Changing managers not without risk

Keeping Trembley perhaps Orioles' best option

May 25, 2010|By Peter Schmuck

Dave Trembley was still the manager when the Orioles opened their brief homestand against the Oakland Athletics Tuesday night, which should not have come as a great surprise to anyone who understands the complicated calculus that comes with the decision to make a managerial change at this early point in the season.

That doesn't mean it won't happen, but it does mean that the people who will make that decision – owner Peter Angelos and president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail – know that it is not as simple as just sending in some other helpless villager to absorb four more months of this punishment.

So, let's talk our way through this.

If you were the general manager and your team was in as dire a set of straits as the Orioles, would you: (a) throw a ton of money at somebody like Bobby Valentine and tell him to kick every butt in the clubhouse until things turn around; (b) promote an interim from inside the organization and let him audition for the permanent job; or (c) let poor Dave continue to twist in the wind until the right answer becomes more obvious?

I've got a pretty good idea what the fans would like to see, but bringing a big-time manager into this competitive environment at this particular point in time would be problematic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it's going to be very hard to find one to take the job under the current circumstances.

The Orioles have 115 games left and whoever takes over the team is likely to lose a lot more of them than he'll win, which creates the likely prospect of going into 2011 as the returning manager of one of the worst teams in baseball. It would be different if there was a reasonable chance of the Orioles making a big improvement over the remainder of the season, but the team is so decimated by injuries and so far behind the competitive eight-ball that it might dilute the impact of a high-profile hire.

Still, if a Tony La Russa or a Tom Kelly were available, you'd have to take that chance. Valentine is available, but is unlikely to put himself in that position because he'll probably be in line for a better job if he waits out this season at ESPN.

Of course, there has to be someone out there with some previous managerial success who will accept the job, but there is way more to it than just finding a familiar name and overpaying him to settle for the Orioles.

Which brings us to the second option, though — frankly — if the Orioles had an internal candidate that was acceptable to MacPhail and Angelos and considered a clear upgrade over Trembley, I'm pretty sure they would have pulled that trigger by now.

The interim manager scenario also is problematic for this team, since Trembley started out as an interim manager, as did Sam Perlozzo before him. It would not be viewed by the fans as significant change and it would keep the Orioles in managerial limbo through the end of the season.

Think about it. If the O's promote, say, bench coach Jeff Datz or third base coach Juan Samuel, they are ceding a measure of control over what happens next season, since there is always a mathematical chance that the Orioles play well down the stretch and all but force the club to give the interim guy another year.

That might be nice over the short term, but it probably wouldn't be the kind of real change the club needs to break its 13-season cycle of despair.

Where does that leave us?

Right where we are.

Trembley isn't to blame for this team's poor performance. He doesn't really deserve to pay the ultimate managerial price for this latest mess the Orioles have gotten themselves into, though he had to know coming in that he eventually would be the guest of honor at a human sacrifice.

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) on Fridays and Saturdays at noon and with Brett Hollander on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6. Also, check out his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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