Waiting for resurgence acts as great test of faith

September 07, 2007|By RICK MAESE

Hey, Father! Geez, I really don't know how to tell you this, but please be careful out there. It's only a matter of time before they start blaming you. I mean, it gets tiresome pointing the finger at the players, the manager and the front office. At some point, they're gonna start wondering if the Big Guy has it in for them, and you got Him on speed dial, right?

"I got news for you," said the Rev. John Bauer, the Orioles' team chaplain. "They've already started blaming me."

Bauer explained he was recently stopped by an Orioles fan, who asked, "Father, aren't you praying for the Orioles?'"

"No, ma'am," he said. "I have other things I have to pray for first. Peace, military and the sick."

He walked a little further and was stopped again. "Father, Father, are you praying for the Orioles?" He offered the same response, saying he's praying for peace, military and the sick.

"What do you mean?" the fan asked. "Don't the Orioles look pretty sick to you?"

I'm glad to know that the Father still has a sense of humor (and anyone who's scanned the Orioles' active roster already knows that his Boss enjoys a laugh or two). But that said, not too many others are smiling about the Orioles' struggles. Anyone raised in the church of baseball is losing his faith watching this team.

Before last night's disappointing 7-6 loss to the Boston Red Sox - the team's 14th defeat in 16 games - manager Dave Trembley spoke with reporters and his sincerity got the best of him. The frustration is mounting, and the cracks in the shield of his optimism are starting to show.

"I think it is easy when teams are going bad and not playing well, it's easy to say, `Well, there is not as much energy as when Trembley first took over,' or `They're not playing as hard,' or `They've kind of become complacent because the guy got a contract,'" Trembley said. "That's a bunch of baloney."

In another city and with another fan base, perhaps, Trembley would be subjected to harsher criticism, but more than two weeks into this slide and the manager is still relatively unscathed.

And that's with good reason: You could put together the best baseball minds this game has ever known, and they'd have one look at the Orioles' starting rotation and half a look at the bullpen and realize there are not many options.

Publicly, a manager says he's going to keep fighting; privately, he must prepare himself to take some punches.

"I certainly don't want anybody to feel sorry for me or feel sorry for the Baltimore Orioles. I don't like that," Trembley said. "But it has been a tough stretch. I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility to the team, to the fans and to the organization. It hasn't been good, but it will get better."

And it probably will - only because with the mounting losses, the no-hitter and the 30-run game, it can't get much worse. "Better" is a subjective word and in this context, it probably doesn't encapsulate anything near the amount of progress that's required to salvage the season.

Trembley is playing with a losing hand, and this late in the season bluffing is useless. The pencil he uses to fill out the lineup card is no magic wand. The Orioles' defense is too often sloppy and unfocused, and the pitchers reminiscent of children struggling to color inside the lines.

And even when the Orioles start out OK - such as last night - eventually, the inevitable happens - like last night. "The roof falls in," Trembley said. "

Trembley won't discuss his players' specific shortcomings, and as a leader, that's surely a good thing. But he isn't a fool and behind closed doors, he must feel like he's managing a minor league team again. That's probably why it's so hard to answer for them as, night after night, they fall short of major league expectations.

"You guys have been fair with me and asked me questions, but, goodness sakes, you think this has been easy?" Trembley asked a packed room of reporters. "This hasn't been easy."

Not for him, not for his players and not for fans. Finding a solution won't be easy, either. There's no miracle cure-all hiding somewhere on that roster.

"I'm doing my part," Bauer said. "I got two visiting priests here, sitting right over there." He pointed to the stands before last night's game.

That didn't help.

In fact, I'm not sure anything will help at this point. As long as the Orioles make developing their younger players a priority, they have to resign themselves to some big losses. But that doesn't make the losing easy.

I agree with Bauer and think praying for wins is silly. But I see nothing wrong with praying for a bit of mercy.

Forgive them, Lord, for they cannot win.

And maybe when the mercy, the peace, the military and the sick are taken care of, if there's a little something left over for the Orioles' bullpen, that'd be OK, too.

rick.maese@baltsun.com

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