There's a perfectly logical explanation for the way the Orioles have collapsed during the week or so since the team took the interim tag off manager Dave Trembley, but it's not what you think.
The obvious factors - the struggling bullpen, the thin roster, the late-season assimilation of unproven players - might seem to be reasons enough for the ugly six-game losing streak that includes one of the ugliest losses in modern baseball history. And that might be the end of the story if not for the odd timing of this odd tailspin.
Come on, in what cruel universe would a nice guy like Trembley be subjected to something like this?
That's why the real explanation makes so much sense. Trembley has done such a great job of building a new team chemistry since he took over for Sam Perlozzo that there's no way the Orioles could have fallen apart so completely in the immediate aftermath of the happy announcement of his one-year contract extension.
Which means it had to be on purpose.
That's right. The whole thing was the ultimate clubhouse prank.
Trembley came back from his news conference Wednesday on cloud nine. The guy waited so long for this opportunity that his voice cracked whenever he talked about it. Then he had to sit there for 3 1/2 hours watching his team give up the most runs any team has given up in a game since before the Spanish-American War.
What are the odds of that happening by chance?
And against the last-place Texas Rangers? Give me a break.
I'm pretty sure Kevin Millar had something to do with this. There probably was an impromptu meeting among the influential players in the clubhouse where various ideas were thrown around.
Hotfoot? Too pedestrian. And, anyway, Trembley is so intense during a game that he wouldn't have noticed it until he lost a couple of toes.
Ink inside the hatband? Logistically impossible. Trembley has not removed his cap since he got the interim job in June. There's a rumor he sleeps in his uniform.
Whoopee cushion? Who would even notice with Millar around.
I'm guessing somebody just sort of threw it out there.
"Hey, how about for the next week, we make it look like we'll never win another game."
"Great idea! With our bullpen, he'll never suspect a thing."
Think about it. Orioles relievers have given up 40 earned runs in 18 innings during the losing streak. If you've got a calculator handy, you probably already know that works out to a 20.00 bullpen ERA. Of course, the whole thing is skewed by the 24 runs the bullpen gave up in four innings in Game 1 of Wednesday's doubleheader, but even without them, the bullpen ERA over that span is 10.29. Nobody's that bad by accident.
I just hope the guys realize this has gone far enough. I'm guessing they'll ask Trembley to come into the clubhouse sometime before tonight's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, let him in on the joke and have a hearty laugh at his expense. He'll be a little put off at first, but he'll be so relieved the team isn't really that bad he'll eventually join in the good-hearted guffaws, check the inside of his cap and make everyone take three hours of infield practice.
I'm sure there are some skeptics out there who believe the losing streak is just a case of water finding its own level, but I'm a little tired of that kind of negativity. The Orioles clearly can turn it on and off at will. They took four of six against the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees recently, so no one can seriously believe they were unable to compete with the Rangers and Minnesota Twins.
They're just a bunch of fun-loving guys with a soft spot for their manager and a strange sense of humor.
I'm happy I was able to clear that up for everyone.
Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon Saturdays and Sundays.