Garner might be best bet for Orioles
Here’s a thought for the Orioles: Phil Garner.
Andy MacPhail, the club’s president of baseball operations, is not one to rush into managerial changes. As if to underscore the point, he declined to install a potential replacement for Dave Trembley on the team’s coaching staff or in its minor-league system.
The Orioles, however, are off to a 1-8 start. They drew a total of 33,108 fans to Camden Yards for their three-game series against the Rays — and their crowd of 9,129 for the series opener was the smallest in the ballpark’s 19-year history.
The way the team is losing — and drawing — the decision on Trembley’s future might not be MacPhail’s alone. Garner, nicknamed “Scrap Iron,” is the kind of feisty leader that owner Peter Angelos might desire — and MacPhail is familiar with him, too.
MacPhail, as president of the Cubs, interviewed Garner for a managerial opening in October 1999. Garner, though, went to the Tigers, and the Cubs hired Don Baylor. Neither proved successful; Garner later landed with the Astros, leading them to the 2005 World Series before getting fired in August 2007.
MacPhail, when asked about Trembley’s job security Wednesday, told the Baltimore Sun, “That’s just not the way I operate. We are going to do everything we can to try and make personnel decisions to try and help the team, and that is what we are going to focus on, making things better and not looking for scapegoats.”
Perhaps the Orioles will recover; they had not been blown out until their 9-1 loss to the Rays on Wednesday. The problem is, their schedule is getting more difficult, starting with a 10-game trip to Oakland, Seattle and Boston. The Boston series will mark the beginning of 12 straight games against the Yankees and Red Sox, followed by four against the Twins.
The Orioles’ leadoff man, second baseman Brian Roberts, is on the disabled list with a strained abdominal muscle. Their closer, left-hander Michael Gonzalez, went on the DL Wednesday with a strained shoulder. The injuries are out of Trembley’s control, as are some of the team’s other problems. But the manager rapidly is becoming a target of fan discontent.
Trembley, 58, is the latest in a series of unspectacular Orioles managers, following Ray Miller, Mike Hargrove, Lee Mazzilli and Sam Perlozzo. The team’s last playoff appearance — and winning season — was under Davey Johnson in 1997.
The Orioles figure to look for experience if they dismiss Trembley, who — like Perlozzo and Mazzilli before him — is managing in the majors for the first time. None of Trembley’s coaches has major-league managing experience. Nor do any of the team’s minor-league managers.
If the Orioles made a mid-season change, they probably could not hire someone like Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin, who served as an interim manager with the Pirates and Reds and a minor-league manager in the Orioles’ farm system in 1993 and ’94.
Former Indians manager Eric Wedge, fired by the Indians at the end of last season, would be a logical, competent choice. But Angelos might prefer a more magnetic personality — and Wedge might prefer his next job to be with a team in a stronger position.
Bobby Valentine, the most prominent available manager, is probably too strong a personality, at least for MacPhail and Angelos. Garner is not exactly meek, but he’s less brash than Valentine and probably more willing to take the job.
A certain segment of the Orioles’ fan base longs for a fiery Earl Weaver type, and the team appears in need of a kick in the rear. Garner, though, would qualify as a retread, having been fired three times previously. Even more disturbing, he has not managed in the American League since 2002, or anywhere at all since ‘07.
The best thing MacPhail could do would be to hire the next Joe Girardi, a young, disciplined commander with experience and upside. But good luck finding such a manager from outside the organization, particularly at midseason.
The Mets identified a possible successor to Jerry Manuel during the off-season when they hired former Diamondbacks and Mariners manager Bob Melvin as a professional scout.
They also named another former manager, Terry Collins, minor-league field coordinator, and one of their most popular former players, Wally Backman, manager at Class A Brooklyn.
No such line of succession exists with the Orioles.
Trembley is unlikely to last until the All-Star break. The team is headed for its 13th straight losing season. Garner is just a thought, and maybe not even a good one.
But let’s see the Orioles figure out a better solution.