May 27, 2007

Embattled

I suppose that for the rest of Sam Perlozzo's tenure as the manager of the Baltimore Orioles the adjective "embattled" will regularly be attached to his name. I'm not sure that it's fair. Certainly when Perlozzo took over, nearly two years ago, there was a feeling that his time had come. At the time, Thomas Boswell wrote

In a sense, Perlozzo has stood in uniform, face pressed to the candy store window, ever since. Now, at 54, in one of those moments of pure baseball justice, Perlozzo is being allowed inside. The candy's all his now. He's manager of the Baltimore Orioles, at least for the last 55 games of this season. Nobody ever deserved a turn at the wheel more than Sam.

The names that Perlozzo has worn on his chest include Reno, Tidewater, Toledo, Little Falls, Lynchburg, Hawaii and Jackson. Once, he was even a Yakult Swallow in Japan. Perlozzo hasn't taken that uniform, which defines him, off his back for the last 28 years. But sometimes, those uniforms haven't returned all the affection he bestowed on them.

However I might want Perlozzo to succeed, he hasn't. His handling of the bullpen - especially his reliance on Danys Baez who's allowed the winning run way too many times to earn any degree of confidence from the team. (Allowing him to pitch the ninth with a six run lead was not a bad idea though.)

It's not good that he appears to be losing the clubhouse.

Perlozzo has been under fire recently because of several in-game managing decisions and clubhouse unrest. On Friday night, third baseman Melvin Mora became the third Oriole to publicly criticize the manager after he learned from a reporter that he was not in the starting lineup.


Until Perlozzo's predecessor, Lee Mazzilli was fired mid-season, the team under Angelos had never fired any manager mid-season. (In retrospect, was Mazzilli that bad? Boswell got in his digs. OTOH, in 2004 the Orioles had two months of success and in 2005 three great months. Both times the hope faded quickly and the season ended as most Orioles' seasons have ended for the past decade - in 4th place ahead of only Tampa Bay.)

Ideally, I'd hope that the team would wait out the season. The Orioles do not have the offense to win much more than 81 games, so changing managers isn't going to be the difference whether or not the team reaches the post season.

According to the Pythagorean projection the Orioles are only 1 game below their expected record. So Perlozzo, despite his mistakes, can't exactly be called a disaster.

Also with the pitching going well - especially reclamation project Jeremy Guthrie - can the team afford to alienate its most valuable coach, Perlozzo's friend and pitching coach, Leo Mazzone? Mazzone came to Baltimore to be his friend's right hand. Would he stay with the team if Perlozzo left? The team's better off waiting out the season.

Unfortunately with the latest buzz, I don't think that Perlozzo will last the season.

According to two club sources, the Orioles will give serious consideration to bringing back Davey Johnson if Perlozzo is let go during his second full season as manager. Johnson's highly successful two-year run as manager ended in 1997 when he abruptly resigned because of a conflict with owner Peter Angelos after the organization's last winning season.

Johnson, who couldn't be reached to comment yesterday, was 186-138 with the Orioles in 1996 and 1997 and directed them to back-to-back American League Championship Series. He hasn't managed in the majors since leading the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1999 and 2000 seasons.

He was the bench coach for the U.S. team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic and is managing the American team in its quest to qualify for next year's Summer Olympics.

To this point, the Orioles, according to sources, have not had significant discussions with Johnson or any other potential candidate, including former Florida Marlins manager Joe Girardi, who also is well-regarded by team executives.

Angelos didn't return calls seeking a comment, but one club source said the owner is intent on giving Perlozzo every opportunity to get the team back on track. The Orioles entered last night's game with the Oakland Athletics a season-high six games below .500.

I have no idea who those two club sources are. Flanagan and Duquette refused to discuss Perlozzo on the record. Did they speak off the record too? Once names like Davey Johnson and Joe Girardi are being discussed it's not a good sign.

Perlozzo, certainly has his faults as manager. And as much as I wish that Davey Johnson hadn't been shown the door, I don't see what he can accomplish with the season underway. (He quit when Angelos refused to extend his contract.) Let Perlozzo finish out the season, then sort things out. Frankly, the Orioles have bigger problems than their on-field management.


Crossposted on Soccer Dad and OTB Sports.

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Posted by SoccerDad at May 27, 2007 10:59 AM
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