NEW YORK -- These past few weeks have been a terrible time to be the manager of the Orioles.
And this still might be a good time to be the next manager of the Orioles.
|Dave Trembley is out, but young players like Adam Jones are still around to be coached. (Getty Images)|
Sounds like fun, doesn't it?
Sounds like the recipe for getting a manager fired, which is why it was absolutely no surprise that Trembley lost his job Friday.
The talk around the Orioles organization has been that the only reason club president Andy MacPhail waited this long was that he wasn't sure who should take Trembley's place. As it turned out, he made third-base coach Juan Samuel the interim manager, giving him even more time to find a next manager.
Or should that read next victim?
Who would want this job? Who would want this team?
Actually, plenty of guys would want it. Actually, plenty of guys should want it, with a few significant qualifiers.
The reality is that almost everything we said about the Orioles last winter -- that this is a team with plenty of young talent, a team that could well be on the rise -- still holds. If owner Peter Angelos is embarrassed enough by the way the Orioles are playing now to up the current $74 million payroll and hand some real authority to the new manager, this is not a bad job.
There's a reason Phil Garner would be interested, beyond a long relationship with MacPhail that dates to the days when Garner was a player and MacPhail worked in the Astros front office. There's a reason Bob Melvin would be interested, beyond the fact that he wants to manage again and there are only so many jobs.
The Orioles could turn to a less experienced manager, to someone like Gary Allenson (who was managing their Triple-A Norfolk team until he became Samuel's third-base coach on Friday), to Brad Komminsk (who manages Double-A Bowie), or to Brian Graham, who, after a successful career managing in the minor leagues, is now their director of instruction.
But the word is that to replace Trembley, who had never managed in the big leagues before taking over the Orioles, MacPhail would prefer someone with big-league experience, preferably someone who has taken a team to the playoffs.
And, given the right support from ownership, he has enough here to tempt that kind of manager.
The young pitchers who represented the Orioles' hope for the future are still here. Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman are in the major leagues, Jake Arrieta leads the Triple-A International League with a 1.77 ERA, and there are more on the way behind them.
The young position players who got people excited last year are still here, too. Yes, you'll hear that both catcher Matt Wieters and center fielder Adam Jones have taken steps backward this season, but at 24, it's just as likely that they are steps back that precede several big steps forward.
A new manager would need assurances that he can clear out the clubhouse by the end of this year, that he can decide which players can fit on a winning team and which can't. He needs assurances that veteran players won't be sending text messages to Angelos every time they get unhappy, and that the front office support will be there, and he needs to be able to pick his coaching staff, rather than have MacPhail force coaches on him.
He needs the power to tell the organization to tone down the marketing campaign that can give even highly talented young players a sense of entitlement before they've actually accomplished anything at the big-league level.
He needs to be able to change an atmosphere that some in Baltimore like to refer to as the Orioles Country Club, where everyone gets a little too comfortable and where the owner just seems happy to have a lot of ex-Orioles around.
Maybe it can't happen. Maybe Angelos himself is too comfortable, raking in money because of the sweetheart deal that gave him television rights to the Nationals as well as the O's. Orioles officials have told people from other teams that the team-owned MASN network is now worth more than the ballclub itself.
It's easy to think that. The Orioles under Angelos have become a perennial loser, well on their way to a 13th consecutive season below .500. Since the last time they won, under Davey Johnson in 1997, they've gone through Ray Miller, Mike Hargrove, Lee Mazzilli, Sam Perlozzo and Trembley.
But there are plenty of examples of teams that looked like they would never win turning it around with young talent and the right manager. Mike Ilitch looked like an awful owner in Detroit in 2005, but Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya helped turn around the pitching staff, Jim Leyland brought a winning attitude, and the Tigers were in the World Series in 2006.
Can the Orioles get to the World Series next year? Not likely, not with this far to go, not in this division.
If you said that Leyland or Joe Torre or Bobby Valentine or anyone else wasn't going to win with this collection of players this year, you would be absolutely right. If you said it's not really fair that Trembley has to take the fall, that he gets the blame, well, that's right, too.
In what amounts to almost three full seasons, though, Trembley had a 187-282 record. With that kind of record, you don't stay around.
And he didn't.
But that doesn't mean the next guy can't succeed. Alan Trammell went 186-300 in his three years managing the Tigers, only to set things up for Leyland.
With the right moves and the right commitment in Baltimore, Trembley could be playing the part that Trammell played in Detroit (right down to their both being tremendously nice people).
With the right moves and the right commitment, the next manager could win.
Really, he could.