It’s about time for Dave Trembley to go…

July 01, 2009 | Nestor Aparicio

Being on the radio every day over the years I’ve had the sad fortune to listen to more than my fair share of “fire the manager/coach” calls from knee-jerk reactionaries on a mission to be a public “coach killer.” In general, it’s just not my style to call for the firing of a skipper.

In fact in my 17 years on the radio – from Johnny Oates to Davey Johnson, from Phil Regan to Sam Perlozzo, from Mike Hargrove to Lee Mazzilli – I’ve never gone on the air in any fashion and said, “Fire the manager.”

(Not even for Mazzilli, who was such a freaking train wreck that it was reprehensible.)

But, today, I’m strongly toying with the idea that it might be getting close to the time for Dave Trembley to exit.

I’ve watched the first three months of the 2009 version of the Orioles.

They lack consistency in virtually every aspect of the game. They even lack consistent effort, Tuesday night’s miracle notwithstanding. They’re in dead last place and going nowhere anytime soon.

They run the bases like Jeff Stone on certain nights. The mental mistakes and ill-placed errors are maddening at times. But, for me, the worst part of watching the games are the bizarre strategic maneuvers of Dave Trembley and the failure for many of them to ever be properly explained to the fans. Of course, when the Orioles and Peter Angelos summarily ban “free speech” and access to legitimate journalists to ask questions of the manager, it’s made all but impossible to get answers about anything. It’s the “Oriole Way” handed down from ownership.

But on most nights, a somber and sullen Trembley appears before the local “firing squad” of team-employed “journalists” and co-workers and submits a dreadful 10-minute dirge that feels more like a root canal for the fans than a discussion about baseball strategy. And that’s when the Orioles WIN!

I’ve had Dave Trembley on my show before, a few years ago at spring training. I honestly don’t remember much about it but I found a picture of it last year. As I remember, he was relatively uptight even on a midday February afternoon in Fort Lauderdale. It was a Joe Friday-style interview.

But watching him react to the questions every night from a frightened room of my
“colleagues” is only second on the “Are you kidding me?” list to watching MASN’s often-comical dialogue in the middle of the games on “Wired Wednesday.” He hates talking about the game or letting the fans feel “into” the game. Recruiting the community is the furthest thing from his mind. (And none of the fools or cowards in the Orioles P.R. department have apparently issued a memo in his direction that he’s talking TO THE FANS when he makes the bitter-beer face. You know, the people who actually pay the bills? The ones their marketing department is trying to get to come down and fill the seats and drink beer…)

He’s absolutely equally joyless in victory or defeat, as witnessed twice in less than 18 hours after talking about the biggest comeback in the history of the franchise and the subsequent devastating loss this afternoon to the Red Sox after he pulled Brad Bergesen from the game in the 8th inning.

Sure, the pitching is subpar and that’s not his fault. The youthful, streaky hitting makes his win-loss record look acceptable when it’s going well, which hasn’t been much lately. Let’s face it: the team has last place talent in the only place that matters — the little hill in the middle of the diamond.

And, I’m not an unreasonable fan. I’ve known every Baltimore manager and sports coach of this generation very well and my business partner is a decorated NFL head coach. From Gene Ubriaco to Kenny Cooper to Terry Murray to Barry Trotz to Ted Marchibroda to all of the college basketball and football and soccer coaches – I’ve dined with them, drank with them, rapped with them and ultimately learned from all of them.

I’m a coach-lover, not a hater.

Some of my best friends on the planet are current and former coaches in a variety of sports. I love coaches. I respect smart people. There’s a craft to their management and intellect that I know I don’t personally possess. I’ve learned more from sports coaches as a reporter and journalist than I’ve ever learned anywhere in life. I’ve been “taken in” by some of the best coaches in the business all over the country.

I know pretty intimately what managers and head coaches go through and it ain’t easy. There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of personalities and egos and a variety of different ownership and management styles.

I’m not some knucklehead on a bar stool when it comes to this subject matter. I don’t write about this stuff to be inflammatory or directive. But it’s my job to opine and this is my opinion:

I would be actively seeking a new manager.

There are defenses for Trembley and his supporters will illuminate them.

We are talking about a lot of young players on the roster, some who are emerging and slumping at various speeds and degrees. I know – trust me I KNOW – he was doomed to last place with the hand he was dealt and the garden variety of Triple A and washed-up pitchers he’s had to pencil into the starting rotation most nights this season.

It’s not the manager’s fault when a starting pitcher can’t get out of the first inning, which happened twice in one weekend recently.

It’s not about any “one” incident, although today’s hook on Bergesen and the resulting embarrassing loss that leveled Tuesday night’s enthusiasm is Exhibit A. His decision, even moreso than the arsonist effort by Jim Johnson and George Sherrill today, cost the team the game.

The biggest question now is the future. My only question now for Andy McPhail and this ownership is this: “Who will be the manager of the team when the Orioles actually win again?”

(That is, assuming all of the orange Kool Aid drinkers are correct and the team is capable of winning 95 games in 2011. A large, suspect assumption at any rate but let’s go with a “best case” scenario.)

I can all but assure you that Dave Trembley is not the answer to above question. And for that reason, I think the search has either begun or will begin very shortly.

He’s the first Oriole manager that I’ve never had direct access to speak with in a generation. So, I don’t know how he’d react to me but I assure you there would be some quality questions after some of these losses. If they ever issued me a press pass it wouldn’t take long for them to take it away if I started asking Trembley some legitimate questions after games.

Instead of being intimidated I’d be emboldened on live TV every night because this is where you show what you’re really about. Most people are great winners but I don’t even sense any fun or joy when they win, which is really a shame because they don’t win that much!

It’s the worst and coldest part of the franchise at this point watching Trembley brood every night and be evasive, almost “Angelosian.” It’s really weird given their marketing platform of defining moments and joy in “Birdland.”

It’s a time when as a Baltimore sports fan (which is all I am at this point with my press pass revoked for speaking and writing the truth) there’s genuinely a lot to be excited about as the team comes together. The fans are more excited than they’ve been in years because we have some young players with genuine upside. Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, Luke Scott, Nolan Reimold, Matt Wieters and Brad Bergesen could just as easily be Eddie Murray, Ken Singleton, Rich Dauer, Gary Roenicke, John Lowenstein, Rick Dempsey and Mike Boddicker when you think about it.

They all seem like “right” guys and they’re really kinda easy to pull for every night.

Honestly, I think this group could be winning more games if the team were better managed and led. And they certainly could be recruiting the community and ca$hing in on the excitement with a leader who was a little more inspirational and less confrontational and gloomy.

The team has been in dead last place for virtually every breath of his tenure as the team’s manager and NO ONE in the room of media “executioners” he meets with every night on live television has EVER crossed him, called him out or asked a question that was unfair or even remotely confrontational. He just comes off like an arrogant ass every night and the business side of me and the Baltimore side of me kinda cringes.

Geez, it’s baseball. Everyone watching a simple press conference after the game LOVES baseball and LOVES the Orioles (even after 12 years of insolence and ineptitude) and just wants to know what’s going on with the team.

How freaking hard is it to answer a few questions and be honest and polite with the fans/customers/sheep. The press conference ISN’T for the press — it’s for THE FANS!

Despite my continued outrage at the practices and principals of this Fascist ownership group, I still love baseball. I still love the Orioles. Really I love Baltimore more than the Orioles but one day they’ll actually be merged again. And I still watch the games every night hoping that “tonight” will be the beginning of some kind of run that will bring the Birds to relevancy, if not a championship.

I suppose I’m a little jaded because I’ve essentially BEEN the guy in that room asking questions for 25 of my 40 years on the planet. At sporting events all over the world in every category you can imagine. So, this is my ONLY access to know what’s going on. Your “lens” is the same as mine.

And I don’t like what I see.

On the field. In the press conferences. In the community. And with the results, which are a lot of losses.

Seriously, if you could pick anyone on the planet to be the manager of the Orioles right now, would that guy be Dave Trembley? I’ve been watching his managerial strategies and style over the past two years. I’ve seen enough.

I don’t think the franchise will win with him. I think his direness is unattractive. I think his managerial strategies are questionable and illogical in some cases. And I can’t think for a second some of the younger guys in the clubhouse have any “relationship” with him that inspires them on a nightly basis.

A change is a’coming, I think. It might not happen now for a variety of reasons, among them:

1.    Firing a manager in midseason is a messy endeavor, even when you are in last place

2.    Finding the “right” manager is a search onto itself and easier to perform in the offseason and perhaps you’ll get better candidates

3.    Doing the interim tag can be inspirational for the right guy but could involve a revolving door that’s unnecessary

4.   Does anyone worthwhile really want to take this job? (Joe Girardi certainly ran like hell 24 months ago but perhaps some of the personnel upgrades and minor-league pitching prospects would make the franchise more attractive.)

Who knows? Maybe Andy McPhail is enamored with Trembley. If that’s the case – and McPhail didn’t hire Trembley as much as inherit him – I’d be utterly shocked.

And if Trembley’s not “his man” long term, he should begin the search for a successor immediately because at this point I feel like they’re wasting time and relationship and energy with Trembley.

My good sense says they’re not going to win with him.

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