So Leo Mazzone is out as Orioles pitching coach. I have to admit, I’m somewhat surprised at the move, though it further cements new manager Dave Trembley’s role as an agent of change in what’s shaping up to be an interesting offseason.
First things first: Leo Mazzone was never given the pieces to work with in Baltimore that he had in Atlanta, so it’s unfair to look at the results of the past two seasons and call his tenure a failure. What’s the old saying — if you get lemons, you make lemonade? With his rotation gutted at the end of last season, his bullpen down to two reliable relievers and not as much help as he wanted from some of the young arms that have yet to develop, Mazzone was left to make do with retreads like Victor Santos and Victor Zambrano. Nuff said.
Perhaps Mazzone’s biggest fault is his association with ex-skipper Sam Perlozzo, his lifelong friend. That promise from many years ago — that Mazzone would be pitching coach when Perlozzo became a manager — was a moot point once Perlozzo was fired in June. And no matter how often Mazzone said all the right things — "This is the greatest job in the world" or "I’m where I want to be" or "I want to turn this thing around" or "I’m working for my hometown team, what could be better?" — it was clear that he was viewed as Perlozzo’s guy. That’s why he got his walking papers with a year to go on his contract.
Of course, this will quell the seemingly endless carping that no Orioles manager gets to choose his own coaches, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alan Dunn (who Trembley brought in as his bullpen coach at the end of the season) get a crack at the pitching coach job. Tom Treblehorn’s departure was already announced, Sam Mejias said he wouldn’t be back and now Mazzone is gone. If I were hitting coach Terry Crowley, I’d be a little worried about my job security.
One more thing, although seemingly minor, harkens to a new era under Andy MacPhail — when was the last time the Orioles willingly ate a contract? They’re on the hook for $500,000 for Mazzone for 2008. And while that sum wouldn’t buy a decent third-string catcher these days, it signals a change in attitude from an organization that would have previously been unwilling to "waste" good money by paying someone — even a guy like Mazzone who’s got an impressive track record — to sit around and do nothing.