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Firing Trembley isn't the answer
So, the Orioles fired Dave Trembley.
So, big deal.
A change in managers will accomplish little, other than to prove that the Orioles’ ownership and front office actually are paying attention to their sinking franchise.
You wouldn’t have known, considering that the O’s are 39-89 since last year’s All-Star break and 15 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays in the AL East.
The Orioles need a major overhaul, not change for change’s sake. They need a high-profile, kick-ass manager. They need to stop accepting mediocrity and wipe out their losing culture once and for all.
None of that can be accomplished at this point of the season. But for goodness’ sake, the O’s were not even prepared to change managers, much less clean out all of the stale blood in their organization -- players included.
The Royals had Ned Yost ready to replace Trey Hillman. The Mets seemingly have a cast of thousands ready to replace Jerry Manuel. But Andy MacPhail, the Orioles’ president of baseball operations, had no one to replace Trembley. At least no one with major-league managing experience, that is.
Third base coach Juan Samuel, who was named interim manager Friday morning, has managed exactly one season, at Double A with the Mets in 2006. Not that it really matters. The Orioles are so far gone, the identity of Trembley's replacement actually is insignificant.
As the Orioles head for their 13th straight losing season, they need to stop making excuses -- we play in the big, bad AL East, we lost leadoff man Brian Roberts and closer Mike Gonzalez to injuries -- and show some bold, genuine initiative for a change.
Owner Peter Angelos, according to a source, had dinner in a Baltimore suburb Thursday night with former Orioles Cal Ripken Jr. and Brady Anderson, who is now a team broadcaster. Ripken eventually might join the team’s front office – he wisely wants no part of managing – but no announcement on that front seemed imminent, two other sources said.
Those who believe that the Orioles will never succeed under Angelos need to get over it — the owner is not selling the club. MacPhail has done many good things since taking over in June 2007, particularly in his acquisition of young pitching talent. But he is at least as responsible as Trembley for the team’s failings, if not more so.
MacPhail had a dubious offseason, hitting on right-hander Kevin Millwood, but missing on Gonzalez, first baseman Garrett Atkins and third baseman Miguel Tejada. The greater issue, though, is MacPhail’s style. He is deliberate and conservative, at times even detached.
The Orioles offered first baseman Mark Teixeira a reported seven-year, $150 million free-agent contract after the 2008 season, but Teixeira, a hometown boy from Severna Park, Md., was an exception, an Angelos obsession. MacPhail is not the type who will spend big when the Orioles finally are ready to contend -- or hire a big personality as manager this off-season.
A control freak such as Bobby Valentine or Buck Showalter not only would offend MacPhail’s sensibilities, but serve as walking TNT for Angelos as well. Either of those ESPN analysts, however, would be exactly what the Orioles need – someone to teach the team’s young players how to win and establish a pattern of instruction for the entire organization.
Here’s another thought: Hire former Padres general manager Kevin Towers as GM, retain MacPhail as club president and instruct Towers to find the next manager, be it Valentine or Showalter or an up-and-comer – the next Bud Black, Joe Girardi or Joe Maddon.
Towers, currently serving as a special assistant with the Yankees, is one of the game’s best evaluators of pitching. His former boss with the Padres, Jeff Moorad, famously called him a “gunslinger,” but the Orioles would benefit from such audacity. MacPhail, when necessary, could help save Towers from himself, much as Larry Lucchino did when he was the Padres’ club president.
Of course, Towers might prefer to wait for a better situation, but offer him enough money and he might jump. The Orioles are not exactly destitute, even though their home attendance continues to erode. Angelos negotiated an absurdly one-sided regional sports network deal with the Nationals in exchange for giving up the Orioles’ territorial rights to Washington, D.C. The Orioles started off owning 90 percent of the network, and never will own less than 67 percent.
They can spend on a GM. They can spend on a manager. They can spend on players. Frankly, to stand any chance in the AL East, they need to start buying some legitimate hitters. They also need to get serious in the international market, where they are no more than bit players.
Most rival executives consider the Orioles a sleeping giant, if only they could get out of their own way. The franchise, once one of the game’s most respected, has no identity, exudes no aura, displays no sense of urgency.
Trembley initially tried to instill a strong work ethic when he became manager in June 2007, but the club’s renewed sense of purpose slowly faded. While teams such as the Twins routinely develop winning, professional players, the Orioles lack a winning compass. Their young hitters are going backwards. The injured Roberts, a skilled, productive, 10-year veteran, never has played for even a .500 team.
Firing the manager isn’t the answer – the dismissal of Trembley will mark Angelos’ sixth change since Davey Johnson led the club to its last two postseason appearances in 1996 and ’97. The Orioles’ problems are so deeply rooted, a more fundamental upheaval is required.
Hire Towers. Hire Valentine or Showalter.
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