Orioles: In Defense of Symbolism

June 02, 2010 |

A new manager wouldn’t have made Brian Matusz’s Tuesday night loss to the New York Yankees any easier to swallow. A pitcher’s win/loss record is perhaps the most haphazardly assigned statistic of all time, and this loss was a team effort.

A new manager wouldn’t make Miguel Tejada’s throw to first any better than it was or Ty Wigginton’s failed attempt to dig out the low ball any more graceful.

A new manager wouldn’t make a .249 hitting team with a paltry .682 team OPS any better. By comparison, the Yankees have an .820 OPS.

A new manager wouldn’t give the Orioles better bullpen options or heal the team’s long list of injured players.

But at 15-37, the Orioles front office realizes that the season is lost. The reality is that this team is pitiful, perhaps historically so. No single maneuver—no trade, no call up, no DL activation, and no managerial dismissal—will make this team respectable. In fact, to make the team better in the long run, they will probably look to trade away as many of their veteran chips as possible before the season is through. As bad as this team is now, imagine what the on-field product will look like without any or all of the following players: Jeremy Guthrie, Kevin Millwood, Ty Wigginton, Miguel Tejada. All of them should be made available in exchange for legitimate prospects.

But firing Dave Trembley and Terry Crowley carries with it a symbolic meaning. It would show what little fan base that remains that Peter Angelos and Andy MacPhail are just as unhappy with losing as we are. It would show that simply making money isn’t enough. It would show that management is being held accountable for a team with a horrifying .288 win percentage.

And whoever would be brought in to replace Trembley and Crowley, whether on an interim or full-time basis, has nowhere to go but up. And eventually, almost by accident, things have to improve at least slightly. At some point, a few of the ice cold hitters will get hot, at least briefly. At some point, Roberts and Pie will come back and provide some speed for a team that has a pathetic 18 stolen bases to 14 times caught stealing. At some point, the club will probably win, say, five in a row, or eight of ten, or 15 of twenty.

When that does happen, it will at least look like the start of something new if the team has a new skipper and an alleged new outlook. Lucky bounces, which the Orioles have had very few of this year, will be interpreted as glimmers of hope. The rare come-from-behind win will be attributed to a new clubhouse attitude. A Matt Wieters finding his stroke will be credited to a new batting cage philosophy.

If Trembley and Crowley remain, focus will remain on the team’s horrible start, as the staff is reviewed based upon the season as a whole. But symbolically, fans and critics alike would mark the start of a new managerial regime as an opportunity to begin a new period of evaluation. And if a new manager were to win even just four of ten games, improvement would be widely noted.

Here’s the truth about fans. We want to believe our team has a chance even when it doesn’t. And with 110 games remaining in 2010, the only “chance” that the Orioles fan base has to look forward to is the chance that next year will be better. Dave Trembley and Terry Crowley have both overseen a lot of losing in Baltimore. It’s time to give them both their walking players, and let fans search for the hope in a new era, even if the gesture is largely a symbolic one. Symbolism is all we have at this point, and we need some reason to watch four more months of baseball.