Showalter said. "It's a very non-egotistical group. They'd rather blend in and be a piece of it."
The A's, rightly, have been given a ton of credit for their ability to blend in the full complement of their active roster and put egos aside. But really, the O's follow their own variation of this formula. General manager Dan Duquette works the margins of the roster as well as any executive in the game, and Showalter employs that brain that is always thinking, always maneuvering, always perfecting what it has at its disposal.
When the O's lost Matt Wieters to Tommy John surgery, they responded not with a panicked trade or even, later, an A.J. Pierzynski signing but by trusting their people, and Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley have upheld the O's emphasis on steady defensive work (with Joseph making some surprisingly potent offensive contributions this month).
When the O's made their rise from 6 ½ games back in the East on June 6 to four games up at the All-Star break, some of their biggest offensive contributions came from Steve Pearce, the 31-year-old journeyman reclamation project.
And when Machado hit the DL with a right knee sprain last week, the O's surprisingly passed over Steve Lombardozzi and Jimmy Paredes -- both of whom were on the 40-man roster -- and instead purchased the contract of Cord Phelps from Triple-A Norfolk.
"I don't covet other people's players; I covet ours," Showalter said. "Because they are our 'what-ifs.' Our 'what-if' is, 'Who do we have in Norfolk?' It's refreshing. It's a very short conversation between the Triple-A manager and the farm director for Dan and I. We ask, 'Who's the best player for what we need? Cord Phelps? Well, he's not on the roster, but who gives a [expletive]?' That's why we were able to sign some of the top six-year free agents. One thing we can do here is out-opportunity other people."
The Orioles have built quite an opportunity for themselves. Because while operating without Machado for the time being is obviously not ideal, it's not likely to be a back-breaker in a division that's been especially forgiving this season.
Besides, after a meat-grinder that saw the O's play 34 consecutive games against fellow contending clubs (they went 22-12), the rebate check arrived this week. On Monday night in Chicago, they began a final stretch in which they'll face a team currently over .500 just 14 times in 40 games. That big East lead could get bigger.
A big lead, however, cannot necessarily buy respect. Already, there are questions emanating from fans and analysts alike about this club's ultimate October staying power, should it nail down the division. The lack of a true "No. 1" in the rotation and the lineup's reliance on the game's best home-run rate have some thinking the O's are in a perilous spot, in spite of their lead. The "what-if" from the outside is: What if the bats are suddenly silent on the postseason stage, as they were against Cleveland's Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco last weekend? Or, what if Tillman and Co. can't deliver on the October stage?
Showalter's eyes have too much in front of them to fixate on such forecasts. His mind churns constantly, but only on the immediate.
"Our curiosity is always satisfied here," he said. "We live in a world -- in a sports society -- that always wants to know about something before it happens. I'm perfectly fine about knowing about it when it happens. We can talk about it until we're blue in the face. But I'm all about knowing about something when it happens instead of trying to prognosticate it."
Funny thing about prognostications? On Opening Day, Baseball Prospectus' playoff odds gave the O's a 5.4 percent chance of winning their division. And that was before Davis went backward, before Wieters got hurt, before Ubaldo stepped in a pothole both literally (he injured his ankle in a parking lot) and figuratively.
You can't predict baseball any more than you can keep up with Showalter's brain. And the way things are set up, that brain will be churning and those eyes will be darting in yet another October.