Now that the Orioles have all but conceded that they are focused on 2008, it's fair to ask everyone with a stake in the team a very relevant question.
When I say everyone, I mean the owner, the front office, the manager, the players and the fans. I mean everyone, so think hard about this:
Can you detach yourself from the outcome for the next 48 games?
Let me explain. When the Orioles made their mini-roster shuffle Thursday, team president Andy MacPhail chalked up the departure of Chris Gomez and John Parrish to evaluating the team and adjusting the roster to best prepare for the 2008 season. In other words, the emphasis has shifted from doing everything possible to win each individual game to the more important business of making sure the Orioles are in better position to compete next year.
That doesn't mean the manager and the players will not try to win every game, but it does mean the Orioles have altered priorities that will affect both the performance of the team and the perception of it. And that's just fine if you can get everyone on board.
Manager Dave Trembley, for instance, could be forgiven for feeling that he has to keep the team playing .500 ball (since he took over) to have a good chance of keeping his job beyond the end of this year, but he has to let go of his personal win-loss record and focus on the horizon.
He needs to detach himself from the outcome.
Owner Peter Angelos has to realize that the remainder of the schedule could be more than tough. It could be embarrassing, with 34 of the last 48 games against teams that entered this weekend with a winning record. He cannot allow the club's final win total - whatever it turns out to be - to create an emotional backlash that affects the front office's offseason strategy.
He has to detach himself from the outcome.
MacPhail doesn't need any advice in this regard because he has set these gears in motion. He was the one who announced that Trembley would remain manager through the end of the season. He was the one who pointed the team toward 2008 with four roster moves Thursday.
He just got here, so he might not have attached himself to the outcome in the first place.
Clearly, MacPhail understands that it doesn't matter whether this team wins 77 games or 72. Fourth place is fourth place. What matters is the organizational progress that can be made by auditioning young players and figuring out exactly what needs to be done this winter to enhance the team both at the major league level and throughout the farm system.
Trembley should be judged on his managerial temperament and his ability to advance the goals of the front office while making the best of the situation on the ground.
The players need to keep playing hard, but they have to understand what's taking place. There are going to be times when single-game logic and long-term strategy meet head-on, and veterans such as Miguel Tejada have to buy into the future for it to unfold the way everyone wants.
Most of all, however, it is the fans who need to detach themselves from the day-to-day results because those results have a chance to be pretty discouraging, and Orioles fans have been discouraged quite enough over the past decade. They need to cut MacPhail a little slack and see just where he intends to take the team over the next year or so.
That won't be easy. Too many fans already have given up on the Orioles ever climbing out of this morass of their own making. Too many look at each loss as validation of a never-going-to-get-better mentality that has become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Can't really blame them, because they have come by their fatalism quite honestly, but the only hope for a brighter future is in their continued support of the franchise during yet another rebuilding period, no matter how much they wish the team was run differently or owned by somebody else.
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