As Orioles soar, Astros nose-dive


On two teams' fortunes

June 21, 2008|By ROCH KUBATKO

It was like a tale of two clubhouses at Camden Yards this week.

On one side, you had the Houston Astros, losers of eight games in a row and 17 of 20. On the other side, you had the Orioles, winners of five of their past six.

The Astros appear to be a team in complete disarray. The Orioles are in complete bliss - or denial, if you remain a cynic and an unbeliever.

One of the reporters who covers the Astros referred to the atmosphere around them as "quite toxic." The players are openly questioning manager Cecil Cooper, who was new to the job at the major league level when he replaced Phil Garner on Aug. 27, 2007.

On the Orioles' side, Kevin Millar stated that Dave Trembley, who was new to the job at the major league level when he replaced Sam Perlozzo on June 18, 2007, ranks among the best managers he has ever played for and should be around for a very long time. Other veterans hold Trembley in the same high regard, going so far as to say, in private, that he's the absolute best.

All the votes aren't in, but it sure doesn't look as if Cooper is going to win the same popularity contest. "I've never seen a manager lose a clubhouse as quickly as Cooper," one person close to the Astros said.

Meanwhile, Trembley and his eager band of followers keep winning - enough to move three games above .500 heading into last night. They've come from behind in 22 of their 37 victories. Eleven different players have put them ahead for good, led by Adam Jones, who has accomplished the task on four occasions.

"What we've tried to establish is, it's a team game, you get contributions from everybody, no one is bigger and better than anybody else," Trembley said before the 7-5 win, which came after the Orioles fell behind by two runs in the second inning.

Before arriving in Baltimore this week, Cooper was too busy performing damage control to notice what the Orioles were doing. He's putting up a brave front, claiming he doesn't mind if players air their complaints to the media.

Yeah, right. And he doesn't care if Jiffy Lube replaces the tires on his car with doughnuts.

"I don't have a concern," he said. "I know that once they get on the field, they're going to do what they do. They're going to play. I have no concerns about that, no.

"They've got the right to say whatever they'd like to say. We all have our opinions and thoughts about things. That's life. We all have our thoughts and opinions on different things. Even just an everyday fan coming to the game, they're going to have thoughts. `Why did you do that?' or `Why did you do this?' Everybody has opinions or thoughts. I have no problem with that, none whatsoever."

The home clubhouse at Camden Yards has been in turmoil before. Players wanted Ray Miller out as manager so badly, they took turns holding open the door and providing directions to the airport. One veteran stood up during a clubhouse meeting and told Miller, in firm voice, to "Let the players play." In other words, stay out of it and we might have a chance.

Perlozzo went from being universally loved to having the majority of guys turn on him. He wasn't exactly buried in voice mails after his firing.

Trembley can only hope for a better fate. So far, he's the Love Guru, and he's getting better reviews than Mike Myers.

And most certainly, Cecil Cooper.

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