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Orioles' Trembley among the few managers without a professional playing background

August 26, 2007|By DAN CONNOLLY

Dave Trembley joined two elite fraternities this year.

He's one of only 30 Major League Baseball managers. And he's one of only seven in the game's modern history to manage in the big leagues without playing major league or minor league ball.

Trembley, the Orioles' 55-year-old baseball lifer, couldn't be more proud of finally reaching the first distinction.

But the latter?

He sort of hopes it will go away; that he won't be judged by the fact he didn't play professionally, but by the way he handles people and respects the game.

The stigma will fade, say the only two men alive who truly understand Trembley's situation. The lack of playing experience will fall to the back burner, they say, at least until things go badly.

"Whenever there is something someone doesn't like or agree with, it will always come back to: `What does he know? He never played,' " said John Boles, who became the fifth member of the nonplaying-managing group when he led the Florida Marlins in 1996 and from 1999 to 2001. "That's the only time you hear about it."

Since 1929, only four men have managed without professional playing experience: Trembley, Boles, Carlos Tosca (Toronto Blue Jays, 2002-04) and former Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner, who in 1977 fired his manager and led the team for one game, a loss, before Major League Baseball prohibited him from continuing.

Boles, now a special assistant to Seattle Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi, said getting into the business is probably the most difficult challenge for someone who didn't play pro ball.

"It's an issue to begin with, without question," said Boles, who played in college and then started a 15-year minor league odyssey of coaching and player development before his first interim big league job. "After a period of time being in the industry and showing people you are capable of doing a quality job, it's something that becomes not nearly as magnified as it is in the beginning."

Tosca, the Florida Marlins' bench coach, said only once in his nearly 30-year baseball career did a player openly criticize him for his lack of playing experience. Tosca was a Triple-A manager in the Atlanta Braves' organization and had to tell a journeyman catcher that he had been traded.

"He took real offense to it and he called me a teacher," Tosca said. "He said to me, `You are nothing but a teacher.' And you know what? I took that as a compliment."

Tosca, whose 191-191 career major league managerial record is the best of the group (not counting Trembley), said his background was more a source of amusement than contention.

"I think there are more players that I ran across that thought I was kidding when I told them I never played than there were players that made it an issue," he said.

That seems to be the case here, as well.

Although it has been written and mentioned during game broadcasts, there are players who are unaware that Trembley's playing career stopped at a Canadian summer league.

Infielder Brandon Fahey, who has played for Trembley in Double-A, Triple-A and with the Orioles, said he had no idea Trembley didn't play in the minors. When asked if it made a difference, he answered, "No, not at all."

"No one here pays attention to that," Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada said. "What he does as a manager, how he is working, shows he [could have been] in the big leagues for 20 years. He don't act like he's never been in the big leagues."

It's all in how a manager handles himself and his charges, said Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar, who played under Boles in Florida. He said the tone immediately established by Boles years ago was the same that Trembley set in June.

"His first day when he took over, it wasn't how much time Dave Trembley had or how many big league hits Dave Trembley had," Millar said. "It was now that he is the manager, this is going to be done his way."

Of the 30 current managers, seven never played in the majors, seven were All-Stars and 16 had pedestrian big league careers. But unless you were a star, such as the New York Yankees' Joe Torre, today's generation of players doesn't know or care what you did on the field.

"The bottom line is, you better be able to help a player when he needs help," Tosca said.

"There comes a point in time they don't care what your accomplishments were; it's, `Can you help me get over this hurdle I'm in right now?'"

If Trembley succeeds, it could create more opportunities for lifelong grinders.

Ultimately, though, won-lost records determine who gets hired and who gets fired. That, Boles said, is sadly, and largely, out of the hands of on-field managers.

"It's a matter of having good players. The manager with the best players gets the most wins," Boles said. "Dave will get the absolute most out of those players, no question about it. ...

"But if Dave doesn't do well, it's because the players aren't good enough. Period."

Non-playing managers

Major league managers since 1900 who have not played professional baseball:

Ed Barrow

1903-04 Detroit Tigers, 1918-20 Boston Red Sox

Overall record: 310-320

Hugo Bezdek

1917-19 Pittsburgh Pirates

Overall record: 166-187

Judge Fuchs

1929 Boston Braves

Overall record: 56-98

Ted Turner

1977 Atlanta Braves

Overall record: 0-1

John Boles

1996, 1999-2001 Florida Marlins

Overall record: 205-241

Carlos Tosca

2002-04 Toronto Blue Jays

Overall record: 191-191

Dave Trembley

2007 Orioles

Overall record (through Friday): 29-29

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