NEW YORK — —
Dave Trembley is trying to look like none of this is bothering him, but you can see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice.
This job is eating him alive.
Nobody feels the weight of the Orioles' first-half collapse the way he does, and it's not just a matter of job security. When the ax mercifully falls -- perhaps as soon as Thursday or Friday -- he'll still get paid a very nice salary for the rest of the season and he'll likely be offered a chance to return to the organization in some capacity next year. It's about that, but it's also about pride, the culmination of a life's work and the death of a dream.
That's why president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail and owner Peter Angelos need to stop tiptoeing around and put him gently out of his misery. Let him go home to Daytona Beach, Fla., and walk on the sand and get all this straight in his head. He's a very positive guy, so he'll quickly realize that he did the best he could in an impossible situation and got to spend three seasons as a major league manager. Nobody can ever take that away from him.
This reminds me a little bit of the execution scene from the great Australian historical drama "Breaker Morant," when the condemned Morant shouts his final words directly at the firing squad.
"Shoot straight, you bastards," he yells, "and don't make a mess of it."
To some extent, the Orioles already have made a mess of it, because you know what's going to happen, Trembley knows what's going to happen and we've all known this for quite some time now. But, to be fair, these things never end well.
For his part, Trembley continues to play the good soldier, saying the things he's supposed to say and hoping for some miraculous turn of events that might forestall the inevitable.
"My approach never will change never," he said before Tuesday night's series opener at Yankee Stadium. "I'm a steward of the ship. I'm here to do the very best I can all the time. I'm not thinking about myself, I'm thinking about the team and the organization. You do the very best you can. You don't get wrapped up in things that you can't control. That's the way it is. That's life. You go with what you got."
There are good reasons nothing has happened yet. MacPhail has never been a hair-trigger guy, and the organizational repercussions of a managerial change this early in the season -- and at this point in a long-term rebuilding program -- are going to be significant.
MacPhail needs someone to come in and light a fire under this team, something that Trembley obviously was unable to do (if, in fact, it was actually doable). But the Orioles need to make a decision that helps in the short term without painting the franchise into a corner.
They no longer can afford to hire an interim manager and let things play out by themselves. That didn't work with Sam Perlozzo. It didn't work with Trembley. It's not going to work with Juan Samuel or Jeff Datz.
The next long-term Orioles manager needs to be the best man available for the job, so whoever takes over on an interim basis should be a true interim, without any illusions on his part or the club's. This is losing season No.13. The Orioles can't just do the same kinds of things they've been doing and expect a different result.
It's hard to watch Trembley suffer. He came into a difficult situation with all the right intentions, and he fulfilled his mission as the caretaker manager of the MacPhail rebuilding effort during the first 21/2 seasons of his waning tenure. His biggest mistake might have been allowing himself to think he might evolve into more than that.
In that regard, he was seduced and abandoned, because MacPhail made it sound last year as if he would upgrade the talent over the winter and give him a fighting chance in a season that was supposed to be judged on wins and losses. Instead, he got a banged-up reliever (Michael Gonzalez) and a long-shot reclamation project (Garrett Atkins) to go with a couple of decent acquisitions.
Trembley can't be held blameless, of course. There have been times when he might have done more to keep the club from coming totally unraveled, but let's make sure we're all straight on one thing: Earl Weaver in his prime could not have made this team competitive under these conditions.
When all is said and done, Trembley should be remembered by fans as more victim than villain. He should be remembered by the front office as a trouper who was asked to develop young players at the major league level in the toughest division in major league baseball.
That's why he doesn't deserve to be left to twist any longer, no matter how expedient that might be for the front office. He has already taken enough bullets for this beleaguered organization.
Don't make a mess of it.
Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) on Fridays and Saturdays at noon and with Brett Hollander on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m. Also, check out his blog, The Schmuck Stops Here, at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.
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