Dave Trembley says it's a nonissue.
Andy MacPhail has been saying the same thing for weeks.
By all accounts, it's a foregone conclusion.
So why am I so convinced that MacPhail and Orioles management should not be leaving Trembley's contract situation up in the air as the team moves into what could be a rocky September?
If it's going to happen and it's not an issue, then why not just announce that Trembley's 2009 option has been picked up and be done with it? What good purpose is served by letting the situation ferment for two or three more weeks? I mean, is somebody waiting to see whether Dave's head is going to explode the next time Daniel Cabrera needs 96 pitches to get through 4 1/3 innings?
Trembley has done a fine job under difficult circumstances, but those circumstances are going to get even more difficult during the next four weeks, and it would make a lot of sense to send a message to the fans and the players - right now - that the organization is still on course, even if the team turns hard in the wrong direction as it closes out the 2008 season.
It's going to be easy to forget all the positive things that happened during the first half of the season when the Orioles march a parade of minor league pitchers to the mound in September against a parade of winning teams. It's not going to take long for the fans to get frustrated and focus that frustration on the manager. It's already starting to happen. That's just the way things go in this game, but the Orioles can blunt those poison arrows by announcing loudly and clearly - and soon - that Trembley is still the man.
"I think they have to like what he's doing," Kevin Millar said. "I think Dave Trembley has done a great job here. He has done everything he could do to change the focus and direction of this organization."
True enough, and if the measuring stick for this team's performance was the gloomy preseason expectations, Trembley's job review ought to be pretty upbeat. The oddsmakers put the over-under line on Orioles victories this year at 64 1/2 . The team could pass that number before the end of August.
"From a player's perspective, he's been awesome," Millar said. "I don't think he ever gets outmanaged. I think he has the respect of the players. He also has a passion for the game itself that, as a player, you really appreciate. He's into it every day. He's not showing up here at 5 o'clock."
To the contrary, Trembley is so deeply committed to the team that you can see the losses starting to wear on him. He's not quite the same guy before and after games that he was a few months ago. He's taking it personally when his team is overmatched, which has not been lost on his players.
That said, he refuses to campaign for the contract extension, probably because he has been told it assuredly will come at the appropriate time. We can agree to disagree on whether now or later is appropriate, but Trembley insists it wouldn't make an ounce of difference in the way he does his job if he already were signed through 2009 or even 2010.
"I don't think that it would," he said. "I've got to play every game to win. It's like I told Andy when I took over: Whether I'm here one day or two days or two months, you don't need to tell me how long and I won't ask. I'll do the best job I can every time out here.
"I'm just a big proponent of respect for the game. Would I do something differently if I had a long-term contract? What would I do differently? Not play to win? That wouldn't be very ethical, would it?"
Maybe not, but it is possible he would be an even better manager with that job security, because the perception of others - in the clubhouse and in the stands - can have an effect on the competitive environment.
Trembley acknowledges being a little sensitive, but not about his contract. He's concerned that the depth problems being experienced by the club could end up obscuring the progress that has been made in the organization this year. The last thing he wants is for the fans to go home thinking that 2008 was the same old discouraging song and dance.
"We all wish it were better, but you have to be a team guy and understand the big picture," he said. "What do they expect? We're better than we were. This season has been a lot more fun than last year. I want this season to be remembered for what we accomplished, not for how the season could end."
It could end badly. There are too many good teams ahead and too many soft spots in the Orioles' pitching staff. That's why it's important for the club to endorse Trembley - now more than ever.
Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon most Saturdays and Sundays.