We were standing there the other day, conducting an autopsy of the Orioles, when the photograph of Dave Trembley, manager of the star-crossed Birds, appeared for examination. Suddenly a kind of shock and awe settled over us -- as if we had just discovered a beating heart in a stiffened corpse.
It is a remarkable photograph -- an image from the Associated Press that is more conclusive and revealing than the MASN video.
The photograph captures Trembley at what could hold up as the defining moment of his career -- the night he refused to take losing lightly during a time when losing had become accepted and even expected.
Here it is, another September-Please-Be-Over, with the Orioles in a surreal tailspin that started, ironically, the day the front office extended Trembley's contract, and here's the manager -- black-and-orange cap pulled low on brow, chin squared -- at full battle stations.
I see beauty in this.
I see glimmers, not gloom; design, not doom.
I see hope for the future.
Next to the guy in charge of rebuilding Iraq, Dave Trembley must be the most frustrated man on the planet. (We've spent about $44 billion rebuilding Iraq; the Orioles spent $42 million on their bullpen.)
Yet Trembley still fights for every inch.
He doesn't just growl and grouse.
He doesn't mope and pout.
Doesn't sit on his hands.
And he doesn't just yell at the umpire to blow off steam.
He picks a fight when he knows he's right and throws the bum OUTTA THE GAME!
The photograph shows Trembley, who had just been ejected from Wednesday night's loser at Camden Yards, turning the tables and ejecting the ejecting umpire, Paul Emmel.
This Emmel had just blown a call at second base -- a terrible, terrible call -- and Trembley was correct in bringing a grievance.
Major League Baseball, however, said Trembley was incorrect, that his pretending to eject Emmel from the game was "inappropriate." They suspended him for three days.
Each team in MLB is required to have an EAP (Employee Assistance Program). What could have been more therapeutic for Dave Trembley, his team, the staff of the Orioles and all of us in Birdland than this bit of high kabuki at second base?
What are umpires for, anyway?
There are many ways to look at Trembley in the photograph.
He's 55 years old and probably influenced by Led Zeppelin. He appears to be singing, leaning back like Robert Plant about to wail.
Or he could be a gospel singer, punching a high note toward heaven. There's something evangelical about the image.
Then again, he could be talkin' trash with God, wondering what he and his team did to deserve such an accursed late-season run.
You might squint and see a heroic soldier at the moment he receives a mortal chest wound, but that's so ugly and so fatalistic an idea that I quickly pop it out of my head.
I'd rather see Dave Trembley in a moment of rapture, affirming that there's life among the losers, that he's here to stay, that he came too far -- a long, long bus ride through the minor leagues -- and worked too hard and sacrificed too much to blow this chance to be successful at The Show.
Doesn't matter that he didn't play in the bigs.
Trembley sounds like a man who truly loves baseball, and love of the game is what kept him on the coaching career path, driving an old Datsun for more than 200,000 miles through Single-A towns.
As Sun baseball writer Dan Connolly reported last month: "A dozen stops. Sixteen straight years of never making more than $35,000 annually, managing 2,800 minor league games, not including playoffs, spring training, instructional league and winter ball."
Every profession has them -- men and women long on experience and blessed with insight, who never make a big splash, never receive much recognition, never make career choices for money alone. They are seasoned and wise, disciplined and productive, and they command respect among their peers, and very often they are the ones who mentor the next generation.
You know the type.
Dave Trembley was one of these.
Sounds like he knows how to handle players, that they come to trust and respect him quickly.
You wish a man like this well.
You do not wish on Trembley what has happened to Trembley: He took over as interim manager. He saw the team improve and play inspired baseball. He saw the front office step forward with a contract extension into the 2008 season. And then, on that same day of affirmation, the Orioles lost infamously, 30-3, to the Texas Rangers, and their drive to the cliff commenced.
It has been gloom and doom since Aug. 22.
That's why we admire the photograph from Wednesday night, Sept. 12, at Camden Yards. Here's Dave Trembley ... not going gently into the night, fighting for what's right, affirming life among the lost.
I like that in a man.