Though quick to applaud the promotion of bench coach Sam Perlozzo (above) to the position of (interim) manager, the Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell as takes a dim view of Lee Mazzilli’s hiring in the first place.
On one hand, the Orioles could pick handsome Lee Mazzilli, the ex-Mets center fielder known as the “Italian Stallion,” who was completely unqualified to be a major league manager. But he’d been a first base coach for Joe Torre’s Yankees and could spout cliches during a four-hour wow-’em interview about the power of a positive attitude. Ironically, the Orioles’ other obvious choice was to pick Perlozzo, perhaps the most demonstrably qualified man in baseball.
Mazzilli had never been a bench coach. Perlozzo had been the Orioles’ bench coach for five years. Mazzilli had never been a third base coach, the job that usually precedes bench coach. Perlozzo had been the Orioles’ third base coach for five years. Mazzilli had never managed higher than Class AA or won anything. Perlozzo, in five years as a manager in the Mets’ chain, had won everything you could name right up through Class AAA — three league championships in five years, no losing seasons, Baseball America’s minor league manager of the year.
Mazzilli had no Orioles roots, no deep ties with the coaching staff he inherited. With the media, he was cordial and dignified, but flavorless. Imagine, a career baseball man devoid of entertaining stories he’d be willing to share. As for original ideas, if he had any, Maz kept them a secret as well. The longer he stayed in the job, the more obvious it became that, after repeating “We have to stay positive” several times, Mazzilli had little to offer as a motivator or clubhouse psychologist.
The Orioles, hungry as always for a quick fix, a dramatic move or an “upgrade,” saw Mazzilli as a headline-grabbing decision that might prove brilliant. After firing Hargrove, who’d won pennants with the Indians, the Orioles didn’t see how a hire with as little charisma as Perlozzo could defend them against the charge: “You fired a proven pro like Hargrove for this guy?”
Of course, flashing a smile with pizzazz wasn’t necessary for managers such as Dick Howser, Tom Kelly, Bobby Cox, Jim Leyland, Cito Gaston, Jim Frey or Terry Francona, all of whom did pretty well. Perlozzo is more from their low-key school.
Perlozzo’s Orioles beat the Angeles Thursday, 4-1, snapping an 8 game losing streak. Interviewed early this morning by ESPN Radio’s Todd Wright, Baltimore reliever Steve Kline said he felt like the O’s had “lost every game for a month”.