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.