Bringing Dave Trembley back as the Orioles' manager isn't just surprising - it's shocking.
How do you not change managers after another disastrous second-half collapse and one of the worst seasons in team history?
How do you not change managers when the mandate was to get better as the season progressed and avoid the usual post-All Star Game meltdown - and neither one happened?
How do you develop a winning attitude with your young players when there's no change in leadership after a season that included inconceivable base-running blunders, fundamental fielding mistakes and veterans who seemed to mail it in at the end?
And how do you tell your shrinking and demoralized fan base after 12 straight losing seasons: "Hey, trust us. This season was an aberration. We'll get 'em next year."
I think it's a big mistake.
But it doesn't matter what I think. The Orioles are picking up the option on Trembley's contract for next season, and we'll see what the fallout is from this move.
Andy MacPhail, the club's president of baseball operations, has evidently decided the team's problems this season weren't Dave Trembley's fault.
But sticking with Trembley just about guarantees MacPhail takes major heat from the fans in the offseason.
Sure, he's a big boy. He can handle it. The guy's been in major league baseball forever. This isn't the first time he has been criticized, and it won't be the last.
On the other hand, if the Orioles get off to a lousy start next season, we'll be going through all this speculation about Trembley's job security all over again.
And then it won't matter how many times MacPhail lays out his master plan for rebuilding this team.
Orioles fans, if there are any left, will be howling for his head, too.
As I wrote Wednesday, Trembley's a good guy. And he seemed a good fit with his young players, staying positive with them, praising them to the heavens and never publicly criticizing them.
He has also been a class act during his team's second-half meltdown.
Me, I would have been snarling at reporters and kicking over the post-game spread every night.
When players were getting thrown out at second trying to stretch singles into doubles, and thrown out going first to third because they were, well, dumb, I'd be ready to kill someone.
When those relievers were blowing game after game, I would have been frothing at the mouth and banging my head against the dugout wall.
But Trembley kept his dignity, even if he often looked like a guy who had just been whacked with a shovel in his post-game news conferences.
Still, I don't understand how you stand pat with your manager after another horrible collapse that includes a 13-game losing streak and a possible 100-loss finish.
Sure - and I wrote this Wednesday, too - everyone knows Trembley had the deck stacked against him this season.
George Sherrill and Aubrey Huff, two key players, were traded. Brad Bergesen, Adam Jones and Nolan Reimold had season-ending injuries.
The team brought up some promising young pitchers and weathered the inevitable rough patches that followed before shutting them down so their arms didn't turn to linguine.
Then the bullpen went Chernobyl in August and September.
Trembley gets blamed for none of that.
Nor should he be.
Even if the trades and injuries and pitching blow-ups hadn't occurred, the Orioles weren't going to compete with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, two teams loaded with talent and enough money to buy any player they want whenever they want.
(Please, don't get me started on parity in baseball. We'd be here all day.)
The Orioles weren't even going to compete with the Tampa Bay Rays, who look nothing like the American League champs of last year but will still finish with 80-plus wins.
No, the O's were penciled in for fifth place in the AL East. And that's where they'll finish.
But here's the point: With this second-half meltdown, the Orioles hit rock bottom.
And when they did, their fans had to endure some of the ugliest baseball ever seen around here. I've been watching this team for nearly 30 years. And I don't ever recall seeing anything this bad.
How do you go into the offseason with the same manager and try to fire up the fan base for next year?
What message do you send your players, who will have five months to shake off this terrible season before spring training 2010?
I just don't get it.
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