SAN DIEGO-- --There are few sights and sounds in sports more refreshing than those of a man who spent a lifetime paying harsh dues, finally getting his chance, and then taking aim at big leaguers who appear to take that kind of dues-paying for granted.
If Dave Trembley could only stick around for a while.
He was still some three hours away from leaning on a dugout rail as a major league manager for the first time - but in his first chance to talk publicly as Sam Perlozzo's replacement yesterday, he said everything that a team like this needed to have said about it.
Much of it was what a man stuck with the "interim" tag has to say about a clubhouse in crisis, and at some point (maybe before the six-game road trip that began last night is over), someone else with a bigger name and contract will be saying something similar. Trembley knows it, everybody knows it, and the 22 1/2 years he has spent coaching and managing in four organizations, nearly all in the minors, weren't going to change that.
Doesn't matter. It was fun to see and hear Trembley saying it, because you could tell he meant it when he said, repeating what he told the players in his first meeting as their manager, "It'll be a privilege for me to manage this club."
Even better, what he said next is what everybody who has watched this team this season has meant.
"I'd like to get the guys to appreciate the opportunity they have. I think that's gotten away from us a little bit," Trembley said in a room near the visiting clubhouse at San Diego's Petco Park. "I think you tend to take things for granted a little bit, and there's no need to rub salt in the wound and remind them what's gone on here.
"But I think all these guys are men, big league players, and I think you need to wake them up a little bit and get them straight, and tell them that the way they've played is unacceptable, and the way they've done things is unacceptable."
It had occurred to whomever has watched this team, inside and outside the organization, that the way the Orioles have played is unacceptable. You even had the sense that it wasn't acceptable to the players themselves - but none of them seemed willing or able to do anything about it.
It might have clicked for them after the eighth loss in a row Sunday at Camden Yards to the Arizona Diamondbacks, or the next day when they boarded the bus to the airport without Perlozzo. But before last night's game against the Padres, it seemed to be sinking in: They were out of human shields, and the responsibility - or blame - was on them.
"Guys are realizing that it all falls on us now," said Kevin Millar, who acknowledged that it no longer was urgent to hold a players-only meeting. "We're saying, 'Look, we're accountable for this situation, the manager's not here anymore, so let's do something about it.' "
If they weren't all together on that, Trembley was sure to clue them in. He talked of making the game "as simple as possible for them," but he also spoke often about doing things "the right way." The not-so-subtle message: You tried it your way, and see where it got you.
"Be on time, be professional and respect the game," Trembley recited as his managerial mantra. "I don't think it's too much to ask."
Granted, Trembley had not managed a day in the majors yet (neither had Perlozzo or Lee Mazzilli when they got the gig, and in the end who knows if that made a difference). How much credibility he has because of that, and because his future here rides on the whims of the next manager, is questionable.
However, the last thing the Orioles needed, players and management, was someone to just fill out the lineup card until the big announcement came.
Trembley comes armed with definite ideas, ones seemingly designed to make a very specific point. They took infield practice before the game, for one thing. He took time to point out that the lineup for tomorrow's getaway game would be posted by the end of tonight's game - maybe Melvin Mora heard that; you hope he did. He talked a lot about putting players in position to do what they do best.
If Trembley sounded like a man who wasn't about to waste a second of the precious time he'll have in the hot seat, you can understand why. He mentioned promises made and broken by previous managers who didn't bring him along when they made the big league leap - and spoke glowingly of how Perlozzo stuck to his word and found a spot for him this season. Talking about riding buses in the boonies is your basic baseball cliche, but Trembley rode 'em.
The Orioles haven't had many good marriages lately, but this one seems like a good one, even if it won't last: a man eager to leave his mark before his spotlight gets turned out, and a franchise eager to immediately reverse its fortunes while still taking its time finding a long-term managerial and front office solution.
This organization almost doesn't deserve to be this lucky.