The interim manager has brought a spark. He has the players' support. He works the Orioles' clubhouse like a politician, keeping everyone posted on the latest news and lineup changes. Dave Trembley is emphasizing fundamentals, beaming with optimism and unable to hide how proud and humbled he is to have a key to the manager's office.
"I'm having fun. I was in Ottawa last year at this time and there weren't this many people at the ballpark," he said, scanning the media contingent that greeted him before the first game of the second half of the season. "I'm not being negative. I'm telling you the honest-to-goodness truth. I wish you all could be sitting where I'm sitting and understand the magnitude of what this means to me."
Trembley is 9-10 after last night's loss to the Chicago White Sox. His predecessor, Sam Perlozzo, carried a simliar mark (10-9) after his first 19 games as interim manager in 2005.
In fact, the newfound energy, the unwavering optimism, the great player relations - it all reminds me of when Perlozzo was promoted.
I bring all of this up because the Orioles could take another cue from the 2005 season. As they did for Perlozzo, the Orioles should allow Trembley to finish the season as interim manager.
Club officials have indicated they won't pick up the manager search before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Assuming a new search would take at least a few days and up to a few weeks, the Orioles will need to weigh just how important it is to have a permanent manager in place for the final one to 1 1/2 months of the season.
Expectations for this team have fallen since April 1, making it difficult to identify too many advantages to having anyone other than Trembley managing this team the rest of the season. The names being bandied about - Don Baylor, Dusty Baker, Joey Cora - wouldn't provide the impact that would justify rushing into a midseason hire. There's no urgency to those names, and each is a candidate that will still be eager and available in October.
The only reason to pull the trigger at some point in the next couple of months is if the Orioles had someone in mind who really made their knees shake. After Joe Girardi turned them down last month, though, team officials turned the page to see Plan B and found they had absolutely nothing written there.
In the three weeks since, they haven't formally interviewed any other candidate, which makes them look like the band geek who got rejected by the head cheerleader and decided to skip the dance entirely.
It makes more sense to be patient and hire someone you want. The pool of candidates will be bigger after the season, and there's always the outside chance that the guy who made them drool in June will be worth another run come October. If whatever job Girardi covets falls through, another round of conversations with the Orioles might be in order.
In the interim, like Perlozzo two years ago, Trembley is sufficiently capable of keeping the seat warm. When your team is bad and expectations are low, a guy in Trembley's position doesn't need to perform a miracle. He just needs to dodge disasters.
Trembley has shown he's more than formidable at that, playing about .500 ball without key veterans in the lineup. Plus, he has the players' trust. The entire team is stretching together, they're taking infield practice, going through bunting drills, and most seem to approve of the way Trembley handles the bullpen and the bench.
For Trembley, there's not as much tiptoeing in these early stages. While Perlozzo had coached with the team a decade before his promotion, Trembley has been with the Orioles for less than a year and doesn't feel the need to protect any cozy relationships in the clubhouse. He already, apparently, has taken somewhat of a hard-line approach.
"I told certain guys you play for the name on the front of your shirt, not for the name on your back," he says. "And I can't make it clearer than that."
Unlike Perlozzo two years ago, Trembley is not in the midst of a tryout. Peter Angelos and Andy MacPhail need a hire that will generate a splash, that will tell free agents and a disgruntled fan base the team is serious about winning.
The most important thing Trembley can do in the second half of the season is establish a work ethic and a set of expectations. He's doing a good job at that thus far.
As for his status with the team, Trembley isn't asking the team brass questions, and they're not volunteering answers. For his sake, for the clubhouse's sake and for the sake of putting the Orioles' managerial search into focus, team officials might as well make it official: Trembley's the best option to finish out the season.