Orioles manager Dave Trembley has made a career out of properly assessing situations.
He is considered a talent developer with a prescience to push the right buttons in motivating baseball's varying personalities.
So, as he enters the dugout Monday for his second Opening Day as field general of the Orioles, Trembley absolutely, positively knows the score.
"Somebody along the line is the front line of this, the infantry, and is going to take the body blows," Trembley said. "Somebody is going to pay the price, just like somebody has paid the price for everything that has come our way in this life and this game."
Trembley, 57, was selected to be that guy June 18, 2007, replacing Sam Perlozzo on an interim basis because of his track record as a disciplinarian and teacher in a 20-year minor league managerial career.
His charge wasn't to catch the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in the brutal American League East, but rather to establish direction and accountability at the helm of what had become a rudderless big league organization.
In the time since, the Orioles have gone 108-146, a .425 winning percentage - tied for the third-worst mark in modern Orioles history. With the focus this season again on development, the wins aren't expected to be plentiful.
"Every manager is in a tough spot," Orioles veteran second baseman Brian Roberts said. "You go to a team that they spent $200 million, you're expected to win. You go to a team where you are spending $40 million, they expect you to develop and still win. Being a manager, you are always expected to win. That's what you want. That's what we, as players, want. But when you are in a situation where they want you to try and nurture young guys at the same time, that is a tough job."
Trembley, who managed 2,782 games in the minors before getting his big league shot, isn't giving up, even if the club endures a 12th straight losing season. This was his dream, and he's not forgetting that.
"It's Opening Day and you are managing a major league team, and it's the Baltimore Orioles and you understand the history and tradition that goes along with it," Trembley said. "And you realize how lucky you are. So let's be positive."
He'll quickly tick off the improvements he has witnessed in the past 21 months: more of a commitment to winning, a better farm system, a willingness to lock up good players for the future. And, perhaps most important, a better overall attitude.
"I think we are better in our approach. I think the players are real cooperative," he said. "I think the attitude has been tremendous."
Time will tell whether that's enough.
Trembley's one-year contract (renewed in September) expires at year's end with the club holding a one-year option for 2010.
Club president Andy MacPhail has never made Trembley's contract an issue. He hasn't publicly challenged his skipper or put an emphasis on wins and losses since taking over the team two days after Trembley was named interim manager in 2007.
"Managing is a custom fit. Different guys thrive in different circumstances," said MacPhail, pointing to Boston's Terry Francona and the Philadelphia Phillies' Charlie Manuel as examples. "I do think that Dave is a good fit for Baltimore. He's certainly a good fit for what we're trying to establish as far as a culture and an organization."
His players seem to agree.
"I think he is the perfect guy for the situation because he is not a guy who is going to go out there and yell at you and scream at you and embarrass you in front of cameras," first baseman Aubrey Huff said. "If he needs to get a point across, he does it behind closed doors. And I think that's really big for a young team."
Said Roberts: "Dave has a lot of strong traits. For me, he is very personable, he communicates well. ... I would certainly endorse Dave, for sure."
Trembley basks in the support of his players. But true to form, he also is cognizant of his situation. He is employed by an organization that has had eight managers in the past 15 years. His team could struggle again, and he has no contract for 2010.
There are two things that keep Trembley going, focused on the job he was hired to do. The first is strictly baseball philosophy.
"You try not to take it personal; I think that is No. 1," he said. "You have to be very realistic and understand that you are not going to be the sole reason why you win or why you lose. Your influence does not go to that extreme."
And the second reason he thinks he'll get the opportunity to be around when the club is more competitive?
Well, that one is personal.
"Faith. Real simple: faith," Trembley said. "You do what is right and you have faith that is what is still the most important thing."