Angelos: `It just didn't work out'

Dismissal of manager comes after losing streak put team in fourth place

Orioles Fire Mazzilli

August 05, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Unable to halt a recent stretch of losses that lowered his team to fourth place, Lee Mazzilli was fired as Orioles manager yesterday, in the middle of his second season. Bench coach Sam Perlozzo takes over as interim manager.

"You're heartbroken a little bit because you want to see it through. You come in with an objective and you want to achieve that, but this goes with the territory," Mazzilli, 50, said in a phone interview before boarding a flight to Baltimore.

"I told my wife, and she just talked about how great people treated her in Baltimore. The people in Baltimore treated us well. This is just part of the business that stinks. Somebody has got to be held accountable.

"There's a reason they call it the Charm City. People were really outstanding to me. ... They took care of me and my family."

Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos said, "I felt, along with others in the organization, it needed to be done, that a change was necessary in light of the extremely poor performance of the club in the last six weeks," he said. "On the other hand, I appreciate Lee Mazzilli's efforts, and wish him all of the best and success in the future. It just didn't work out this time for him or for the ballclub."

Mazzilli's dismissal continued a tumultuous week for the Orioles. First baseman Rafael Palmeiro was handed a 10-day suspension Monday for violating baseball's steroid policy. The team had lost a season-high eight consecutive games before yesterday's win and 16 of 18.

"It's certainly been interesting," second baseman Brian Roberts said. "It's not a week you want to have very often, for sure."

Executive Vice President Jim Beattie informed Mazzilli of the change early yesterday morning at the team hotel in Anaheim, Calif. He notified Perlozzo late Wednesday night.

"It's not something that's been brewing for a long time, but obviously there's always a process where you're being evaluated when you're in these positions," Beattie said. "The decision was really made in the last day. This is not something where we're assigning blame necessarily. Everybody associated with the big league club, all of us in that room, we're all responsible in some way for where we are right now.

"I'm not placing blame on Maz, saying we are where we are because he failed. That's not what this move is about. It's a move that you do in the game, and it's an unfortunate part of it, to try to get 25 guys out there playing better, trying a different approach."

Mazzilli was the first Orioles manager fired during the season since Frank Robinson in 1991, and the first midseason change since Angelos became majority owner in 1993.

"I really didn't have any indication of this coming," he said. "I always felt we would be able to turn it around. I had a special group of guys on my team, and they are very dear to me. They need to go out there and finish strong."

The Orioles spent 62 consecutive games in first place but were 4-16 in the second half before yesterday. They fell 10 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox and were closer to last place than first.

"Maz worked very, very hard at this job," third base coach Tom Trebelhorn said. "Sometimes things don't work out, and this wasn't working out at this time, so they decided to make a change. I don't know that there's any magical, mystical thing to it. It's tough for everybody."

"It's a sad day," hitting coach Terry Crowley said. "Maz was a nice guy. He came in with high hopes and big expectations. It's sad that it just went haywire the last couple of weeks."

Players were informed of the change in the clubhouse before batting practice.

"It was very unexpected," center fielder Luis Matos said. "We just came here this morning, and it just happened. I know we're playing bad baseball right now, and nobody can blame nobody. It's a shame, and we just need to move on."

"What it comes down to is we didn't play well," B.J. Surhoff said.

Mazzilli said he holds no animosity toward Angelos.

"Absolutely not. He gave me a chance," Mazzilli said. "That's just the nature of the beast."

Injuries played a key role in the Orioles' struggles after a hot start. All three starting outfielders, two infielders, their catcher, and pitcher Erik Bedard were not available for stretches.

"We tried to make the best of it with what we had," Mazzilli said.

One trade was completed at the nonwaiver deadline, for outfielder Eric Byrnes. The team didn't add a frontline starting pitcher over the winter or at the deadline.

"The effort was there to try to do some things to help the ballclub," Beattie said. "We always worked well with Maz. We tried to do things to get the club in the best position to win more games. Did we give him all of that? I don't necessarily say that we gave him all the tools, but I don't think it was lack of effort on our part, lack of effort on his part, the coaching staff, whatever, that's gotten us in this position."

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