Moments after Andy MacPhail announced that embattled Orioles manager Dave Trembley would return for 2010, several of the players echoed the thoughts of their president of baseball operations.
Trembley did the best he could in this disaster of a season. And next year's team has to be better, for his sake and theirs.
"I like it. He has been put in a tough situation with injuries," right fielder Nick Markakis said of the decision to pick up Trembley's option. "This is the most young guys we have had come up at one time in a while. He has managed them well. Protected them well. Did his job. And next year, we will try to make the team better and go from there."
Trembley will return for his third full season, brandishing the third-worst winning percentage for a manager in club history.
But MacPhail said Trembley's tenure has been viewed by how he has dealt with the young players who are considered the foundation for the future. And that evaluation makes sense to the players.
"They did not look at this as a win-loss type of decision, for better or for worse, that's not the way they viewed it," starter Jeremy Guthrie said.
"I think the way they viewed it was that Dave was working hard in the same direction, and he understands the plan here that is going on and the progress we have made. Obviously, the record doesn't indicate it, but we have taken steps."
Guthrie said he wasn't surprised that Trembley was retained, despite the club flirting with the third 100-loss season in franchise history and a recent stumble in which the Orioles lost 13 consecutive games before Thursday's win at Tampa Bay.
"I guess in my mind, I didn't anticipate anything different than that," Guthrie said. "From what I have been hearing for the past month, he was expected to come back."
Many pundits, however, did not expect Trembley to survive the continual losing. And MacPhail made a point Friday that next year, the club's record will be a factor in whether Trembley remains at the helm. Trembley's contract now expires at the end of next year, and no option for 2011 has been added.
"Now, in fairness to Dave and his staff and the players, things shift a little bit here," MacPhail said. "We're going to help you as much as we can, but we've gone through the very toughest part. Now I think it's important that we show our fans some meaningful improvement in the standings."
MacPhail would not comment on the fate of the Orioles' coaching staff, saying it was up to the manager. Trembley said he would discuss the situation with MacPhail before the season ends Sunday and "the next week or so, we'll make a decision on the direction with the major league coaching staff."
There also will be some changes in the 25-man roster.
Third baseman Melvin Mora, the longest-tenured Oriole, almost certainly won't return. The bullpen will be restructured, and MacPhail will attempt to add a cleanup hitter and a veteran starting pitcher. The additions could go a long way in determining the Orioles' success - and, consequently, Trembley's future with the team.
Second baseman Brian Roberts said he understands the onus is on the players to take the next step and show improvement in 2010.
"Sure, yeah, but I think a lot of it will depend on this winter what we do, as well as how quickly some of those young guys progress," Roberts said. "There is no doubt it is a hard division, it's a hard league, and to expect three or four still-young rookies to go out there and win you 90 games is going to be a challenge. But that's what we get paid to do, and that's what we are going to try and do."
Roberts has long been a vocal supporter of Trembley's and said bringing him back provides stability for a club that has seen its share of flux. He has played for four managers since joining the team in 2001.
"I think there is a time and a place for change. Certainly. I think people have seen that in places before," Roberts said. "But I don't know that is the case here right now. I think Dave has got a lot of experience with young guys coming through the minor league organization for that long. And I think he is the kind of type of personality we need here."
When evaluating Trembley's tenure in Baltimore, much has been made about his relationship with the younger players. One of the leaders of that group, rookie left-hander Brian Matusz, smiled broadly when informed of the news minutes after MacPhail's announcement.
"I like Dave a lot; Dave has given me all the opportunity in the world," Matusz said. "I think Dave has done a great job with the young players by helping us feel comfortable, and that's one of the hardest parts involved with being up here in the major leagues, just feeling comfortable. And I feel like Dave has that great interaction with the young guys, always keeping us loose, having fun."
Matusz believes the Orioles can't help but be better next year now that he and other rookies have had a season of experience in the big leagues. And he wants to share that with Trembley.