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With all the talk of the Super Bowl and hot stove stuff and whether or not Peter Angelos should just crawl into a corner and die, I thought it might be time to point out that pitchers and catchers report to spring training in just a couple weeks. Also that despite all the front office action this offseason, the Orioles enter 2007 with a severe handicap that everyone seems to overlook.

Sam PerlozzoThis handicap goes by the name of Sam Perlozzo. Even in the offseason, we see his stunning incompetence and overwhelming inadequacy present in the Orioles’ operations. I’m referring mostly to the Aubrey Huff/Jay Payton/Jay Gibbons/Kevin Millar dilemma. Most of the positions each have a set starter, but not left field, designated hitter, or first base.

First base has been almost as big a hole for the Orioles as the bullpen, and it seemed like they found a solution in Aubrey Huff. At least it seemed that way to Captain Obvious and everyone else. But apparently not to Perlozzo. Perhaps this isn’t entirely his decision right now, but ultimately it will be and if Huff starts most games in left field, why did they sign Jay Payton?

With Huff out in left, who starts at first base? Despite the prevailing opinion that first base is where you hide your worst defensive player, the Orioles were unable to find a solid first baseman last year. So that leaves Millar, who did a decent job last season but whose offense leaves much to be desired. Most teams probably wouldn’t make him an everyday starter.

Jay GibbonsAnd so we’re left with Gibbons at DH. This is exactly as it should be, but IT’S NOT. The Orioles inked him to a deal he didn’t deserve and so he will probably see time in the outfield and maybe (shudder) at first base. He is potentially the worst defensive player in the game. Seriously…who cuts off a throw to himself?

The Orioles keep him for his “bat,” but in his best year for home runs (28 in 2002), he managed to hit only .247. He’s a career .263 hitter, and while maybe it’s because he’s hurt all the time, that’s still not an excuse. What good is an injury-riddled DH? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop? The world may never know. How many at-bats will it take for Gibbons to get a hit? The world may also never know.

So I propose Perlozzo does the obvious thing and keeps Huff at first, Payton in left, and a platoon of Gibbons and Millar at DH. Of course, he won’t, but even if he does, the Orioles will probably be able to contribute a hefty number of their losses to the bumblings of Sam Perlozzo. Maybe he will mismanage the bullpen, maybe he will run his catcher into the dirt, who knows?

One thing is certain though; if the Orioles expect to have a winning season in 2007, they will have to give 150 percent in order to overcome the disadvantage they have at skipper.

6 comments to Perlozz…uh-oh

  • Dan The Man

    Wow. And here’s the very first losscolumn post that I actually disagree with. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t happy with all of Perlozzo’s moves last season, but let’s be real here:

    Joe Torre screwed the Yankees in the playoffs. Absolutely blew it. And he’s one of the very best managers EVER. Every fan of every baseball team has gripes with their manager because we always think we could manage that team better ourselves. When in reality, we have absolutely no clue why a manager makes a decision. We will never know. Even if they tell us something, it’s all lies. And it’s just a simple fact that every manager blows it some of the time.

    Perlozzo had dick to work with last season, and while that’s a common excuse, it’s true. He didn’t “mismanage the bullpen”, he simply did not have one to begin with, and that’s not his fault. Nor did he choose to sign Huff or Payton, but now he has to say something to appease Gibbons, Payton, Huff, and Millar going into the season, and that’s a position that he was put in by the front office.

    By all accounts, the players like him. He’s obviously got baseball smarts – he’s been in the managing and coaching business for years. I like how he sometimes does things you don’t expect. He’s shifty. He likes to run. It’s fun. He’s new to the big leagues, so I say let’s cut him some slack. We give Mazzone a break because he’s a veteran – and I honestly do think the “Mazzone Magic” takes more than one year. At the very least, Perlozzo maintained a bad team so that they didn’t have any ridiculous losing streaks, which is more than can be said for *shudder* Lee Mazzilli.

  • Staci

    While I admire your optimism – and I truly do, since it’s usually me defending the Orioles – I have to oblige you and be real here.

    Firstly, a lot of people in New York blamed the players for the Yankee blowout, not Torre. As a matter of fact, everyone was up in arms when they thought Steinbrenner was going to fire him. But that’s all irrelevant, because comparing Joe Torre and Sam Perlozzo is comparing apples and oranges. Hell, it’s comparing apples and asparagus.

    I agree Perlozzo had little to work with last season, but some moves just cannot be attributed to that. For instance, how long did it take him to figure out that he could bat Nick Markakis second instead of Jeff Conine? Now, I will readily admit that I will probably never have the strategy and knowledge to manage a baseball team, but that said, if it’s this obvious to me that a 40-something year old man who was not considered “speedy” even when he was in prime shape should not be batting second, then I think it should be obvious to Sam.

    I stand by my statement that he mismanaged the bullpen, including what he DID have to work with. Namely, Chris Ray. How many times did we see him come in in non-save situations and almost blow it? Or blow it? How tired did he start to look toward the end of the season? How much trashtalking did Perlozzo put up with from Rodrigo Lopez who truly belonged in the bullpen? How many times did he let Russ Ortiz start before he relegated HIM to the bullpen. And before you tell me he had no depth, I will readily admit that, but isn’t it better to lose games behind some young guys, let them work out their lumps and get ready for this year, rather than losing games behind someone like Russ Ortiz?

    Whether or not the players like him, I am not convinced of. His baseball smarts I have yet to see. His seeming spontaneity seems more like the fumbling of a bewildered man who has no clue what he’s doing. He doesn’t know when to run or for that matter call for a bunt or a suicide squeeze.

    And I haven’t cut Mazzone a break, I just didn’t bring him up in this entry.

    So I just think, with all the managers cut loose at the end of 2006, I wouldn’t have been upset if we had picked up a Lou Piniella or a Frank Robinson. But if Perlozzo leads the Orioles to just a .500 record this season, I’ll keep my mouth shut next offseason.

  • Dan The Man

    Man, I love this blog! Great response, and you bring up some good points. I guess there’s just something I like about the guy, and that keeps me from downright blaming him for a lot of questionable moves. I’m more tempted to blame Mazzone for the Russ Ortiz fiascon (inexcusable), as he had a prior relationship with him, but certainly one can’t leave out Perlozzo in that blame game, as he has the say in the end. It just looks so good on paper – arguably the best pitching coach in current baseball paired with his best friend and Maryland native. I can’t not love that.

    I whole-heartedly agree with your point about Lopez, and it’s something I didn’t even think of. Absolutely, at some point you have to let your players know who is boss. Rodrigo had no business complaining about his role. What really got to you, I’m sure, is that it seemed as though Perlozzo really wanted to keep him in there as long as possible to work through it. Bad move for sure.

    Anyway, I guess my point is that it’s possible that, if we were somehow able to watch every team play ball, and were passionate about them all, then we would find flaws in every manager. But I suppose if we though that way, there wouldn’t be sports talk!

    Bottom line? I do think he deserves this next year, if only to further build the chemistry of the team and for some consistency in the development of the young guys. Hopefully, he’s learned some things and will do more of what we perceive to be the right things.

  • Jeff

    Sammy’s an idiot and you know it. The bottom line is he is not fit to manage a baseball team.
    He ground Ramon Hernandez into the dust by playing him for a minimum of 25 days in a row.
    He mismanaged Chris Ray who was tired at the end of the year. It was evident in his blown save numbers.
    He used Todd Williams who stinks. Williams was out of shape going in to spring training. Then he was injured. Came back after 15 or so games in to the season and pitched more than anyone in the bullpen. Why? I don’t know.

    Those are just a few reasons why Sammy is the O’s handicap. Oh, he and that wonderful owner.

  • Zak

    I’m with Dan the Man on this one: I disagree with you on the Perlozzo-bashing. We’ve had a losing team for almost a decade. Is it mostly Sammy’s fault if last year was another losing season? Probably not.

    To me, managing a baseball team comes down to two things: baseball smarts and luck. Baseball smarts are knowing when to hit-and-run, knowing which hitters do better against certain pitchers, knowing when to pull your starter, etc. It’s baseball logic. We — astute O’s observers — could probably sit in and manage a baseball game for a day without any problems.

    Sammy’s an Oriole guy with an Oriole tradition, so he’s fluent in baseball smarts and he knows his players. He pitched Chris Ray frequently because he knows that Ray was the only guy in the bullpen that had a chance of holding any kind of a lead in late innings. He called for a lot of steals because we were good at stealing bases (2nd in the AL in stolen base percentage at 79%). He played Ramon day after day because he gave us the very best chance to win. (Ramon actually did better after the All-Star Break than before it — you can look it up — including a .351 avg, 7 HR, 16 RBI in the month of September.)

    So, I’d say a healthy majority of Sam’s managerial duties came down to luck. Did any of his relievers not named Chris Ray pan out and actually produce a solid outing consistently? Absolutely not. Did Conine come through for a struggling Nick Markakis early in the season? Nope. Did sticking with Cakes throughout the season pay off in the end? Definitely. To me, all these decisions just seem to be determined by luck since it’s basically an educated guess that makes Sammy a genius or a fumbling, bewildered man. Unfortunately, I don’t think the word “lucky” has ever been used to describe any part of O’s baseball for a long, long time.

    Now, I’ll concede that the Rod Lopez and Russ Ortiz situations were dreadful at best. But, hey, at least those guys aren’t on our team anymore.

    How could you criticize Sammy before the season even begins based on something he hasn’t decided yet? When I hear anything about Huff/Gibby/Millar/Payton, the only thing that comes to mind is depth, not a crappy managerial decision. He actually has some legitimate Major Leaguers to tinker with.

    Most importantly, the man’s only managed ONE full season for the Birds. Let’s not brand him as a crappy manager when he’s had virtually no time to truly prove himself yet.

  • I went to a game last year where Markakis hit 2 lead off doubles. Each time it was followed with a sac bunt. Perlozzo has his problems running a game. I have to admit that I don’t know how much authority he has (or even how much Flanagan and Duquette have.) If a player is an Angelos favorit you bench him or trade him at your own peril.

    Still the manager you’d want isn’t a retread like Robinson or Pinella, but rather Girardi, a guy who seems to know how to evaluate talent and get the most from it.