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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.

Bryce Harper defeats Kyle Schwarber 19-18 to win the 2018 Home Run Derby

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Bryce Harper, who said he was tired after taking his cuts in the first round, certainly appeared gassed in the final round. So, too, did his dad, who was throwing to him. But Harper caught fire, going on a tear and tying Kyle Schwarber with 18 home runs before time expired in the final round of the 2018 Home Run Derby. Harper unlocked 30 seconds of bonus time by hitting two home runs at least 440 feet. With his second swing in bonus time, Harper homered to straightaway center field for No. 19. He tossed his bat in celebration, grabbed his trophy, then gave it to his dad before he was mobbed on the field by his All-Star teammates.

Harper hit 13 home runs in the first round, eliminating Freddie Freeman and advancing to the semifinals. In the semis, Harper topped Max Muncy 13-12 to advance to the finals. On Schwarber’s side of the bracket, he bested Alex Bregman 16-15, then defeated Rhys Hoskins 21-20.

Harper is the first member of the Nationals (or Expos) to win the Home Run Derby. Harper participated in the 2013 Derby but finished in second place behind Yoenis Céspedes. Harper is also the first left-handed hitter to win the Derby since Prince Fielder in 2012. The only players to win the Derby in their home park are Todd Frazier in 2015 and Ryne Sandberg in 1990.

As a spectator, the 2018 Home Run Derby was tons of fun. The four-minute clock adds a lot of tension and intrigue even to the initial rounds. Seeing teammates cheer and get excited for their teammates in the Derby is really fun. Of course, watching dinger after dinger is cool, too. Can’t wait for next year.