Orioles manage to look ahead

Advancing O's manage to get right man

August 23, 2007|By DAVID STEELE

Dave Trembley is the right manager at the right time and, as Andy MacPhail said yesterday afternoon, the right fit for the Orioles. But as a defensive coordinator, he doesn't impress anybody. Maybe the cynics were right - they should have waited until the offseason and tried to hire Rex Ryan.

As they got roasted for the most runs in one game since the turn of the last century, the Orioles players last night didn't exactly back up Trembley's and MacPhail's claims of how the clubhouse's attitude and chemistry were back.

But before any serious "Dave Must Go" chants get started, let's gently remove tongue from cheek and consider the first 54 games of the Trembley Era, as well as the 200 (through next season) beyond last night's epic doubleheader opener against Texas at Camden Yards. On one game a manager should not be judged, although, when it's a 30-3 loss, it's tough to resist.

Heck, the Orioles have been a laughingstock for the better part of a decade, so what's one more night, new full-time manager or not?

Still, if you're concerned that the Orioles panicked and jumped the gun on hiring him, cast your mind back to late June. That was the last time the Orioles knew who they wanted to manage the team. And the last time the guy they wanted, Joe Girardi (aka Casey Stengel-In-Waiting), didn't want them.

Allow yourself to exhale, because now, with Trembley locked in and MacPhail on a winning streak (first Matt Wieters, now Trembley), the Orioles don't have to look forward to being blown off again by the marquee names.

Trembley is no marquee name. He's just a manager who has changed the culture and fortunes of a franchise whose fans were on the verge of full-scale revolt nine weeks ago. Imagine if this team had lost 30-3 during the end of the Sam Perlozzo regime; the National Guard would have to be called.

Instead, the crowd last night got in on the joke and gave Ramon Vazquez, who hit the final home run, a standing ovation - then, a half-hour later, cheerfully welcomed the Orioles back out for the nightcap.

Credit some of that to the goodwill Trembley, MacPhail and the players have banked the past two months.

It might be time, at long last, for the Orioles faithful to consider this: Their team no longer has to go begging. They don't have to wait for the proven personalities, loaded down with rings and reps that can sell tickets, to tell them the timing isn't right, or they're weighing their options, leaving the Orioles looking pathetic.

When he spoke of Trembley at the warehouse early yesterday afternoon, MacPhail talked about the "right fit"; later, he used the term "custom fit." Not "perfect fit," mind you. There's really only one use for the word "perfect" in baseball, and it's not for managerial hires, because no decision is foolproof.

Still, MacPhail has earned the benefit of the doubt on his moves so far, even on Girardi. Someday, that might be seen as a blessing in disguise.

MacPhail also talked about the mutual "trust and respect" he and Trembley have developed. He talked of how all the other aspects of rebuilding a franchise can't, and shouldn't, wait forever while going through the managerial candidates with a fine-toothed comb, hoping one will favor the Orioles with his presence.

So even if Joe Torre or Jim Leyland or Ozzie Guillen come available this fall - just to mention the names MacPhail invoked at the afternoon news conference - none of them might be as right for the Orioles as Trembley has been. And as Trembley shows every sign of continuing to be.

Maybe believing the Orioles are on the right track just because Andy MacPhail and Dave Trembley say so isn't enough for you. Fair enough. But you've seen this team as often as MacPhail has. You know that the won-lost record only begins to describe the changes that have taken place.

And you've heard Trembley say things like this, spoken in the dugout before Game 1 yesterday, and know that he's being as authentic as a man can ever be when he says it:

"This whole thing has been overwhelming for me. Think of the greatest thing that could ever happen to you in your life - this is what's happened to me. And it didn't happen because somebody gave it to me or because I kissed somebody's butt. It happened because I worked. That's the way I was brought up and that's the way I thought it was supposed to be. Even if it didn't happen, when I'm gone, they can't say I didn't work for it. I'm just trying to do it right, for a long time."

None of the marquee names have earned the chance to manage the Orioles more than Trembley has. By rewarding him, MacPhail sent notice that he isn't waiting, and that the Orioles aren't begging anymore.

david.steele@baltsun.com

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