The Baltimore Orioles have just fired their manager, Sam Perlozzo, after holding the position for a little more than one full season. Perlozzo took over the team on an interim basis in August 2005, and was awarded the permanent position after the season.
Perlozzo took over a team that hadn’t had a winning season since 1997 and didn’t appear to be close to getting its act back together. In 2006 the team won only 70 games, four fewer than the previous season. This season the Orioles are on pace to win 68 games. However, the team’s run differential indicates the Orioles are playing better than their record: their Pythagorean record has them on pace for 77 wins. 77 wins isn’t a good team, but I’m not sure much of this is Perlozzo’s fault. (I want to acknowledge that some people have argued that deviations in wins from Pythagorean projections measure some level of managerial skill. I am not convinced of this.)
Perlozzo took over a pretty poor club and has not had much time to right the ship. Furthermore, Perlozzo’s good buddy Leo Mazzone seems to have improved the pitching staff after a tough first season. I suspect Mazzone will not stick around, because the main reason he came to Baltimore was to work with his good friend Perlozzo. I don’t understand the need for such a hasty decision. Unless the manager is actively doing damage, managerial stability has some value.
Perlozzo might be a rotten manager, I really don’t know, but considering Joe Girardi as a replacement shows that the O’s lack decision-makers who understand the game. Speaking of actively doing damage, Girardi was fired by the Marlins, despite the fact that he won the manager of the year award, because he couldn’t get along with the owner and GM. Girardi won the award is that the Marlins were not expected to win many games, yet the team was competitive most of the season. The voters surmised Girardi must be the reason, but the voters missed that the Marlins success had much more to do with the front office than its manager. Without Girardi, the Marlins are on a pace to win about the same number of games they won last year. In my book, I find Florida to be the best managed organization in baseball before Girardi even showed up. The Marlins were happy to let Girardi go because they knew he had little to do with the team’s success. Looks like the O’s are going after the next hot thing without really thinking about it.
I actually have some personal experience with this which I will share. Soon after the Orioles hired Mazzone, I received many media inquiries. A few of the journalists who contacted me said that the Orioles had mentioned my study to them as evidence of what a great pitching coach Mazzone is. Now, I’m happy that the O’s felt this way, but I thought it was odd that they were basing their decisions off of a study I posted on the internet without even contacting me. Wouldn’t you want to talk to me first if you were thinking of making this move because of brief study I posted? I didn’t even get an e-mail. My consulting fees are far less than what it costs to buy out a coach. I don’t mean to suggest that my study was the main reason they made their decision—I have no doubt that Perlozzo’s influence was much stronger than mine, and it’s not like it was a secret that Mazzone was good at his job—but I found the mention a bit odd.
So, when the O’s decided to can a manager in the midst of a losing streak, I was not surprised. Another short-sighted decision by an franchise that continues to blunder it’s way to the bottom of the division. I wonder if they would be willing to take Willie Harris for Daniel Cabrera.