Given our tough economic situation, I am not generally in favor of seeing anyone lose their job. However, given the outrageous salaries in professional sports, I don’t have the same sympathy for anyone in that field. So, I have a clear conscious when I say that it is time for the Baltimore Orioles to finally put their fans out of their misery and fire manager Dave Trembley.
By all account, Trembley is really lucky to have made it through the first two months of the 2010 season.
Prior to the season, team president Andy MacPhail claimed that the rebuilding was over and that Trembley and the 2010 Orioles were ready to contend in the American League East.
As it has turned out, the 2010 Orioles are neither rebuilding nor contending. They are simply stinking.
Facing one of the toughest early season schedules in the league, the Orioles struggled out of the gate with a 5-18 record during the month of April.
Unfortunately, things didn’t get much better against an “easier’ schedule in May as the Orioles won just 10 of 28 games.
At this rate, they will be mathematically eliminated by the end of June and better get moving if they don’t want people to start comparing them to the 1962 Mets.
As a lifelong Orioles fan, I lived through the debacle of 1988 when the Orioles lost a record 21 straight games to start the season.
I never really believed the Orioles would ever steep to a lower level, but they are really very close right now.
What has made the 2010 so disappointing is that like many Orioles fans, I agreed with MacPhail that the Orioles really could be contenders in 2010.
On paper, the Orioles opening day starting lineup was not appreciably worse than that of any contender in the American League. While they didn’t have any superstars, the Orioles fielded an opening day lineup with very few weaknesses. The potential weakness for the Orioles was on the mound, but they had a plethora of talented young arms.
So what has gone wrong over the first two months?
First of all, like many teams the Orioles have their core players that are very hard to replace. One of those is sparkplug second baseman Brian Roberts. One of the best, and most underrated, leadoff hitters in baseball, Roberts entered 2010 having scored more than 100 runs in each of the last three seasons.
Roberts was injured in just the fourth game of the season and the Orioles have struggled to find a leadoff hitter capable of replicating Roberts’ ability to get on base and score runs.
But, injuries are a part of the game and to say the Orioles are 15-39 because they don’t have Brian Roberts is probably giving one player way too much credit.
Quite honestly, even if Roberts had been playing I’m not sure it would have made much difference over the first month of the season because the O’s just were not hitting.
During the month of April the Orioles hit .242 as a team and scored only 75 runs in 23 games. They weren’t much better in May hitting .255 and scoring 100 runs in 28 contests.
Nick Markakis, one of the most undervalued players in baseball, is the only Baltimore regular hitting near .300, but the lack of having men regularly on base ahead of him has resulted in only 17 RBI through the first 53 games.
Utility player Ty Wiggington, who has seen most of the action in place of Roberts at second base, has been the leading power hitter with 13 home runs and 33 RBI.
The new additions to the team for 2010 have pretty much been a bust. First baseman Garrett Atkins, who the Orioles hoped would regain previous form after a disappointing 2009 season in Colorado, is hitting only .209 with one home run and eight RBI.
Miguel Tejada, who was reacquired and installed at third base, has started to show his advancing age with a .259 average and only four home runs.
Pitching was expected to be the greatest struggle for the Orioles, but while they haven’t been great, they have been better than their record indicates.
The starting staff is averaging nearly six innings per game and has a 4.83 ERA. Jeremy Guthrie (3.84) and Kevin Millwood (3.89) have been excellent, yet Guthrie has a 3-5 record and Millwood has yet to earn a victory for the Orioles and has a 0-5 mark.
The bullpen got off to a shaky start, but has stabilized to have an ERA of 4.34. That is a significant improvement over a year ago and again should result in a better record than what Baltimore current has posted.
So, short of fast-tracking Brian Roberts back to health and bringing back Boog Powell to play first base, what can the Orioles do to get things back on track?
First and foremost, they need to change the culture on the field and in the locker room.
This season it seems like many of the Orioles have already packed it in and started going through the motions in a manner that the team usually doesn’t show until their annual swoon in August and September.
That starts at the top and in the portions of four seasons that Trembley has been the skipper, Baltimore has never illustrated the kind of killer instinct and ferocity needed to be a contending baseball team.
By all accounts, Trembley was good as the nurturer of the young talent, but now it seems that he is no longer nurturing, but instead serving as the enabler for a team that is significantly underachieving.
I know once Trembley is finally dismissed they will likely allow third base coach juan Samuel to pilot the team, but I wish they would instead go in a different direction.
Rather than installing a caretaker, I think the front office should send a strong message that they are not pleased with how things have gone this season and that dramatic changes are underway.
This could be started by immediately bringing in a proven winner to shake up things as the manager. Someone like Bobby Valentine, Buck Showalter or Davey Johnson could come in and make everyone in the clubhouse uncomfortable as they looked to rekindle the fire.
The Orioles don’t need to take it slow and easy, I think that has been part of their problem. The Orioles have been rebuilding for five years and have never made the one big move that would signal to the world that they were done building and were instead ready to win.
While they have chosen not to pursue the top free agent pitchers or position players, maybe bringing in a high profile manager would help light that spark.
The Orioles were once one of the most respected franchises in baseball and played to a full house every night. They are now in jeopardy of becoming the biggest laughingstock in the league (short of the Pirates) and already play most home games in front of more empty seats than fans.
The time has come for the front office to stop playing it safe and instead go out of the box and make a statement.
If they don’t, by the time they are ready to contend, nobody will be left to care.