Dave Trembley might find the Orioles front office a tougher foe than any he’s faced in the American League East over the last 13 months or so. The only problem? You rankle the Red Sox or Yankees and lose a series or two, there’s “always next time”…rankle the folks who sign your paycheck and maybe, just maybe, “next time” doesn’t come around.
For any of you who have closely followed the Orioles this season, it’s becoming more and more apparent that Dave Trembley is embroiled in some kind of rocky relationship with members of the team’s front office, including folks who work for the team’s MASN TV network.
I’m not sure if Dave realizes it, but fighting the MASN gang is like fighting Peter Angelos himself. Peter’s son, John, runs the outfit and MASN’s revenues are, in part, supposed to fuel the team’s roster resurgence over the next decade.
Yet, Trembley has time and time again seemed openly agitated during his post-game press conferences that are televised live by MASN. Some of that agitation has spilled over to the media, where DT has occasionally conducted his post-game “give and take” with an acerbic tone directed at members of the press.
As one locker room regular said to me earlier this week, “we all know he has issues with MASN and he knows that we know it…yet he still takes some of that out on us after games when all we’re trying to do is get a quote or two and move on to do our story.”
As a matter of full disclosure, I’ll openly share that I have not been in the Orioles locker room since opening day this year. Three days earlier, on March 28, the team’s Director of Communications told me point-blank he would rather NOT see me at the stadium covering the team. Ask and ye shall receive.
However, I do TALK about the O’s every single day on the air and therefore, I watch a good portion of most games and always make it a point to tune in to the post-game show on MASN to hear Trembley speak on the game and/or the decisions he made. Thanks to MASN’s fine work, I actually DON’T have to go to the ballpark to cover the team…I can just sit home and do it. So, I do.
I also talk with members of the media on a regular basis and those that cover the club almost unanimously agree that Trembley is starting to wobble a bit as August rolls around. In other words, some are starting to question his stability.
Already this year, he has publicly criticized Greg Bader in a pre-game press conference and has, on more than one occasion after a loss, been combative with members of the media who questioned a move he made during the game. Earlier this year in Chicago, he evidently took exception to something that Amber Theoharris reported during one of her MASN updates and has been, shall we say, less than warm with her throughout the campaign.
Now, let’s spend some time taking up for Dave Trembley, since few in the Orioles organization appear willing to do so. He’s a man who took over a group of misfits last year at mid-season and, predictably, it got worse before it got better. He’s also a man who – despite some problems handling his pitching staff – has blossomed this year as a “no holds barred” kind of guy – precisely the style that has been needed in Baltimore for quite some time. While the ’08 team is likely to once again finish in last place, they will do so without embarrassing themselves. That, alone, can be attributed to some solid off-season moves by Andy MacPhail and a summer-long dedication to professionalism from Trembley. Yet, Trembley still doesn’t have a contract in place for ’09, although the team has an option to exercise an ’09 deal that will bring him back for his 2nd full campaign with the club.
Some members of the media who cover the team on a daily basis feel like Trembley’s recent anti-MASN approach might hurt his chances at an ’09 deal. Last Sunday, he remarked during his post-game press conference that Roch Kubatko of The Sun would be leaving the paper to work for MASN and added, “maybe you can straighten some stuff out around here…”
It’s those kinds of one-liners that the casual fan might not even pick up on, but those of us who follow the team on a daily basis and have some idea of the inner workings of the club fully know “a shot” when we hear it. There have been a lot of “shots” fired by Trembley this year. Just listen a little more closely and you’ll pick them up.
Someone associated with the club told me last week that Trembley is not a fan of the team’s “Wired Wednesday” segment when they throw a headset on him during the middle of the game and do a 2-3 minute inteview as play proceeds on the field. “Dave thought it was an early-season, promotional gimmick kind of thing…a once a month type deal…he wasn’t prepared for it to be a weekly intrusion.”
It’s not quite George Steinbrenner-Billy Martin, of course. Trembley has too much respect for the game and Andy MacPhail to cause havoc in-season. But he’s also a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve and, as some of those post-game comments have indicated, he’ll only take so much before speaking his mind.
In the end, will a team offer a new contract to a manager who is borderline combative and openly critical of the club’s cash-cow TV network?
It’s a Catch-22, because Trembley should know a successful TV venture by the O’s could lead to a larger player payroll investment and, ultimately, more wins for HIM as the skipper. That being said, if the Orioles continue to put money, TV, advertising, in-game interviews with a manager who’s trying to manage the game and post-game press conferences ahead of the baseball GAME itself, they might create a monster they themselves don’t even know how to slay.
Ultimately, money will always win out and if someone has to put his tail between his legs and scurry into the corner, you can bet your orange rear-end it won’t be John Angelos or the folks at MASN.
It’s not easy working for the Orioles and it’s not easy being told what to do by folks who’ve never managed a game in their life.
But, as Dave Trembley might find out – and as I have learned on numerous occasions over the last two years – questioning the team’s motives and wondering aloud if they could be doing things differently will only lead to one thing: Exclusion.
And if Trembley think he’s “untouchable”, all he needs to do is get a hold of Davey Johnson or Pat Gillick.
They’ll confirm it for him. Everyone’s expendable at The Warehouse.