Cumberland Times-News

June 19, 2007

Orioles fire Perlozzo

Mike Burke

BALTIMORE - Sam Perlozzo was packing Monday morning for the Baltimore Orioles' upcoming West Coast roadtrip when a reporter called with some disturbing news.

"He said there were reports that I was going to be fired," Perlozzo said Monday afternoon, "and I said, 'I'm packing my suitcase for the road trip.'

"He said, 'Good. I hope you're on that plane.'"

As everybody knows by now, Perlozzo was not on that plane early Monday evening as he then received a call from the Orioles front office 10 minutes later. He was, in fact, being dismissed as manager of the Orioles after the club completed a 1-8 homestand, which included an ongoing eight-game losing streak.

A native of Cumberland and a graduate of Bishop Walsh High School, Perlozzo, a member of the Orioles organization for 12 years, and the manager of the team for nearly two years, received word of his dismissal in a meeting with Orioles vice presidents of baseball operations Mike Flanagan and Jim Duquette.

Bullpen coach Dave Trembley, who has served as a minor league manager in the organization, will be the interim manager when the Orioles begin a six-game trip today in San Diego.

"If not for my kids, I would be fine," Perlozzo told the Times-News Monday afternoon.

As for his meeting with Flanagan and Duquette, Perlozzo said it was brief, although he did have an opportunity to express some points of view that had been on his mind.

"I didn't say a lot to them," he said, "although Jim Duquette said he had heard I felt (the front office) should have said more on my behalf, and I said, 'Well, now that you brought it up, let me get a couple of things off my chest.'"

'Just resolve it'

One of those things was what Perlozzo felt was a lack of support from the front office during the past few weeks as the team has fallen from second place to last place in the American League East Division. He said he doesn't understand how a longtime employee of an organization can be left dangling in the wind by the organization - something he feels made his job even more difficult during the past month.

"I told them they should have stepped up," he said. "When all this talk became public, and they didn't step up ... That would have resolved it. But they didn't step up, and no matter what, you don't do that to me. You don't do that to a guy who has been in the organization for 12 years and has done so many things for this organization.

"I told them they should have stepped up and said, 'Sam Perlozzo is our manager.' And then if they want to fire me two days later, fine. Just resolve it. But they didn't. You don't do that to me."

Perlozzo said he wasn't told specifically why he suddenly wasn't the man to manage the team.

"I asked them to be specific and tell me what I did wrong, and they couldn't do it.

"I told them I can go out and make every right move - which I believe I did - and still fail because we don't hit, or the bullpen breaks down, or whatever it may be. And in that instance, there are two things you can do:

"One, the organization steps up and says, 'He's not the problem. He's got one-and-a-half years on his contract, so don't even ask because we're not talking about this again.' The problem is the players aren't producing.

"Or, you can say nothing. Because if you do say something, then you're going to take the heat for the players you signed.

"It doesn't matter how many right moves you make and it still doesn't work. The manager gets fired. But not with the Dodgers. They fire their hitting coach. Here, we keep reshuffling managers."

The hitting coach Perlozzo referred to is former Orioles great Eddie Murray, who was fired by the Dodgers last week.

Bullpen implosion, lack of offense

The Orioles believed they had bolstered their bullpen during the offseason with the free-agent signings of relievers Jamie Walker, Chad Bradford, Danys Baez and Scott Williamson, which cost the club $42 million in contracts. They also re-signed reliever Todd Williams, whom they released last week, as well as first baseman Kevin Millar. The club also added first baseman Aubrey Huff and outfielder Jay Payton. However, Perlozzo, the manager of the team, had very little input in any of the signings.

"Not really," he said. "Walker, Bradford, Baez, Williamson, they never asked me. I told them not to sign Williams. But they went out and signed four guys without asking me.

"They asked me to go to lunch with Aubrey Huff (in December) to see what I thought of the guy. I told them, and they signed him. I told them Jay Payton would help us.

"We re-signed Kevin Millar right off the bat last winter, and they wanted Huff."

Between the Orioles' anemic offense, and the eighth-inning meltdowns of Baez, leading to some disastrous losses, flaws in the team became even more apparent.

"The flaw for me?" Perlozzo asked. "Baez going south and the offense. When Danys went bad it threw the team into the kilter, and we had to overexpose (other pitchers). The offense doesn't score enough to make up for any deficiencies. When you can't score five runs playing in the American League East, you've got problems.

"Every night, we're dealing with a one-run deficit, and we're scoring four runs, three runs, three runs, four runs ... We score three runs in the first three innings and we're done for the night. You need to score more than four runs."

Although far from being alone, third baseman Melvin Mora and shortstop Miguel Tejada, centerpieces of the offense for the past three years, are experiencing some of the most unproductive seasons of their careers.

"Melvin Mora is hitting 40 points below his career average," Perlozzo said. "Miggy doesn't hit home runs or drive in runs anymore. Huff just started hitting and he has four home runs.

"Kevin Millar has a high on-base percentage, but doesn't hit home runs. Do you want me to start him on the bases? Check the on-base percentage and the runs scored. It doesn't jibe. We need three hits to get him in. You want me to start running Kevin Millar, Jay Gibbons and Aubrey Huff?

"Plus, we're without (catcher) Ramon Hernandez for six weeks. You want me to rotate these guys, but they can't hit."

'I'm at peace ...'

As the heat was mounting on Perlozzo, so, too, did the silence from the Orioles players in the clubhouse. Until recently, that silence regarding any support for their manager became deafening.

"I'm going to be honest," Perlozzo said. "Some people I have put a lot of work in for a lot of years never said anything. Yes, I think about it.

"But in the end, it's how I feel how I did. It doesn't make a difference to me what they do. When I put my head on the pillow at night and ask myself, 'Did I do the right things?' I'm at peace with myself.

"The only thing that bothers me is I wanted to be the guy to take this team to the next level."

Perlozzo's best friend, pitching coach Leo Mazzone, is in his second season with the Orioles after leaving the Atlanta Braves to coach with Perlozzo. On Monday, Flanagan said, "Leo's staying. He believes in this pitching staff. He's fine, but disappointed for his friend, of course. But professionally, he's excited about the staff."

Perlozzo wasn't certain of the long-term plans of Mazzone.

"I'm not sure," he said. "Leo and Eric were pretty emotional today. Leo told them if they want to talk about it to talk to his agent. Again, he was pretty emotional."

Second baseman Eric Perlozzo, Perlozzo's son, was drafted by the Orioles two weeks ago and begins his professional career tonight for the Rookie League Bluefield (W.Va.) Orioles. Perlozzo's daughter is Mia Perlozzo, of Cumberland.

Sam Perlozzo has been offered another job within the Orioles organization.

"I'm going to sit on some things for a couple of weeks," Perlozzo said. "Again, I would be OK if not for my kids.

"I knew what I was getting into. I just thought I would have more backing from some people."

Mike Burke can be reached at mburke@times-news.com.