During the 1990s, there was no more famous fixture on a major league bench than Rockin’ Leo Mazzone, the humorously restless pitching coach for the Atlanta Braves. Under Mazzone’s tutelage, the Braves rolled with Hall of Fame-caliber pitching from John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Greg Maddux. Hell, he even made Steve Avery an All-Star. Steve Avery, people!
But after the 2005 season–and 26 years in the Bravo organization–Mazzone took a massive pay raise to move north and head up the Orioles’ pitching staff under his best friend, then-manager Sam Perlozzo. And Leo chose… poorly. The experiment lasted but two forgettable years before he was fired, an ignominious end to a great career. And according to the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, Mazzone couldn’t be happier to have been booted by Baltimore.
“If I had to do it all over again, I would have never done it,” said Leo Mazzone, mostly a national television analyst on baseball these days, reflecting from his home in Roswell. […]
“Once I got there and saw how they operated compared to the Braves, I knew I made a mistake the first week of spring training,” he said, before chuckling and adding, “I said to myself, ‘You know what? I done messed up.’
Well. It’s not often you see a former coach - and one destined for the Hall of Fame, at that - toss his last club under the bus like that.
At the same time, it’s probably warranted. The Orioles have been listless at best over the last decade, registering no winning seasons since their division title in 1997. And yes, it’s kind of hard to put together a winning team when the Red Sox and Yankees are putting together payrolls that rival the GDP of most African nations, but as the Rays just got done proving, it’s hardly impossible.
So what seems more likely: That a pitching coach who presided over the most dominant rotation of this generation is actually a fraud, or that a moribund franchise needs a whole lot more than a new bench coach to start winning again?