A maze -- not Maz -- of problems
Dismissed Mazzilli kept solid footing amid O's missteps
Grace never won a pennant. Or, even a game. Nice guys may finish last, but those with grace aren't even allowed on the field.Further proof is the dismissal by the Baltimore Orioles of manager Lee Mazzilli, who for weeks displayed an astounding amount of grace as a promising season crumbled around him. On a list of people who deserved being called out for the Birds' freefall out of contention, Mazzilli ranked pretty low. You could blame Jim Hendry, for trading Sammy Sosa into the Orioles' problem. You could blame Bret Boone, for hitting the foul tip that cracked Javy Lopez's right hand in late May. You could blame Sidney Ponson, for dereliction in his duties as a staff ace. You could blame Rafael Palmeiro, but first you'd have to dig his head out of the sand. But Mazzilli? Sure, he is not a strategic genius, often sending out lineups that appeared to have been assembled on a Scrabble board. But there aren't many Einsteins sitting on benches today. No, Lee Mazzilli's worst offense was being in the wrong place at the wrong time: the Orioles' hot seat, when the house of cards he helped erect crumbled. Only on Wednesday, a group of reporters idled away time in the visitors' clubhouse at Jacobs Field by compiling the early handicap for the sport's major postseason awards. When the subject turned to American League Manager of the Year, someone quickly noted, "Mazz will get some votes," and others in the crowd nodded their agreement. A few hours later, Mazz needs moving vans, not votes. The day Lopez went down, the Orioles were a dozen games over .500 and three games over second-place Boston. When he returned, exactly two months later, Baltimore was in third place, already in the middle of the swoon that shows no end. Yet, whatever blame may also be directed toward co-general managers Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan, they can't be blamed for dismissing Mazzilli. With their team's season spinning rapidly out of control, the outcry for action from Orioles fans has been deafening. They had to do something visible, dramatic, something packing a possibly sobering punch. Forever, managers have filled that role. The dog-eared saying is, "You can't fire 25 players." To that, general managers would add, "You can't fire yourself." Nor, for that matter, players' pharmacists.
Lee Mazzilli relieved of duties
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.