That decision came in spite of Baltimore's record (61-98), which is the worst in the American League and could possibly finish as the worst in the past 20 years for the Orioles. MacPhail acknowledged that the team's record is not wholely on Trembley and that many of his principal objectives have been met.
"When I came here a couple seasons ago," said MacPhail, "I knew that these first couple seasons were going to be tough, which I shared with ownership. And in my view, this franchise needed to shift its emphasis from the present to the future. When that happens, it comes at a cost, which is inevitable. That's pretty much what happened.
"Dave was brought on and primarily given the charge of developing what we hoped to be a cache of young talent coming up through the system. That was his principal objective. It would be unreasonable then, and it would be unreasonable now, to suggest that over the course of those two seasons, we could expect a record better than what we had when we traded away our veteran players, reduced the payroll and brought in a cache of young players."
Trembley, who holds a 170-244 record as a big league manager, has said repeatedly that the past few weeks have been tough on him. The Orioles ended a 13-game losing streak Thursday, and when Trembley was summoned to MacPhail's office on Friday, he said that he felt like he was "walking the Green Mile."
|"He deserves the opportunity -- he's earned the opportunity to go forward. Now, in fairness to him and to everybody and to our fans, the criteria shifts. ... We're going to help you as much as we can, but we've gone through the very toughest part. Now I think it's important that we show our fans some meaningful improvement in the standings."|
|-- O's president Andy McPhail|
But instead of a termination, Trembley was given new life. MacPhail told him that he recognized the progress made under his watch, and Trembley could suddenly begin contemplating another year in the dugout.
"It has been a very, very emotional day for me and for the Baltimore Orioles," Trembley said. "I'm very appreciative of and thankful for the opportunity I've gotten and for the opportunity I'm going to get to go forward. I understand very clearly what it's all about. We're kind of graduating our players now. We had a lot of first-year players, and I've used the term, we've had a lot of 'true freshman.' They got better. ... Now it's our job to make sure that we go to the next step, and the next step for us is to put the best team on the field and to do whatever we can each and every game to win."
MacPhail pointed to the achievement of several young players under Trembley's watch -- chiefly starters Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz, and position players Matt Wieters, Nolan Reimold and Felix Pie -- and decided that he couldn't take any other course of action. And more to the point, MacPhail acknowledged that the Orioles are moving out of their rebuilding project and on to something else entirely.
"I told Dave earlier this afternoon, 'I think we're out of Phase One,'" he said. "And that's the most destructive and the toughest phase, where you're essentially tearing down and you've got the real construction in front of you. You dealt off your more attractive players to other clubs -- or at least some of them, anyway -- and you've brought in a nucleus of young talent. So we're out of Phase One now going forward, and where we are now, in my estimation, is we're going to move back to the more traditional criteria of evaluating managers: Wins and losses. It may not always be fair. Things happen, but from this point going forward, I'd like to think we're out of that first stage of what we'd hoped to do.
"To give him every chance going forward and to win as many games as we can and show meaningful improvement in the standings, which I think we need to do starting in 2010, it's our job in the front office -- mine specifically and in particular -- to augment, to give him as much help as we possibly can going towards that goal."
Trembley, who managed in the Minor Leagues for 20 seasons before getting his big league break, will still have a contract that will expire after the 2010 season. Both Trembley and MacPhail pointed to a litany of injuries on the roster that mitigates the record and explains the team's willingness to stick with the status quo.
"I can't tell you how grateful I am," Trembley said. "I'm happy for a lot of people and I'm happy for the philosophy that's existed since I came on board. It's, 'Do things right, be honest, be fair, understand that the big picture is not yourself and it's the Baltimore Orioles.' To me, that makes it all worthwhile to get the opportunity to go forward."
MacPhail said that his conviction was tested a bit during the 13-game skid, which was the longest of any big league team this season. But when he got down to it, he said he couldn't really fault Trembley or the current roster for being outmanned, not with the injuries and after considering the timing of a couple midseason trades.
MacPhail referenced the deals that sent Aubrey Huff and George Sherrill to other teams and took some of the responsibility for the second-half swoon. The bottom line, he said, is that Trembley -- who replaced Sam Perlozzo in the middle of the 2007 season -- has helped the Orioles overachieve to a gentle extent.
"That number of losses, whatever they turn out to be, has to be secondary to what this organization needed to achieve, and that is getting a talented base of young kids to compete for the postseason," McPhail said. "It's hard steps. I knew we were going to have them. Frankly, we didn't lose as many games the first two seasons that I thought we may, I was afraid we may, particularly if somebody had told me that Tampa Bay was going to be in the World Series. Obviously, we didn't do much this year to support the wins when I traded the No. 4 hole hitter and I traded our closer. You can't go ahead and tell the manager, 'Hey, you didn't win enough games.' "
MacPhail went on to say that he's not guaranteeing a postseason appearance next season as much as preparing for an inevitable shift in focus. Baltimore's chief executive said that he doesn't want to use the American League East as an excuse and that he wants to the Orioles take a leap in terms of competitive balance next year.
"He deserves the opportunity -- he's earned the opportunity to go forward," said MacPhail. "Now, in fairness to him and to everybody and to our fans, the criteria shifts. We've gone through two tough years, but really for what we had to do as a franchise, it was absolutely essential that we went through the process we went through or we would not be here where we are today, in my view. Now, in fairness to Dave and his staff and the players, things shift a little bit here. We're going to help you as much as we can, but we've gone through the very toughest part. Now I think it's important that we show our fans some meaningful improvement in the standings."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.