The next Tom Kelly?
Trembley sparks O's, but ballclub still needs overhaul
Posted: Tuesday July 17, 2007 12:08PM; Updated: Wednesday July 18, 2007 12:09PM
Dave Trembley might be 23 games into becoming the next Tom Kelly. Kelly was the interim manager of the 1986 Twins, whose general manager, Andy MacPhail, had no initial interest in keeping him as his full-time manager. But after a 23-game cameo, Kelly earned MacPhail's trust and was named Minnesota manager. Kelly promptly won a world championship in his first full season on the job, to which he added another four years later.
MacPhail, the new president of the Orioles, brought up Kelly's name to his players when he addressed them shortly after Trembley, then the Baltimore bullpen coach, replaced Sam Perlozzo.
"I told the players that Tom Kelly was not among the top one or two candidates I had in mind for the job," MacPhail said. "But I watched how the team played under him. The energy, the efficiency and the preparation convinced me he was the right guy for the job.
"Managing is more of finding a custom fit than anything. I use Joe Torre as the example. He was the perfect fit for the Yankees and New York. There are 30 different jobs and 30 different circumstances. The trick is finding the right guy for the right circumstance."
MacPhail will use more than these 23 games to decide on Trembley's future. He will wait at least until after the July 31 trading deadline to decide what he wants to do about the managerial position. But Trembley is making a Kelly-like impression. Under Trembley, the Orioles are 12-11 and playing with more energy and preparedness; they were 29-40 under Perlozzo. The Orioles, led by an often frustrated Miguel Tejada, had earned a reputation for a casual approach to their jobs. Now Trembley has them putting in extra pregame on-field work. Moreover, as a man with a master's degree in education, graduate work in sports psychology and 2,702 games of minor-league managerial experience, Trembley -- who managed the Orioles' Triple A club last season -- is pushing the right motivational buttons.
"We were down 8-1 to Chicago and wound up with the tying run at bat in the ninth," said MacPhail, referring to a 9-7 loss in the first game after the break. "Those are the kind of signs you like. The team has responded to Dave. It is playing with enthusiasm and energy."
Trembley, like Kelly, wasn't MacPhail's first choice. MacPhail tried to talk former Marlins manager Joe Girardi into the job, but Girardi wasn't ready to jump back into managing. No matter who gets the job, the Orioles will not become the 1987 Twins and morph into world champions next season. They haven't had a winning season since 1997, having tried five managers since then.
The Orioles do have a foundation of young pitching on which to build. Erik Bedard, 28, is a rising star. Daniel Cabrera, 26, is an enigma who too often can't find the plate but who has the stuff to be dominant. Adam Loewen, 23, Jeremy Guthrie, 28, and Garrett Olson, 23, can be useful starters. But the Orioles need much more. The next two weeks before the trading deadline ought to be busy for MacPhail, who knows the team's need are many and obvious. "The janitors in the ballpark could tell you what they are," MacPhail said.
Here's a punch list for MacPhail as he gets down to the long, difficult job of making the Orioles relevant again:
Fix the bullpen. The Orioles sunk $42 million into their bullpen last winter and what did they get? The losingest 'pen in the league (12-21) with the 12th-worst ERA (4.94). Will someone take Danys Baez off their hands?