Will hiring Trembley look good in Oct.?

The Baltimore Sun

Today it's difficult to hear that Dave Trembley will return next year as Orioles manager and view it as anything but good news.

He has curried favor in the clubhouse, not as a pandering politician, but rather as a leader who preaches discipline, believes in communication and tries to take care of every player on his roster. The fruits of his efforts are easy to quantify. A team that was 29-40 when Trembley took over has gone 29-25 with him as manager.

No, it's difficult today to view this as anything but good news.

But today isn't the day anyone should worry about.

While Trembley has impressively earned his stripes in a relatively short period, the timing of the Orioles' decision is still worthy of skepticism - and you should expect that skepticism to grow as the season winds to an end. The question you hope the Orioles have fully considered isn't whether Trembley seems like the right choice today - he does - but whether everyone will still feel that way at season's end.

It's a tough question, and we'll only know the answer in October. But that's kind of the point. Trembley could just as easily have been hired in October. Or November. Or December. There haven't been many other clubs clamoring over Trembley's availability, and all the Orioles really accomplished by handing him the 2008 job this early is affording him some peace of mind over the next several weeks while delivering a message to the clubhouse that it's not a lame duck who's quacking orders.

Is that enough reason to pull the trigger so soon, tying next season's 162-game hopes to this year's 54-game resume?

The Orioles have clearly decided that no matter what the field of candidates might look like in two months - Tony La Russa? Ozzie Guillen? Joe Torre? - Trembley is their best option. If they're that confident, they really had no choice but to pass out the permanent label this early. If they waited until season's end, the backlash would be much more fierce.

As usual, the team is primed for a September skid, and it's very likely that Trembley will finish the season with a record that more closely resembles that of his fired predecessor. Over the past five seasons, the Orioles' record in September is 55-83, just under .400. Back in 2002, they went 4-24 over the final stretch of the season.

With a tough schedule again this year - against teams that actually have something to play for each night - there's no reason to think the Orioles are about to make a run. It would have been interesting if, before naming a permanent manager, we got a peek at how Trembley handled the club over such a stretch as an interim guy.

Surely, over the next few days, we'll be hearing a bit about 1986. That's when Orioles president Andy MacPhail took over the reins of his first big league team, the Twins. Ray Miller was fired on Sept. 12 of that season and a 36-year-old named Tom Kelly, a guy with about five minutes worth of major league experience under his belt, finished the season with the interim title. He went 12-11.

As the season was winding down, MacPhail said there were two options for the Twins' permanent managerial job. "We could select a veteran guy who has proven he can win, or we could take a Bobby Valentine type, a young guy who is getting his first chance and is going to bring a lot of fresh enthusiasm," he said at the time.

After the season, in what stands as MacPhail's first major decision as a baseball executive, Kelly was retained. The next year, the Twins won the World Series.

This isn't to suggest that the Orioles are a year away from the World Series - or a decade away from the World Series. But it's worth noting that, for MacPhail, the unconventional Trembley hiring is rooted in some past success.

So, the move should be greeted with cheers and applause today. Trembley has earned that much. But the warehouse had better be ready for whatever delayed reaction lurks in October.

The safe guess is that the team brass - namely, MacPhail - was so sure that Trembley was the right choice that they knew waiting wasn't really an option. If the Orioles finished 15-20 games under .500, then chose Trembley without even flirting with other available managers, their fan base would've erupted.

Before this season, Trembley had no experience as a major league player, a major league coach or a major league manager. If the Orioles bypassed men who not only had this experience but have won actual world titles within the past 10 years in order to promote a bullpen coach, pitchforks and torches would've been circling the warehouse.

In that sense, waiting wasn't really an option.

No, the hire isn't splashy, but the warehouse clearly feels this was the very best they could do. It's an implicit acknowledgment that, sure, a better baseball manager might be available in October. But the best fit for the Orioles organization is already in place.

Hopefully that's still the sentiment at season's end.


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