And that is exactly what this situation is. It's a mess.
It's been a long week to be an Orioles fan. I was pretty certain this was coming, so I stayed kind of quiet in order to let it build and blow up, and then watch the pieces scatter about the mountainside.
"We just lost three straight to the Nationals. What would you like me to say?" -- Sam Perlozzo
"I think that things actually are progressing, and we have to be patient." -- the more annoying by the day Mike Flanagan
"At some point, you'd like to stop saying we're moving in the right direction. That's what's frustrating for all of us. You can only move in the right direction for so long and still lose. At some point, the time comes where you have to win. I think we're all at that point. I know I am. Losing is a mental grind. It's a physical grind. It's hard. People say losing is easy. Come here and try it--it's not easy." -- Brian Roberts
"When you're in last place, that's not a good direction." -- Melvin Mora
Sam Perlozzo is out, having managed one full year for the Orioles and chunks of two others -- the end of 2005, the start of 2007. In none of these periods was he a success. In his first couple of games as the skipper post-Mazzilli, Perlozzo felt like a breath of fresh air. But that team was limping home having been thoroughly defeated after their amazing hot start. Mazzilli had them at 51-56, which included a disastrous collapse. Perlozzo managed them to a 23-32 record. No big difference either way.
Perlozzo's lone full season showed some serious chinks in the armor. I don't think you'll find a single O's fan that dislikes Sam Perlozzo personally. I got tired of his company lines and the B.S. feeling he gave everything, but that's just sort of the way things go. There aren't many managers with the brass (or the rope) to go into the interview after a loss and actually tell it like it is. Plus, to be totally fair to the players, many times it was Perlozzo's interesting tactical decisions that made those losses possible in the first place. The fact that he never seemed to learn from a single one of them didn't bode well.
2007 was a trainwreck from the get-go. Pitchers were hurt before spring training even started, the OF/1B/DH picture was crowded, Ramon Hernandez started the season on the DL. Then more guys got hurt, and the $40 million bullpen was made into a sick joke almost single-handedly by the incompetent Danys Baez. Yet we saw Sam run Baez out there to blow game after game after game. It seems like there wasn't a single Baez appearance that didn't yield a run or two, the lead, or even a win if he was really feeling it.
I thought Lee Mazzilli sucked at handling the bullpen, but Sam Perlozzo took the cake home, ate it, and vomited the frosting back up around 10 pm nightly. His choices as to what players he remained loyal were also troubling, but not entirely his fault.
John Kruk has been widely quoted as saying what often gets said when a manager is shown the door and told to get out: Sam Perlozzo didn't put this team together. Golly, what can a manager do with bad players? No, Perlozzo didn't assemble this team, but like Mazzilli before him, he was responsible for putting the parts in the right places. He didn't. He failed miserably at this job.
And yes, you can't just make a muffler out of cardboard (he didn't have a power hitter, he can't just make somebody be one), but he never showed a willingness to try anything so risky as putting Chad Bradford in Baez's place. I would never bash Sam Perlozzo personally, because through it all he seemed like a good guy trying his best. Unfortunately, his best sucked, and that's just the truth.
I think we all wish it had worked out for Sam. He's from Cumberland, he went to George Washington, and this was his dream job. He waited in the wings for it. He was passed over previously to give the job to Mazzilli. We all wanted him to prove that he was the guy that should have been hired instead. He proved otherwise, in a big way.
One final thought on Perlozzo before I move on: He is an Oriole. He won't go down as the most beloved or successful, and God knows that I wanted him to be fired, too. But he spent 12 seasons with this team. I truthfully wish him nothing but luck in the future. I hope something works out for him.
For the time being, bullpen coach Dave Trembley takes over as the manager, which shouldn't last more than a few days. He has 20 years of minor league managerial experience to his credit, and he's been in baseball a long time. He's a guy that probably thought that his chances to manage in the majors were behind him, but now he at least gets an interim job. Most of us thought Tom Trebelhorn would take Perlozzo's role on an interim basis, but I would have to guess that personal issues kept him from ascending to the big seat.
I said this already, but I'll say it again. I would rather this team give Dave Trembley a shot at managing for the rest of the year than watch them throw money at Joe Girardi, who has become some sort of representative for unfairly treated winners after his rightful and earned firing from the Florida Marlins. He won Manager of the Year, but he did it selfishly. If his goal was to win the award, congrats. I'm not saying it was, but he ran young players into the ground and hurt a handful of arms to win 78 games. Sure, that's 20 more than most of us thought they would win, but big deal. 78 and 58 mean the same when the season ends. Everyone's playing the same golf, man. My feelings on Girardi are not at all positive. I think he's a self-promoter, I think he's arrogant, and I don't think he's going to be the next great manager. He won an award voted on by the BBWAA. Big deal.
Girardi has a lot of fans. And it was an accomplishment to win that many games with such an inexperienced team, I'm not arguing against that. But at what cost? He pushed guys too far, with a team that clearly was out of contention, and at the end of the day, Girardi probably did more harm than good. He lasted a year for a reason. He's an overbearing guy who seems to demand that everything be his way, with no regard to the fact that he has zero track record. This isn't Davey Johnson, who won everywhere he went, getting fired for a spat with ownership. It's Joe Girardi. Time may well see Girardi become a great manager, I don't know. But he's got one season of managing to his name. A losing season.
And it doesn't just end there, either. The Orioles front office has long been a windy stretch of desert. There was life, and some tumbleweed blew around, but damned if you could say you felt like you were in civilization when you looked around. Mike Flanagan's another nice guy. And what a prize that's turned out to be. Jim Duquette does some stuff, too. Before that, it was Flanagan and Jim Beattie. Before that, years and years of rampant numbskullery under the watchful eye of Syd Thrift.
Now, to add to the bonanza at the Warehouse, former Cubs president Andy MacPhail has been brought in. Because when I think of turning around a losing culture, I think of bringing in guys from the Chicago Cubs. In his 12 years with the Cubs, they reached the playoffs two times and squandered the career of Sammy Sosa -- that's a truth, no matter what you think of Sosa. In his final season, he and GM Jim Hendry put together a $95 million team that went 66-96.
Like the Orioles, the Cubs have a tendency to show great loyalty to the wrong guys, so MacPhail will likely fit in. Kerry Wood and Mark Prior were given about 107 chances apiece, and that's not even the eye-raising part, because those two guys had talent. It was that with their known fragility, the Cubs never seemed to accept that those guys ran a really high risk of going to the DL for a long time.
Like the Orioles, MacPhail's Cubs didn't seem to ever expect anything to go wrong, and were caught with their pants down every time something did, shouting, "Holy shit, how could a player get hurt?!"
MacPhail won't be making baseball decisions, except for, apparently, the manager's position, where he is trying hard to lure Girardi into the fold. But if he fails, where do they turn next?
Any bridge with Davey Johnson is going to be difficult to unburn. Dusty Baker was a failure in the last job MacPhail had, but he's a name people know. Eddie Murray is available again, but as much as we all love Eddie Murray, he's yet to have a post-playing baseball job where the end result wasn't him being fired because people found him cantankerous. He had a mutiny on his hands in Cleveland, for God's sake, and he was only the hitting coach.
But, look, although it goes without saying, it should be said. The players have lost these games. No matter what bad decision Perlozzo made with them, they were there to produce, and they failed time and time again. Perlozzo deserved the firing, but not all of the blame. MacPhail likely solves nothing, and he's not really supposed to anyway. Flanagan and Duquette can only sign players that are (1) approved, and (2) willing to play for an organization that emits a rotting stench.
So who do we really blame?
Like it could be anybody else.