Last week, Dave Trembley sat in his pregame media session talking about his one-year anniversary as manager of the Orioles.
“Oh, I remember it very clearly,” Trembley said. “I remember where I was and when the phone rang. I remember all those things.”
It was June 18, 2007 when Trembley got a phone call from Mike Flanagan and Jim Duquette, who were then running the baseball operations for the Orioles. He was about to take a walk around the Inner Harbor with his wife, but those plans soon changed.
“They said, ‘What time you coming to the ballpark today?’ I said around 11:30 or 12 o’clock,” he said. “[They asked if] I could come in a little earlier. I said, ‘I can come in any time you want.’”
When he got to the warehouse, he learned the Orioles had fired Sam Perlozzo, the man who had added Trembley to the major league staff after a career as a minor league manager.
Even though Dave Trembley's job title changed a year ago, the Orioles' skipper has stuck to the philosophies he used in the minor leagues.
“Then it started,” he said. “And ever since then, it has been a blur.”
Trembley soon found out that managing in the big leagues is different than at the minor league level.
“The reality of the situation hits me more and more every day,” Trembley said. “The expectations I don’t think ever end, because I think you can do better and strive to do more, and I think you are always tinkering with things to try to make them better.”
Tinker, he has. Trembley finished last year with a bullpen that was injured, losing its closer and setup man. He also had to watch his team try to compete with some players on the roster who weren’t ready to play at this level.
Trembley understands the enormity of his job, and has tried to handle it with the same principles he has carried with him throughout his minor league career.
“To be honest with you, I don’t feel any different managing 15 years ago, 20 years ago or three weeks ago,” he said. “It’s still managing the game and dealing with people. The sense of responsibility is far greater, and the obligation is much bigger, but it’s a game, and I think you try to do the best you can all the time.
“I think what we tried to accomplish when I took over was very clear. We tried to change the culture around here. We tried to establish an identity, change the attitude and reestablish a sense of pride and tradition of being part of the Baltimore Orioles.”
To do that, Trembley knew he had to get his players to buy into his philosophy.
“I took a chance," he said. “I took a chance that they wouldn’t blow me off. I took the chance that they wouldn’t think the expectation or what I was asking them to do was too much. But the way I figured, they've got nothing to lose, because the way they were doing it around here for 10 years didn’t work. It was going nowhere. So, they say timing in life is everything, and I think the timing was right to come in here and finally say enough is enough. The inmates are no longer running the asylum.”
What Trembley has instilled in this Orioles team is a focus on fundamentals, playing the game the right way and respecting it. Every one of his players is treated the same way, regardless of experience. He likened what he is doing now to the way the Minnesota Twins have operated in the recent past.
“I remember Tom Kelly talking to me in spring training, and he said, ‘Make sure you play the game the right way, not only for your team, but for your fans,’" Trembley said. "That’s all we’re trying to do. … I don’t think I am doing anything different than I was doing in Bowie. I've got better players here, but as far as managing and how you treat people and all that, I think it’s the same. It’s respect. You get it if you give it. Don’t be afraid to tell somebody when they did something wrong. Don’t be reluctant to help them if you see them not doing things the way you want.”
The message got through to the players. The Orioles were 38-36 as they started a three-game series against the Cubs this week in Chicago. The job Trembley has done and the way the Orioles have played so far has impressed president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail.
“He really has done a tremendous job,” MacPhail said. “He really inputted a lot of things we wanted to accomplish as an organization which he believes in, and I am sure he has to be happy with the impact he has made on the organization one year into it.”
MacPhail appreciates Trembley's leadership ability in all aspects of running the game.
“I think one of the essences of leadership is the people that are being led have to feel like there is something in it for them to be led by a particular person,” he said. “I think in Dave’s case he is very respectful of what they are going through. He is very cognizant of putting them in a position where they have a chance at succeeding and not putting them in impossible situations and using them too often where they jeopardize their careers.
"He is very respectful in that way, and in return he thinks the fans in the stands and the game itself deserve the same sort of respect, and I think the players are happy with that bargain. It’s a bargain they are happy to make.”
Trembley is under contract through the end of the season, and trying to get together with MacPhail to seek an extension is not something on the skipper's list of things to do right now.
“None of my business,” Trembley said. “Whatever is decided is fine. I will just work hard and do my thing and be appreciative and grateful. I believe if you do things right, all of that stuff will take care of itself. I would feel very uneasy, the kind of person I am, going to Andy MacPhail and saying, ‘Hey, what are you going to do for me?’ What the Orioles have done for me, I could never repay them, and so the way I will repay them is trying to make it better.”
Issue 3.26: June 26, 2008