There's no one model tailor-made for MacPhail

June 30, 2007|By PETER SCHMUCK

In his initial public offering after being appointed the Orioles' new president of baseball operations, Andy MacPhail needed only three words to describe the perfect guy to replace Sam Perlozzo as permanent Orioles manager:

"A custom fit."

No doubt, it is just a scheduling coincidence, but the first two opposing managers to pass through Camden Yards during MacPhail's first full week on the job are differing examples of what he was talking about.

He specifically referred to Joe Torre when he was trying to explain himself during his introductory news conference. The Yankees manager had marginal success during previous managerial incarnations with the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals, but his steady, low-key style was the perfect stabilizer for baseball's most volatile franchise.

MacPhail could just as easily have trotted out Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who made his major league managerial debut in 2000 and led the club to its first world championship just two seasons later.

The point he was making at the time - and this neither qualifies nor disqualifies interim manager Dave Trembley - is that one size does not fit all.

Torre is the archetypal case because he has won four world titles and reached the playoffs every year since he was hired by Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, yet his arrival in New York was greeted with such skepticism that the lead sports headline in one of the tabloids was "Clueless Joe."

He was viewed as the ultimate retread, but he was made for that job.

The Angels went in the opposite direction - hiring Scioscia after he had managed just one year at the Triple-A level - and he has led the Angels to two American League West titles and the wild-card run that ended with the only World Series in their 47-year history. They also have more wins this year than any other major league team.

Torre and Scioscia are from different generations and different backgrounds, but they share what MacPhail thinks is the critical ingredient in a successful managerial tenure - the almost unconditional trust of their players.

"I think, in the case of anyone who is charged with leadership, the people who are being led need to feel it is to their benefit that that person is leading them," MacPhail said.

MacPhail's open-mindedness on the subject is evident. He hired a guy who had no major league managerial experience in Minnesota, and Tom Kelly led the Twins to world titles in 1987 and 1991. He hired a guy with all kinds of experience in Chicago, and Dusty Baker got the Cubs to perhaps within a deflected foul ball of their first World Series in six decades.

This could bode well for Trembley, whose upbeat, interactive approach has been well-received in the Orioles clubhouse, even if his extensive minor league credentials were not enough to make him the first choice for the job.

Scioscia wasn't the obvious choice for the Angels in 2000, but he turned out to be that custom fit, right down to his ability to speak fluent Spanish to star outfielder Vladimir Guerrero and the other Latin players on the team.

"If you are in this position, you absolutely have to have the ability to evaluate and understand your team better than anybody else," Scioscia said. "From deciding which offense you're going to implement to determining the roles on the pitching staff, there's a lot that goes into a baseball team playing to its potential, but to be able to create an environment where you can evaluate is No. 1."

But Scioscia isn't sure he buys into the notion that you have to be a "custom fit," and neither does Ron Roenicke, who figures to follow fellow Angels coach Bud Black into the managerial ranks soon.

"Mike would be a great manager in any clubhouse," Roenicke said. "It's fair to say he fits this team, but he would fit any team."

Hmmm. That might be Trembley, but we'll just have to wait and see.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon Saturdays and Sundays.

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