Trembley's making believers out of Orioles and their fans

The Baltimore Sun

Do we have definitive proof that Dave Trembley spent the previous 22 years coaching and managing in the minor leagues? Are we absolutely sure he wasn't a motivational speaker instead, or a traveling preacher or a shrink or a host on the Home Shopping Network?

Not to demean his baseball credentials in any way, but every day Trembley spends as the Orioles' interim manager (not in official terms, but in practical ones), the more his message of respect for the game, accountability and passion seeps in.

The results on the field tell you that the players are buying it. The turnout yesterday morning at Camden Yards for a season-ticket-holder promotion - Trembley and Andy MacPhail did an hour-long Q&A; atop the dugout before the game against the Chicago White Sox - tells you the fans are buying it, too.

It's tough to say which group is the tougher sell, but it really might not matter. He could sell a Joe Torre throwback jersey to Gary Sheffield. He could sell not only hope, but also enthusiasm, to a fan base that has borne nearly a decade of losing.

Apparently, he can even sell extra work to a sleepwalking clubhouse whose conspiracy of silence had pretty much run Trembley's predecessor out of town.

First, about the fans, whose patience might have been at an all-time low at the time Trembley replaced Sam Perlozzo last month.

"I don't know it from experience," Trembley said after the session with the crowd of some 500 fans, "but I feel it ... what's been going on here and how proud these people are about the Baltimore Orioles. And I want to let them know that I know that. That's why we're trying to do what we're doing out here [on the dugout], is to show them a certain sense of appreciation for sticking with us. But we know what we've got to do better in order to keep them."

Trembley and MacPhail must have said the right things. MacPhail shook hands for a couple of extra minutes before climbing down; Trembley slapped palms, signed autographs and chatted them up for nearly 10 minutes.

"There's no substitute for interpersonal relationships," Trembley said, "and talking to people and meeting them and touching them and being open and honest, showing that you care. People can spot someone that's sincere, and people can spot somebody that's trying to sell them a bill of goods. I'm not trying to sell them a bill of goods.

"One lady up there said, 'Well, it's all fine and dandy what you guys are saying up there, but we've heard it for 9 1/2 years.' I really can't do anything about that, but I can do something about what's going on now."

Here's what's going on now: The Orioles hit the road with three straight wins, after a rally that came up just short in the first game back from the All-Star break. The three wins were a shutout from Erik Bedard, a late comeback win that they did complete and yesterday's first major league win by Garrett Olson, protected by none other than Danys Baez.

That took the Trembley Tally to 12-10. It's a pretty small survey sample, but those 22 games had a completely different look from the one the Orioles displayed before the dugout and front-office shakeups.

It's no coincidence. "Fans were telling me, 'We notice you've been hitting on Sundays. How come you're not hitting today?' " Trembley said, adding that he pointed out that the get-together in which they were participating was keeping the team from its usual schedule. "But we have the pitchers out there," he said.

"You know how it was before," he continued. "It ain't going to be like that - that's what I told them. Those days are over. Showing up at 5 o'clock and taking a little batting practice - those days are over. How [else] are we going to get better? We're going to get better."

They have gotten better - and if there has been a syllable of complaint about the extra pre-game workload, the players have kept it to themselves. It could be because in return for the effort, Trembley is putting them in position to do what they do best and to wipe their slates clean if necessary.

Cases in point yesterday: Corey Patterson, finishing an 8-for-16, two-homer series; and Baez, retiring all four batters he faced with the game on the line, after entering to a scattering of boos in the seventh with two out and the tying run at the plate.

"Dave giving me the chance to be in that kind of a game. I really appreciate that," Baez said.

Healing wounds was yesterday's theme, and Trembley pushed it hard and well.

"This is our team," he said, referring not only to his audience back in the clubhouse, but also the one he had addressed in his Sermon on the Dugout. "This isn't my team or Kevin Millar's team or Brian Roberts' team. I know it sounds corny and all that, but it's not. It's what they need. It's what we need here.

"If we don't get it, we're going to lose them ... and I'm not going to let that happen."

So far, after 22 games, Trembley hasn't lost them.

david.steele@baltsun.com

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