Okay, so last night’s win aside, there aren’t a lot of reasons to follow the Orioles right now. The prospects aren’t panning out, the veterans are either on the DL or ineffective, and the bullpen hasn’t arrived yet from Sarasota. I think they may have lost their luggage at BWI… if only they’d brought their change-up as their carry-on. Either way, the Orioles are the proud owners of the worst record in baseball, and the .500 season is as much of a pipe dream as a World Series ring was before the season. The only reason a lot of fans are following the team at this point is to see whether manager Dave Trembley, who fans have either loved or hated from the moment he was made full-time manager, will be fired before the beginning of May. I won’t try to throw my two cents as to whether he should or should not be fired, or whether the Silence of the Bats or the Raging Bullpen (see what I did there?) are his fault. All things considered, with the guillotine squarely over his head, I wanted to go over the possible alternatives on the market for Mr. David Michael Trembley.
To me, one shouldn’t simply bring in a new face to shake things up- the new manager would have to be an upgrade over Trembley. Remember, Trembley has helped develop these players and has a rapport with them that will be difficult for any new manager to step in and recreate. I don’t believe in change for the sake of change, even when the team is 3-16. And don’t tell me it can’t get any worse. If you have been an Orioles fan for the last 12 years, you know that it can always get worse.
The new manager would have to have a winning resume. One of Trembley’s biggest weaknesses is that he has never been a winning manager, and he has never been at the major league level before his time with the Orioles. He lacks the authority, either as a manager or as a player, to show that he knows how to win. This team needs to learn how to win, and the players need to be shocked and awed into playing for their manager. Secondly, the manager has to know how to hold his players accountable. He cannot be afraid to bench a player for ineffectiveness and get the maximum effort out of his team. This will come a bit automatically with a new face as the roster hopes to prove itself to the new manager, but a heavy hand wouldn’t hurt. Finally, he needs to have experience with a young team. This is not a Phil Jackson squad, in that it is not established with the need only to bring the city a championship. This is still a rebuilding project, and not a tremendously attractive one in the AL East.
So who are the candidates? I will list a few big names on the open market who may be looking for managerial jobs: Bobby Valentine, Buck Showalter, Willie Randolph, Davey Johnson, and Phil Garner. I omitted some names, so please feel free to give some alternatives in the comments. You will ask “What about so-and-so?” but I tried to include just the most qualified and likely candidates- I surely missed a few.
On paper, Bobby Valentine has all the experience necessary. He is a household name whose experience in reaching the World Series with the Mets and in winning championships in Japan would surely enable him to command a clubhouse with few strong personalities. He routinely laid down the law with his Japanese players, benching them if they bunted against his wishes and insisting on instilling his style of play, with an emphasis on the long ball. He has a strong win-loss record in the majors, but there is one reason why Bobby Valentine couldn’t be the Orioles manager. Valentine has been fired twice in two countries for personal conflicts with the front office and ownership over a variety of issues. I just don’t see Andy MacPhail or Peter Angelos taking on a manager with any history of adversarial relationships with ownership. I also wonder about his patience with a young team.
Buck Showalter has the dubious distinction of having teams win a World Series right after he leaves, though he has had great success in helping build future winners. He managed the Arizona Diamondbacks as an expansion team, leading them to 100 wins in their second season of existence. Showalter also helped turn around the Texas Rangers following the Alex Rodriguez trade. However, a common theme is that his teams never reached their potential during his tenure. He could be the man to deliver Baltimore a winning season, and he does have great experience in melding a young team into winners, but I don’t know if he is the long-term solution to the Orioles problems. Of either of the TV analysts on this list, he is probably the most likely.
Willie Randolph’s teams are known for collapsing at the end of the season. So right off the bat, he and the Orioles have something in common. He is known as a very mild personality, which would suit MacPhail and especially Angelos just fine, but probably wouldn’t exactly inspire his players, who during his last years with the Mets were accused regularly of not giving their best effort. However, in his three years of managing, his team never had a losing record, and his firing likely had as much to do with General Manager and noted malcontent Omar Minaya as it did with his own performance. There are several additional hurdles any team attempting to sign him would have to overcome- for one, he is currently the bench coach for the Milwaukee Brewers and it would be difficult for him to bail on the team midseason. Secondly, he lacks any experience in the American League, and has likely engrossed himself in the National League since he has been a manager.
Davey Johnson was the last manager to bring the Orioles to the postseason, leading Peter Schmuck to wonder whether this team’s consecutive losing seasons streak was caused by “The Curse of Davey Johnson”. This distinction would immediately make him a favorite in Baltimore, and give him some of that aura the new manager would have to have to be successful in the clubhouse. He has the best record of any of the candidates I have listed, and has brought a variety of teams in a variety of situations to success, including a World Series ring with the Mets. You are waiting for the “but”, aren’t you? But he would have to be hired by Peter Angelos, and that would hurt the owner’s pride too much to ever be a possibility. Angelos already tried once to drag Johnson through the mud, resulting in Johnson’s bitter resignation. There is no way on this earth that Angelos would ask Johnson to come back 13 years later- that would be tantamount to admitting he was wrong, and that does not happen in this organization. Despite being out of managing for a decade, he would still probably be the best of this bunch.
I have heard Phil Garner’s named bandied about, so I felt that I had to include it here. He has an interesting history with Andy MacPhail, having interviewed for the Cubs job that eventually went to Dusty Baker. He was eventually hired by the Tigers, who brought him in to serve as a teacher to the players about accountability and hustle. His nickname “Old Ironsides” from his playing days was a testament to his hard work and unrelenting effort on the field, and Tigers fans hoped that it would help teach their young team how to play the game right. Garner was and is not a screamer, he is more of the laid-back personality that Trembley is. He failed to bring winning seasons to Detroit in two years and was canned after an 0-6 start to 2002. In 16 seasons as a manager he failed to win 90 games all but once, his first season, never won his division, and brought his teams to the playoffs only twice, with the Astros. The experience is there, an of the likely candidates, he doesn’t have any single fatal weakness aside from his win-loss record. That is a big weakness however.
So who would you pick? Remember, if there were perfect managerial candidates out there they wouldn’t be available on April 26th.