16 April 2010

If Trembley Goes . . . Who can replace him in-season?

It has been a rough start to the Orioles' season. As someone who is attuned to numbers, projections, and scouting reports . . . I am wincing a lot, but am generally unmoved in my assessment of the team long-term. The team is a 70s win team and what has happened has largely not been a product of anything Dave Trembley has or has not done. Still, some fans have been calling for the dugout to be cleared and new coaches to take their places.

Ken Rosenthal wrote a column the other day expressing his thoughts. Many think Trembley will be replaced in-season, but there really are not many candidates available and there is a great risk that any selection may do well and then prevent a wider search in the off season. Any new hire, then, will probably be someone who has experience and is someone whom the Orioles would be fine giving a multi-year contract.

An internal hire is also possible. One way would be to promote a current coach in the dugout to manager. Guys like Shelby and Samuel have some experience managing in the minors, but have been largely looked over at the Majors level. The new hire last offseason, Datz, has never been considered for a managerial position and is thought to be a bit bare bones in how he handles players. Alan Dunn might be the only other option and he seems like an afterthought here. The Orioles are just not very well set up with ex-coaches as positional coaches or "consultants" as other teams are.

The other way of doing an "internal" hire would be to hire an Orioles personality. Names on this short list would be guys like Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, and Rick Dempsey.

After the jump, I'll go a bit more over the likely possibility of available talent for an in-season hire.

Eric Wedge
561-573 (.495) regular season; 6-5 postseason

Wedge got his start quickly making his way through the minors as a manager. In 2002, he was awarded Baseball America's and the Sporting News' Minor League Manager of the Year. That offseason he was hired to replace Charlie Manuel as manager of the Cleveland Indians. The team rebounded on strong play of guys like Sizemore, Sabathia, Lee, Hafner, and Carmona. In 2007, the Indians got edged out in 7 games to the Red Sox in the ALCS. Two lackluster seasons later and Wedge got the ax.

Wedge gas said he fully intends to stay out of the game in 2010 and reenter in 2011. I imagine though that a chance to audition for the Orioles position might be enticing to him. His strengths have largely been attributed to keeping the clubhouse loose and focused each day as well as being somewhat of an instructor. He is criticized for his in game play. Wedge does not like to play "small ball," yet seemed to religiously adhere to pitchers having certain roles. I'm not sure how much these two impressions hold water, but I have heard them enough to consider them to be the perception of his managerial style.

My bet is that Wedge stays retired until the off season when he reenters MLB as a bench coach for someone like the Rangers.

Jerry Narron
291-341 (.460) regular season

Narron has had two tours of duty. A two season span with the Rangers that sunk him when all of Hicks' toys could not be turned into a winner. He then put in two admirable years with the horribly mismanaged Reds before being fired mid-season. It seems that his hiring as Reds manager was perhaps an accident as he performed well enough that the interim tag had to be removed (which might sound familiar to O's fans). I remember him as a rather uninspiring manager who seemed somewhat detached from the players. Far more suited to the bench coach role than the managerial one. To be honest I don't really have a good read on it. As well as I look, it seems he has been out of the game for about two years. He would certainly be chomping at the bit to get back in the bigs. He used to coach Orioles minor leagues in the early 90s, but I imagine all of those guys are gone and we do not have a Reds presence in the front office anymore.

My bet is that if Narron finds his way back into baseball it will be as a bench or bullpen coach. I severely doubt he will be with the Orioles. I would think they would choose someone who at least has some sort of upside or post-season experience.

Phil Garner
903-974 (.481) regular season; 13-13 postseason

Garner is Rosenthal's choice as Dave Trembley's successor. He certainly does fit the mold in that he has had success with two Astros teams and he is a well known coach having been managing with 15 years of experience. He is currently unattached to any team. Also helping his cause is that he is an old school manager who highly values small ball and traditional strategy. I would personally find that to be a fault, but if MacPhail is still anything like he was with Chicago . . . Garner would seem to fit in with what he was. The only knock from MacPhail's perspective is that Garner might be seen by him as an NL-style coach.

What is perhaps slightly puzzling to me is that Garner has never really had much success. He coasted in the worst divisions in baseball and still only managed four winning records during his 15 year tenure. His success was mainly a product of Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Roger Clemes, and Andy Pettite. Nothing else. True, he has always had to work with horrible GMs. It is hard to tell if he was a bad manager or if he just had lackluster teams. A question does beg to be answered though: why do awful GMs hire and retain Phil Garner? I think his style is somewhat too brash with his players and that he subscribes to outdated philosophies on baseball. He is not known to work well with young players and is way too invested in veterans, which has been a similar M.O. of Garner's GMs.

My bet is that if the Orioles are willing to sign a multi-year deal, Garner is on the short list. Wedge might be slightly more preferable as he could be pushed around by the organization a little easier.

Buck Showalter
882-853 (.514)

Showalter is another coached who is immediately recognized by fans and is considered a bit more of a hothead than Phil Garner. Rightly or wrongly, he is thought to be strong on fundamentals and brings the most out of his players. Some attribute the World Series wins in the year following his ousting in New York and Arizona as evidence that he is a great manager. For the Yankees teams of the early 90s, you really have to give some of that credit to their development system and player acquisition. With the Diamondbacks, it was really the act of bankrupting the team to sign marquis free agents that got them going. In Texas, Showalter could not improve the Rangers mess and did not much better than Narron.

As an analyst for ESPN, Showalter most likely has a clause to allow him to join a ballclub as manager. He would also most likely require a multiyear contract. As opposed to Garner, who I think is itching to get back into the game, I think Showalter would only consider going to the right situation. He has no qualms about going to a bad team as evidenced by the Dback and Ranger opportunities, but I do question whether he wants to face the uphill battle the Rays, BoSox, and Yanks present. I think he might be hard pressed to find another job.

Art Howe
1129-1137 (.498) regular season; 6-9 playoffs

Howe was last seen in the majors as Ron Washington's bench coach in 2007 and 2008 after spending a year with the Phillies as a third base coach. He is getting up there in age (63 years old) and is thought of much more as a caretaker with a traditional perspective. He sounds exactly like an Andy MacPhail kind of guy. He is low key and rather unimpressive in how he carries himself. He had a mediocre stint with the Astros, and excellent run that ended poorly between him and GM Billy Beane with the A's, and a disastrous run with the Mets. His success with the A's was largely a product of the Big Three. He also did very little in terms of in game strategy as that was dictated to him by the front office. Howe looked very much to the Mets position where he would have more of a free hand. It did not go well and it has been a bit of a black mark for him.

Howe could be had with a single season contract. He seems eager to get back into baseball and could look over the team as an interim. He may be OK with being reassessed at the end of the season. He seems like a convenient pick and he does have experience which will probably be a selling point.

The Unlikely Bunch:

Cal Ripken Jr.
This would be for the old school fans and for the casual fans with elephant memories. Ripken has no experience coaching at this level, but should not be too much of an issue. More so, I think he might be used to getting his way. It could potentially be a Michael Jordan - Wizards sort of situation.

Eddie Murray
This would also be for the fans. Murray has had plenty experience coaching, but has been looked over time and time again as manager material. There are some concerns about how well he could encourage chemistry and work public relations.

Rick Dempsey
Dempsey's post playing day dream appears to be managing the Orioles. He has lobbied hard for interviews every offseason when the manager is let go. He has never been successful and either does not wish to go elsewhere or is largely considered not a managerial prospect. He has plenty of experience with managing in the minors and coaching in the majors. Dempsey is a media guy, so he has that down.

Jim Palmer
Palmer often gets mentioned in the backwater of discussions for an Orioles manager. It seems unlikely that he would care much for it. The only prospect that would be enticing to him is that I severely doubt he would want to coach the team after the season concluded which would give MacPhail the Cheney/Biden option of not having to carry someone over to manager slot the following season. As we all know though, Palmer hates to travel.

Mike Flanagan
As long as there was not much of a falling out and as long as Flanny's guys were not responsible for all of the leaks at the beginning of MacPhail's tenure, this move might actually have more traction than you might think at first. He is an Angelos darling and he does seem to have good personal skills. MacPhail might bristle at another GM-type in the chain of command.

Gary Allenson
This would be a Trembley style move. To promote someone who has been a good teacher and solid manager in the minors. I doubt the O's would look to double up on this. I think he best profiles in the minors whereas a guy like Brad Komminsk could be someone to keep an eye on and promote to the MLB level as a coach in order to groom him as a manager.

Alan Dunn, Juan Samuel, Jeff Datz
All would be fine. Dunn probably has the best shot as both Samuel and Datz are not really known for good personal skills.

No comments: