I’m so excited right now!

Guess who’s coming back!  No, not Trembley.  Well, I mean, yeah, Trembles is coming back…but that’s not who I’m talking about!

Ma-fuckin Russ Smith, that’s who!

There was Dave Trembley last Friday night at Camden Yards, looking like the Cat who ate the Oriole, and on purely good-will-towards-men grounds, it was hard not to smile.

Smiling at an O’s game is almost certainly prohibited.  You’re lucky you didn’t get caught.

Trembley, manager of Baltimore’s sloppy squad, whose continued employment was the subject of speculation around town the past several weeks—after all, what else was there to talk about regarding the team, on its way to 98 losses?—was the beneficiary of a floundering franchise’s confounding conservatism, given a vote of confidence from Andy MacPhail, the team’s president of operations. So good for Trembley, reputedly a decent fellow, dodging what seemed like an inevitable waking of the plank.

Very confusing graf, but I don’t think I disagree with anything here.

Never mind that the O’s fielded a team with a lot of talent, especially the much-touted Baby Birds, and yet finished with the American League’s worst record.

“Much-touted” doesn’t mean “will make the team win instantly upon arrival”.

If this was, as MacPhail preached time and again, another “rebuilding year,” a fan might have expected more progress.

It was a rebuilding year.  There’s no need to question it.  Again, I think we made as much progress as one can expect in a rebuilding year.  Has there been a team that was in a self-proclaimed rebuilding year that went on to win the pennant or something that I don’t know about?

And, as it happened, the O’s set a new low for attendance at Camden Yards, drawing 1,907,163 spectators, about 40,000 less than ’08, which was then the bottom number.

That’s a bummer.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians canned manager Eric Wedge—and in a cruel way, just days before the season ended

If MacPhail was going to fire Trembley, he said straight up, it might be before the season ended.  Would you have thought it cruel to Trembley?

—who, it may be remembered, led his team to within one game of going to the World Series in ’07. It’s said that Trembley was hamstrung by injuries (which happens to every team) and MacPhail’s midseason trades of closer George Sherrill and Aubrey Huff,

Trembley was hamstrung by injuries:  Pie, Jones, Bergessen, Reimold, Albers, Sarfate, etc.  Sherrill and Huff getting dealt, was not a huge deal.  It didn’t help us though.  Well Huff leaving helped us…he was really draggin ass out there.

but Wedge, in the last two years, lost CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee, among others, and star center fielder Grady Sizemore was hurt most of the year. The Indians are now rebuilding and Wedge is out; is it unreasonable to think that Trembley, too, ought to be sacrificed in the interest of shaking the team up?

I think it’s unreasonable, yes.

History lesson in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…Wedge took over the team in 2003 and the Indians finished 4th.  From 2003 to 2007 they finished 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 3rd, and 1st.  Over 5 years he made considerable strides forward.  The two years following that 1st place finished saw them land 3rd and 4th…a considerable step back.

Wedge was given 7 years as manager.  He helped lead the team to winning seasons but couldn’t sustain that winning.  By halfway through the 08 season, it was clear the team wasn’t going to contend that year, so they started making moves.  Cliff Lee didn’t resign with them because he saw no future there, at least in the short term.

That’s what rebuilding is for mid-market teams.  You gear up, as best you can, and shoot to make a run at the title.  If you aren’t going for the title, you are shedding payroll, trading veterns for younger players, and biding your time.

I personally don’t see another O’s dynasty in the foreseeable future as long as the current payroll and schedule structure are in place for the AL East.

Now, Trembley has only two full seasons under his belt.  He took over the team when they were shitty.  Really, really shitty.  Anyone who thinks he was going to pull the team out of the basement in two years has really unrealistic expectations.  Besides, why should he be the one to take the full force of the blow-back?

The decision to keep Trembley was such a shock that The Baltimore Sun‘s print edition last Saturday featured a banner headline on its front page, “O’s keeping Trembley,” (never mind the previous day’s disappointing unemployment numbers or President Obama’s failure to secure the 2016 Olympics for his many political friends in Chicago), a decision at the daily that left me wondering what was more depressing: MacPhail’s puzzling strategy or The Sun‘s ongoing disintegration. Sure, the sports news was a big local story, but there was a time not so long ago that the paper’s editors (who were at onetime familiar with the city) would’ve run a snipe on the front page rather than make it the lead article. The good news for the Orioles and its fans, I suppose, is that the club has a longer life expectancy than The Sun, but I digress.

Moving on.

A few days later, after the unexpected retention of Trembley, a manager who plays the stoic Marine at press conferences but is often accused of being soft in the clubhouse,

Agreed.  We’ve actually written about it before.  Also, you can see by Trembley’s own comments that he is aware of this, may have done it for a reason(i.e. teaching instead of beating up), and is certainly going to change next season.

And I know what my shortcomings have been. I know what I have to do better. I’ve got to drop the hammer more. I’ve got to drop it, because losing does not sit very well with the people around here anymore.

even supporters of the decision, such as The Sun‘s columnist/blogger Peter Schmuck, could offer few encouraging words to the fan base for next season and beyond. On the morning of MLB’s last day of the regular season, Schmuck wrote: “The road back to respectability never figured to be a short one, but the trip has been so difficult that the thought of another hopeless season in 2010 might be too much to bear for the club’s beleaguered fans.”

Why?  What’s the difference?  12 losing seasons.  13 losing seasons.  14 losing seasons.  What’s the difference?  Here’s how the same situation would look in an office setting:

Ok gang.  We have this damn problem with the copier…it just won’t make copies.  We’ve tried to fix it 5 times by just hitting it with a hammer.  We tried another 5 times by hitting it with a bigger hammer.  We tried once by begging it to just start working.  We tried another few times by taping other smaller copiers to it.  None of those things worked.  Now we can either 1) be patient and wait for the parts to get here, or 2) cancel the replacement parts, fire a few employees (probably those in accounts payable, because fuck them), and we can try the hammer thing again.  Let’s vote.

Things are finally starting to look brighter, and now, people are more impatient than they’ve ever been.  I don’t get it.

There’s a chance, I guess, that MacPhail will take advantage of shedding $40 million off its ’09 payroll to actively seek a slugger for the lineup, a reliable veteran starting pitcher and quality players for first and third bases. Still, given the dearth of marquee free agents in the off-season it’s unlikely the O’s will make the splash that the dwindling attendees at Camden Yards so desperately desire. Think about it: if you’re John Lackey (the most prized pitcher on the market), Matt Holliday or Jason Bay, all of whom will play in the postseason starting this week, would you sign with a team that barely escaped 100 losses and hasn’t been in the playoffs since 1997? A ton of money can lure pure mercenaries, but with so few players available it’s almost out of the question that any big name will be suiting up for Trembley next year.

Agreed.  It’s hard to convince any pitcher to come to the AL East.  Every starter for the Yankees has 20 home runs this year.  That’s fucking insane.

Russ, let me say, we see eye to eye on a lot of things, it’s just this slight little perspective thing that keeps us from being the same person…oh yeah, and you like the Red Sox, but still.  So close.

Those three players, or any other free agent for that matter, are not going to look at the Orioles and say, “Trembley’s the coach of that team?  Fuck them.”  They’re going to say, “They really suck.  Unless they pay me a shit load or I get the convenient yet oddly timed desire to be a part of something cool like the 08-09 Rays, fuck them.”

Perhaps MacPhail believes he can pull off a blockbuster trade, but then again, whom would the O’s exchange for, say the Blue Jays’ Roy Halladay? Luke Scott or Jeremy Guthrie? No, I don’t think so either. (By the way, I’m betting the Yanks wind up with Halladay, exiling Joba Chamberlain, Melky Cabrera and a few prospects to Toronto.) MacPhail’s not a dumb guy, and so he knows a bunch of new faces that MASN can feature on its “Birdland” commercials come next March is a necessity, but it’d take an MVP soothsayer to tell us just who they’ll be.

Nope…we’re not going to get any big names in trades.  We might get a prospect or two, but we are not going to deal away the core of our talent, especially the pitching.

Last month, in a critical piece about the Orioles I was slagged by Kevin Lomax, one of the guys who blogs at Eutaw Street Hooligans, and though he was confused about my own favorite team (the Red Sox, not the Yankees),

Seriously though, I wasn’t the only one who thought that of your writing.  I was however the only one who had the time (sadly) and the balls to show it to you or say it to you straight up.

Also, re-read that article and tell me it doesn’t sound like Yankee propaganda.

Finally, I love that you said slagged.  You’re totally from England aren’t you?

the implication was that a non-O’s fanatic wasn’t welcome to offer commentary about the team. That’s fine by me, since I appreciate passionate fans.

That wasn’t my implication.  My implication was, before you write such a critical article about a team (that you don’t root for) at least do your home work.  I can take well-reasoned criticism.  Shit, I can take unreasonable criticism as long as it’s funny.  But poorly researched and unsubstantiated arguments; I just can’t stand idly by and let that happen.

I’ll point out, however, that my family and I attended more than 20 O’s games at Camden Yards this year (including all but one Sunday afternoon contest),

I’m glad you are out supporting our rebuilding effort.  This will only help us in our future conquest of the AL East.

and as someone who remembers when the Orioles were a perennial contender, as well as feeling bad for my kids’ friends who grew up in Baltimore and have never experienced the thrill of a winning team, I don’t feel guilty for advocating wholesale changes in the current Orioles’ culture.

I will admit, I wasn’t alive during a time of Oriole contention, so I can’t share your feelings here.

After all, as a resident of Baltimore, I’d welcome a packed stadium every home game, not only for the energy at the park, but the resulting economic benefits for the retailers downtown whose business spikes considerably when attendance is high.


And Lomax, on Oct. 1, prior to the Trembley announcement and the O’s snapping a 13-game losing streak, was less jolly, writing: “I plead with you fellow O’s fans: Stop bitching so much about a team that had no business playing in the majors this year. It’s not one person’s fault. It’s not the players, it’s not Trembley, it’s not Angelos and it’s not MacPhail. The reason we have a shitty team is simple: The 2009 Orioles are the collective (shitty) sum of 15 to 20 years of bad decisions by hundreds of people. I’ll concede that one person has had the most influence over that time, but still…he’s not making all of the decisions.”

I wasn’t jolly when I gave your article the written bitch-slap it deserved.  I’m also not less jolly here.  I’m realistically optimistic ©.  Simply put:  My glass is half full…of shit.  Realistically, we were (and still are) a really bad ball club.  Optimistically, we have seen a lot of signs that point to a brighter future.  I won’t name them all because I did that last time.

Finally, I’ll defer to my friend Tom Scocca, who grew up near Memorial Stadium and does remember, as a tot, winning Oriole baseball. Tom’s a dedicated and stubborn O’s fan (and a multi-talented writer whose book Beijing Welcomes You is set for release next fall by Riverhead)

As any fan of a losing team must be.

but is extraordinarily clear-headed when discussing the team.

Meaning he makes logical, substantiated claims?  If only we all did that.

In an email last weekend, after the Trembley news, Tom told me, “I just don’t see what the positive case is for keeping him. Sure, you don’t want to fire the manager for firing’s sake, and you don’t want to blame a guy for losing when he was given such a thin team to work with, but what has he done right?… [The Orioles] are terrible at making productive out. They lead the league in blown-save percentage. They don’t take extra bases. The defensive efficiency is awful.”

I have one.  A rotating door of managers has not done anything to help our team.  A team needs a little consistency.  Besides, Trembley, admittadly, has not been able to be a manager.  He’s had to be a teacher.  Firing a guy, who’s not been given a fair shake, tells something to other people in your organization:  We are not logical.  We will bend over to what the “uneducated” fan wants.  We will bend over to what the reactionary media wants.

Take your beloved Yankees for instance.  That’s your team right, the Yankees?  Had they followed what their fans and media wanted after the first 3 weeks of the season, when the O’s were beating up on their billion dollar pay roll, Girardi would be a goner.  But instead, they saw themselves through the storm, and have the best record in baseball.  Understand, a storm for a billion dollar team, is pretty short.

He doesn’t go easy on MacPhail either: “He can’t repeat that stunt he pulled this year of just not bothering to stock up with 162 games’ worth of players… Even if [Adam] Jones and [Matt] Wieters are All-Stars and two of the young pitchers turn into front-line starters, that won’t mean anything if they don’t fill in the hollow spaces on the rest of the roster.”

Everyone knows we need more players.  But what kind of stunt is this guy talking about?  Did the Orioles really just send a bunch of players home for the year.  Was MacPhail like, “You know how we can really fuck with the fans?  We can play with 6 players a game.  I figure that’s the quickest way to get rid of Bill Shatner anyway.”

My wife, younger son and I were at Camden Yards on Sunday for the final game of the season, one in which the Birds won 5-4 in 11 innings against the Blue Jays (that team, in total disarray, slept-walk through the afternoon, and when reliever Brandon League muffed two consecutive throws to first, allowing the winning run to score, I thought immediately of the great film Eight Men Out) and it was an eerie day at the park. The awful music that plays between innings was that much louder since the crowd was thin, less than 18,000, and the assembled seemed restless, walking around more than usual, oblivious to the whipping wind and action on the field. It’s my hope, for the team and Baltimore alike, that this weird scene was a harbinger of the Orioles’ future.

Let me finish with two things.

1)  In my heart of hearts, I know Trembley isn’t a sure-shot to lead us to a championship.  He hasn’t shown the ability to properly manage a game.  But we also haven’t had a large enough sample size for a big league manager.  So although my response to your article looks really pro-Trembley, I’m not really in either corner.  I just couldn’t pass up an oppportunity to have another good back and forth with Russ.

2)  I encourage all of you O’s fans, again, have some patience.  No one said doing it right would be easy.  It’s been a rough year.  It hasn’t been awesome to watch, but things will get better.  Shit, they might not, but let’s not abandon the plan before it’s been given a chance to work.

~Kevin Lomax



Filed under General Posts

4 responses to “I’m so excited right now!

  1. Bob Arctor

    edited by KL – See the post from today to read the entire comment.

  2. Jerry

    a good read sir!

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