Perlozzo: `I tried to get it right'

Fired, he regrets leaving O's with task unfinished

Orioles

June 20, 2007|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,Sun Reporter

It has been since 1969, since he graduated from high school in Cumberland, that Sam Perlozzo spent a summer without wearing a baseball uniform.

Yesterday afternoon in his Columbia condominium, hours before the Orioles took on the San Diego Padres, he considered that fact.

"It really hasn't sunk in," said Perlozzo, 56, who was fired from his "dream job" as Orioles manager Monday. "I'm sure when the game comes on the TV tonight it will hit me.

"It's sad for me, taking on a three-year deal and only getting this far with it. I knew it was going to be difficult, but I felt I was the guy to see it through."

Perlozzo became the Orioles' 16th manager on Aug. 4, 2005, when he took over on an interim basis from Lee Mazzilli. The interim tag was removed that offseason, when he was given a contract that ran through 2008.

But when Perlozzo was told to come to Camden Yards to meet with executive vice president Mike Flanagan and vice president Jim Duquette on Monday morning, hours before the team bus left for the airport, he knew he would be fired by the organization with which he has spent the past 12 years.

Heading into last night, the club (29-40) was mired in an eight-game losing streak and had fallen 15 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East.

"It began to snowball, and it started getting to the point that I knew something was going to change," Perlozzo said. "That's the job. You can't go running and hiding. I was there, and I tried to get it right."

This spring, Perlozzo said he felt the team would play above .500 if everything went right and it caught some breaks. Instead, the Orioles quickly lost three of their starting pitchers to injuries while watching their high-priced bullpen falter and a lackluster offense consistently fail to score runs.

"If a person sits back [and evaluates], you have to say the personnel wasn't as good as we thought it was. They just didn't perform as well as we thought they would," Perlozzo said. "The only thing I look back on and regret is that we couldn't look at all that together, see that and then see this through together."

He said he had a solid relationship with Flanagan and Duquette, one that got better as his tenure continued. And Perlozzo said: "I really, truly wanted to please [club owner] Peter Angelos, and I am disappointed I never got that chance."

As for the players, Perlozzo said he hadn't heard from any of them since his firing was announced. When asked whether that surprised him, he said, "Yes, sir."

"I don't know quite honestly that I need to talk to those guys," he said. "I stood up for them through thick and thin, whether I liked them or didn't like them, whether they were doing good or not doing good. I don't need someone to stand up for me. I feel like I can stand up on my own two feet."

In his 19 years coaching in the major leagues, including 10 with the Orioles, Perlozzo was considered a players' coach. Several players boisterously backed him when he was given the interim job in 2005.

But the clubhouse's discontent with Perlozzo grew this year, with several veterans, including Kevin Millar, Melvin Mora and Jay Gibbons, complaining publicly about a lack of communication. Privately, some players groused about his in-game decisions, and several team leaders, including Brian Roberts and Miguel Tejada, declined to comment last month when asked about the manager.

After several pitching changes blew up on Perlozzo, fans scrutinized his every move and booed him whenever he walked to the mound. Yet Perlozzo said he doesn't have any regrets about how he managed the team - he just wishes the results were better.

In his two-plus seasons, Perlozzo's record was 122-164, the fourth-lowest winning percentage (.427) in team history, ahead of Mike Hargrove (.425), Cal Ripken Sr. (.402) and Jimmy Dykes (.351).

"If you don't have enough good players, you are not going to be a good team," he said. "You can make a bad team better, but you can't make a bad team a good one. I felt like I got every ounce out of some people. And I am not saying I was perfect, don't get me wrong, but the record is simply not an indication of what I am capable of."

Perlozzo said he would like to manage again. And he doesn't believe he'll be out of baseball for long - he might end up in the Orioles organization in another capacity. But, for now, he'll be heading back to his home in Florida, away from baseball for the first time in 38 years.

"Maybe the good Lord is telling me, `Sam, step back, recharge your batteries and again learn to love the game like you did when you were first starting out,'" Perlozzo said. "`See what comes your way and then get back to the real person you are and finish your career with whatever you want to do.'"

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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