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Leo Mazzone talks about the pros and cons of being a maverick

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Over at The Sporting News, Graham Womack has a story up about Leo Mazzone, whom he recently interviewed. Mazzone, of course, was the longtime Braves pitching coach who, since moving to the Orioles for a brief stint a decade ago, has been out of baseball.

There are a lot of reasons for that, I presume. The manner in which he left the Braves for the Orioles was somewhat abrupt and ill-advised, which Mazzone admits in hindsight. Also, his reputation as a pitching guru/genius has taken a bit of hit in the past decade, as the Braves continued on to feature good pitching under Bobby Cox following Mazzone’s departure, resulting in some reassessment regarding how much of their success while Mazzone was there was truly attributable to Mazzone.

All of that would likely be survivable, but Mazzone likewise has a reputation as a maverick, and that doesn’t help a guy build a strong network among baseball lifers. This is made clear in Womack’s story, as Mazzone talks a lot about his mentor, Johnny Sain, who like Mazzone fought conventional wisdom when it came to pitching during his coaching career and, like Mazzone, found himself on the outside looking in later in life.

Still, Mazzone seems fairly content. And Womack’s article is worth a read for anyone interested in pitching philosophy and the legacy of coaches. Oh, and it contains this awesome Greg Maddux anecdote:

Certainly, pitchers such as Maddux didn’t need overpowering speed to thrive.

“Maddux said it best one time when he got a group of young pitchers together in spring training,” Mazzone said. “He said, ‘You know why I’m a millionaire?’ He said, ‘Cause I can throw my fastball where I want to.’ He said, ‘You know why I got beachfront property in LA? Because I can change speeds. Thanks, Leo. Thanks for letting me talk to the pitchers.’ That’s all he said and walked off.”

Maddux now spends time in the spring coaching Cubs pitchers. I hope to god he’s still telling that story and then walking away to do whatever it is Greg Maddux does in his free time.

It’s the tenth anniversary of the biggest rout in baseball history

Associated Press
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Ten years ago today the Rangers and the Orioles squared off at Camden Yards. The Orioles built a 3-0 lead after three innings and then all hell broke loose.

The Rangers scored thirty (30!) unanswered runs via a five-spot in the fourth, a nine-spot in the sixth, a ten-spot in the eighth and a six-spot in the ninth. That was . . . a lot of spots.

Two Rangers players — Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ramon Vazquez — hit two homers and drove in seven runs a piece. The best part: they were the eighth and ninth hitters in the lineup. There was plenty of offense to go around, however as David Murphy went 5-for-7 and scored five times. Travis Metcalf hit a pinch-hit grand slam. Marlon Byrd drove in four. It was a bloodbath, with Texas rattling out 29 hits and walking eight times.

On the Orioles side of things, Daniel Cabrera took the loss, giving up six runs on nine hits in five innings. That’s not a terribly unusual line for a bad day at the office for a pitcher — someone will probably get beat up like that in the next week or so — but the Orioles’ relievers really added to the party. Brian Burres was the first victim, allowing eight runs on eight hits in only two-thirds of an inning. Rob Bell gave up seven in an inning and a third. Paul Shuey wore the rest of it, allowing nine runs on seven hits over the final two.

The best part of the insanely busy box score, however, was not from any of the Orioles pitchers or any of the Rangers hitters. Nope, it was from a Rangers relief pitcher named Wes Littleton. You probably don’t remember him, as he only pitched in 80 games and never appeared in the big leagues after 2008. But on this day — the day of the biggest blowout in baseball history — Wes Littleton notched a save. From Baseball-Reference.com:

Three innings and 43 pitches is a lot of work for a reliever and, per the rules, it’s a save, regardless of the margin when he entered the game. Still, this was not exactly a game that was ever in jeopardy.

When it went down, way back on August 22, 2007, it inspired me to write a post at my old, defunct independent baseball blog, Shysterball, arguing about how to change the save rule. Read it if you want, but know that (1) no one has ever paid attention to such proposals in baseball, even if such proposals are frequently offered; and (2) the hypothetical examples I use to illustrate the point involve an effective Joba Chamberlain and Joe Torre’s said use of him, which tells you just how long ago this really was.

Oh, one final bit: this massacre — the kind of game that the Orioles likely wanted to leave, go back home and go to sleep afterward — was only the first game of a doubleheader. Yep, they had to strap it on and play again, with the game starting at 9PM Eastern time. Baltimore lost that one too, 9-7, concluding what must have been one of the longest days any of the players involved had ever had at the office, both figuratively and literally.

Hall of Fame baseball announcer Rafael ‘Felo’ Ramirez dies

Associated Press
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MIAMI (AP) Rafael “Felo” Ramirez, a Hall of Fame baseball radio broadcaster who was the signature voice for millions of Spanish-speaking sports fans over three decades, has died. He was 94.

The Miami Marlins announced Ramirez’ death Tuesday.

Ramirez, who died Monday night, began his broadcasting career in Cuba in 1945 before calling 31 All-Star games and World Series in Spanish. He was the Marlins Spanish-language announcer since their inaugural season in 1993 and was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2001.

He was known for an expressive, yet low-key style and his signature strike call of “Essstrike.”

Several Spanish-language broadcasters, including Amury Pi-Gonzanez of the Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants, have admitted to emulating his style.