In the three weeks since Dave Trembley was dismissed as manager of the Baltimore Orioles there has been no shortage of familiar names bantered around as potential managerial candidates. However, with the withdrawal of former Mets and Rangers manager Bobby Valentine from the list and the seeming reluctance to pull the trigger on former Diamondbacks, Rangers and Yankees manager Buck Showalter, Baltimore seems to be no closer to having a permanent skipper today than they were during the final weeks of the Trembley era when it became apparent that the likable manager was not long for his job.
Considering that the Orioles are now 24.5 games out of first place in the AL East, there clearly is no need for urgency to bring in a manager who can right the ship and get the team back in the playoff chase.
However, it can be argued that every day the Orioles wait to name a new manager is one more day the once proud franchise is not using to turn things around.
The Orioles need a new skipper who will shake things up and light a fire under a team that has been sleepwalking through the season since April. It is true that 2010 is a lost season, but if the Orioles make the right move, they can start setting the stage for 2011 with a strong second half of the season.
If, rather than their traditional September swoon, the Orioles can spend the final three months of the season rebuilding their confidence, then the team could enter 2011 with realistic expectations that they can be a contender.
There is no question that more is needed to truly get the Orioles back to respectability than just a fiery manager, but it has been more than a decade since the O’s were led by a manager who was truly willing to mix things up.
While it is doubtful that Davey Johnson, who led the Birds into the playoffs in each of his two seasons as manager, would get the nod to return to Baltimore, what the O’s need is someone like Johnson who is not afraid to make the tough decisions needed to turn around a woeful squad.
Since Johnson’s departure, the Orioles have endured a stream of managers content to ride the wave and watch the team bathe in mediocrity.
Though there is little reason to believe that Juan Samuel can or should be the permanent manager, at least he has shown a willingness to let his players display some aggressiveness and prove that they are still capable of playing hard.
Bringing in someone now would give that skipper time to assess his team and determine which pieces will be part of the puzzle come 2011. Instead of continuing to go through the motions as they have been since Samuel took over (4-12 in his first 16 games), you can bet players would play with more purpose if they know they are auditioning for a spot on the roster come next season.
Yet it appears that team president Andy MacPhail is content to take his time and be deliberate in his decision. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, but at some point you have to stop thinking and start acting.
In some respects, MacPhail’s lack of a sense of urgency in this decision mirrors his attitude related to the entire rebuilding process for the Orioles.
Instead of aggressively spending money to bring in marquee veterans to help propel the team to immediate contention, he has instead been deliberate in his intention to use the minor league system to restock the squad and then once he feels the team is ready, use free agency to push the team over the top.
Unfortunately, that strategy has taken a major step back in 2010 as the Orioles have done little to justify the sense of optimism that existed at the start of the season. Instead, they have reached 50 losses before getting to 20 victories and are earning comparisons to the 1962 Mets.
At some point MacPhail must pull the trigger and bring in a new manager and hopefully a new attitude.
If he waits too long, he may not have only let 2010 slip away, but also 2011.