It was brought to my attention recently during a conversation with a former baseball executive that these days, MLB managers are the default scapegoat when things aren’t going well. Firing the manager is now often a PR move instead of an answer, and that seems to have been the case with the Orioles and Dave Trembley this month.
I have to say I agree.
After all, Trembley in 2007 didn’t inherit a shiny new Lexus and run it into the ground in three years — the Orioles were the Ford Pintos of the MLB in 2007 and pretty much nothing on paper has changed since then. Sure, they have “young, exciting” guys but that’s all they are so far — young. And occasionally interesting. But they’re not producing. Neither are the old, boring guys for that matter (ahem, Kevin Millwood).
So how much of this lack of production is Trembley’s fault? He was hired to bring about change and that’s certainly not happening. But it also seems these days in baseball it’s easier to can the guy who fans see with the players rather than to pay attention to the man behind the curtain (that would be Vice President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail).
In many cases, firing the manager is now a symbolic “mea culpa” to fans that doesn’t really do anything for the actual problem. That would be like BP firing its spokesman for misspeaking during a press conference on the oil spill — it’s not ideal but that doesn’t really stop the larger problem of millions of gallons of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico.
In this case it seems firing Trembley is more of a move to appease fans. For the last year, the media and fans have been calling for Trembley’s head. Now they’ve got it. Now what? Do we really expect interim manager Juan Samuel to turn things around or is he getting a free pass on the rest of the season? Two months into the season, the remaining four months of the season don’t matter anymore.
Take Red Sox manager, Terry Francona — in his four seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, his managerial winning percentage was .440 and his team never finished higher than third place in the National League East. In five years with the Sox, Francona has a better ball club — and two World Series titles.
I’m not saying Trembley is some gem that the Orioles are stupidly letting go. The team lost 16 of its first 18 games this season and has dropped 10 of its last 11. Puh-lease.
And I’m definitely not saying every manager that’s fired doesn’t deserve it (Trembley’s predecessor, Sam Perlozzo, most definitely needed to go). But I am saying this decision seems to be less based on business and more based on appearances.