Baltimore Orioles Announce Return of Dave Trembley For 2010

baltimore_orioles_logoAt first reaction, the announcement on Friday that the Baltimore Orioles have retained the services of manager Dave Trembley for the 2010 season seems like a head-scratcher.

After all, typically in professional sports the fate of a manger is judged by wins and losses and in that area Trembley has failed miserably. Since Trembley became manager of the O’s midway through the 2007 season he has posted a 169-244 record and the team’s winning percentage has declined each season.

But, managing the Baltimore Orioles the last couple years as the team looks to build for the long haul has not been your typical job.

“When we embarked on this process, we made a commitment to our system to get as much young talent in there as we could,” said team president Andy MacPhail. “We knew when we made the trades that we made it would be a short term plan for us.

“While the win-loss record is obviously important, Dave’s primary job was to get as many talented young kids up here and have them grow and develop as major leaguers. In our judgment he did that. He absolutely did those things that were important.”

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Given that the Orioles took another September swoon in 2009, seemingly squashing some of the positive energy that had been built over the first five months of the season as a series of young players made their debut and illustrated the potential to produce at the major league level, there has been much speculation that Trembley’s days in the dugout were numbered.

However, to hear MacPhail explain it, whether Trembley would be retained had almost nothing to do with how the overall team performed on the field.

Instead, MacPhail was looking to ensure that the young players were properly nurtured and growing as players.

In that manner, Trembley does seem to deserve a passing grade.

You need look no further than Matt Wieters and Nolan Reimold to see the growth among the youngsters.

Despite being given the dual assignment of having to learn how to hit at the major league level at the same time he had to learn how to call a game and catch at that level, Wieters has thrived.

After hitting near .250 in his first month, Wieters has shown steady improvement over the final three months of the season. He hit .362 in September with three home runs and 14 RBI.

For the season, he is now hitting over .290 with nine home runs and 43 RBI. He has also developed behind the plate to become a solid defensive catcher.

Nolan Reimold’s improvement has not been quite so dramatic statistically as he started strong and has withstood some slow periods to have an excellent first major league season.

Reimold is hitting .279 with 15 home runs and 45 RBI in 104 games. He combines with Adam Jones and Nick Markakis to give the Orioles an outfield that could rival the best units in the majors a year from now.

Given that the Orioles are nearing 100 losses and haven’t had a winning record since 1997, it would have been very easy for MacPhail to take some of the heat off himself by jettisoning Trembley and bringing in a new manager to try and lead the team in 2010.

But, to his credit, MacPhail is committed to building the franchise the right way and isn’t putting blame on Trembley for the poor record. In fact, he seems to see the record as more of an annoyance than something that should be used to judge the improvement of the team.

“Dave’s primary task these first two seasons was to create an environment to nurture and develop as many young talented players as he could,” MacPhail said.

However, MacPhail did signal that the days of focusing on nurturing instead of managing were coming to a close.

“Next year the focus shifts a little bit. He [Trembley] will be judged more on the traditional basis of wins and losses. It’s time for us to make some significant movement upwards in the standings.

When I first heard the news, my initial reaction was to roll my eyes and think “same old Orioles.” However, after hearing McPhail’s explanation, I actually felt a renewed sense of pride in the team for which I have been unconditionally supportive for nearly four decades.

Most teams would have made Trembley the martyr and made a showy managerial change just to give the impression that they were doing something.

McPhail, instead, is showing loyalty to an employee who did the job he was asked to do and is giving Trembley the chance to reap what he has sown.

Let’s hope he comes back next season with a huge basket full of wins.

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