Cumberland Times-News

August 16, 2012

It’s the truth then, it’s the truth about then now

Mike Burke
Cumberland Times-News

— If you listen to ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning,” you heard Leo Mazzone on Wednesday and then you heard Mike and Mike talking about Leo Mazzone’s comments for the rest of Wednesday’s show; then for most of Thursday’s.

Essentially, the pitching coach-turned-Leo Mazzone was asked to weigh in on the Washington Nationals’ decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg to alleviate risk on his surgically repaired elbow. Anybody who was listening and who knows Leo Mazzone and his belief that the arm, like any other muscle, only becomes stronger with activity, knew what was coming and how it would come.

“I think it’s absolutely pathetic, to be honest with you,” he said. “If I’m Strasburg, here’s what I’m saying, I’m saying, ‘You take the ball away from me and I’ll save my arm for some other team to pitch for.’ ... I think it’s absolutely ridiculous.”

Since I knew what was coming I didn’t even have to open my eyes. What I actually thought was more interesting was when Leo was asked of the turmoil that is Bobby Valentine and his band of Boston Red Sox misfits. And as soon as Leo said, “It all starts at the top. It’s called the chain of command,” I opened my eyes. I knew where he was taking us.

“With the chain of command,” he said, “I have experience with both ends of it. When I was with the Atlanta Braves, there was a chain of command that was in place that was never broken. It was never broken by the players. It started with ownership, with Ted Turner. Then it started with the general manager, John Schuerholz, the manager, Bobby Cox, and the coaching staff and the players. So you had a chain of command that was never broken.”

And then?

“Then I go to Baltimore and find out why they’re losing. The chain of command was always broken, where players got to voice their displeasure to the front office, which took away the power from the manager and nobody really knew who was running what. Basically, what it was, was a bunch of players finding excuses for losing. This is what’s going on (in Boston right now).”

Now Leo Mazzone doesn’t need anybody speaking for him. That much has been clear since ... I don’t know ... the day he was born? But before Orioles fans out there get their boxers in a bunch about “Then I go to Baltimore and find out why they’re losing,” I think Rhett Butler said it best when he said, “I have a strange way of not killing people who tell the truth.”

Leo was merely talking about the past in the present tense. That’s how he talks. And, trust me, having been in that Orioles clubhouse, circa 2006-07, quite a bit myself, I can attest that Leo Mazzone was also telling the truth.

Keep in mind this was two Orioles front office regimes ago. What took place then is not what’s taking place now, and it shows in the win-loss column. The culture of the Orioles is far different than it was when manager Sam Perlozzo and Mazzone entered the gunfight unarmed, with Sam proving to be the most vulnerable as the manager of a team that was being run by an ineffective two-headed entity — Jim Duquette and the late Mike Flanagan.

The responsibility for that mess, naturally, fell on ownership, for it is impossible to know what you’re doing when you have two bosses to serve. Or, in the case of those Orioles, one to constantly run to with your whiny complaints.

“Mike (Flanagan) knew what the Orioles organization was all about because he came up through the organization when it was the best in baseball,” Mazzone said close to a year ago when Flanagan died. “He knew what once made the Orioles great, he knew what caused them to go downhill and he knew what it would take to get things turned in the right direction.

“He knew what the Orioles were up against and they would have been better off letting Mike run it by himself instead of having Jim Duquette in there too. Go ahead and let Mike run it himself.”

If Leo Mazzone is bitter about anything Baltimore, it would likely be over what happened to Sam Perlozzo, not him. When he says he’s moved on, he’s moved on. I believe that now, just as I did two years ago when the Orioles hired manager Buck Showalter and Leo said, “Buck and I were together at the 2000 All-Star Game and we’ve been friends ever since. He’s a great hire for the Orioles. He’ll get it turned around and I hope he does. He’s a good man. The Orioles really helped themselves. A great, great hire.

“They’re going to win under Buck. I guarantee it.”

Hey, don’t kill the man for telling the truth.

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com.