The Orioles' team bus is about to be put on blocks for the winter, which will make it a lot easier to throw Dave Trembley under it. So what if he can't reasonably be held responsible for the dismal performance of a dismal team? Somebody needs to give up a pound of flesh for this disaster, and that somebody is usually the manager.
But it doesn't have to go down that way.
The Orioles' president of baseball operations, Andy MacPhail, doesn't have to hand him over to angry fans. He could stand next to Trembley at a news conference next week and explain that they embarked on a rebuilding program together 2 1/2 years ago and they are going to finish the job together.
That's what a solid organization would do, because solid organizations generally flourish under stable management. The Dodgers proved that by sticking with Walter Alston and Tom Lasorda through thick and thin for about half a century. The then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays proved it a couple of years ago by sticking with Joe Maddon when he was the South Florida version of Trembley.
Trembley took over a team that hadn't had a winning season in nearly a decade. He was charged with the task of helping develop enough young talent to create a foundation for a new era of competitive Orioles baseball. Now he's being measured by how many games he won with a team that was never expected to win many games during the first few years of his tenure.
It's certainly tempting to bail on him and rationalize the injustice by saying life isn't fair, but that's just the cliche you use when you're looking for the easiest answer to a complex problem.
The Orioles have been down that road. They've fired a series of managers for failing to win with teams that couldn't possibly be expected to, and all it has gotten them is a stadium full of empty seats.
Trembley isn't the perfect manager. He's a little too doctrinaire for my taste, by which I mean that he has created a managerial schematic for himself - probably during all those long bus rides in the minor leagues - and sometimes sticks to it too rigidly to react to the conditions on the field, but this decision isn't going to come down to his grasp of managerial strategy.
The question is whether he's capable of leading this young team up the standings in the toughest division in baseball, and there's really no way to answer that based on what has happened over the past couple of years. For that matter, there would be no way to answer that question if the Orioles persuaded Tony La Russa to jump ship in St. Louis for the biggest challenge of his Hall of Fame managerial career.
While the message boards blast Trembley 24/7 for his inability to create a "winning culture" in the Orioles' clubhouse, it's fair to ask how anybody could have done that with the starting rotation that opened this season and the lack of depth and experience at several key positions.
Trembley didn't give you Adam Eaton and Rich Hill. MacPhail handed them to him and told him to make do until the real pitchers were ready to come up from the minor leagues.
Trembley didn't give you this exploding bullpen. MacPhail traded away George Sherrill at the end of July, a move that might end up making sense over the long term, but one that destabilized the relief corps from top to bottom.
Remember that Trembley's future as manager was supposed to be based on how the team performed down the stretch. MacPhail said early on that he wanted to see evidence at the end of the season that the club had turned a corner. Then he traded the closer and the cleanup hitter, putting Trembley in a nearly impossible situation.
It seems obvious to a lot of people that Trembley is not the guy to lead this team into contention, but that conclusion is based on the performance of a team that was not built to compete - much less contend - this season.
Earl Weaver couldn't have won 70 games with the 2009 Orioles roster, but the prevailing school of thought is that Trembley is the chief architect of this losing environment.
Of course, you know in your heart that that isn't the case, but you want something to change. And switching managers is a quick and relatively easy way to create the perception that next year will be different.
Except that it won't, unless MacPhail completes the harder job of filling that big hole in the middle of the batting order, solidifying the young starting rotation and reconstructing the broken bullpen.
If that happens, I suspect that Trembley will look like a much better manager in 2010, though I'll be surprised if we get the chance to find out.
Listen to Peter Schmuck weeknights at 6 on WBAL (1090 AM), and check out "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.
Trembley's managerial record with the Orioles
Year Games Wins Losses Pct. AL East finish
2007 93 40 53 .430 4
2008 161 68 93 .422 5
2009 157 60 97 .382 5
Total 411 168 24 3 .409
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