- The Washington Times - Friday, November 7, 2003

BALTIMORE. — It seems the Orioles’ braintrust of Mike Flanagan and Jim Beattie wasn’t looking for a baseball manager to fill the job left vacant by the firing of Mike Hargrove.

The two were looking for a baseball version of motivational speaker Tony Robbins. New York Yankees coach Lee Mazzilli fit that bill.

It was all those so-called intangibles — positive thinking, leadership skills, winning attitude — that convinced Beatagan that Mazzilli was their guy.

“We just kept checking off everything for him as a plus,” Flanagan said. “When it came down to personality and other traits, he was the right guy.”

Sam Perlozzo might be a good baseball man and familiar with the organization, having been a coach on the Orioles staff since 1997. And Cleveland Indians hitting coach Eddie Murray might be an Orioles icon and a Hall of Famer.

But apparently they didn’t, as boxing trainer Angelo Dundee would say, talk winning, at least not enough to please Beatagan.

“He had a positive outlook,” Flanagan said of Mazzilli. “And belief in something is half the battle. That belief comes from the manager. … I have been around long enough to recognize those qualities when I see them.”

All of these intangibles fall under the category of chemistry — but does a manager create clubhouse chemistry that leads to winning, or does winning create clubhouse chemistry?

Yankees manager Joe Torre, Mazzilli’s mentor, sat in the visitors’ dugout in September at Camden Yards and declared that, contrary to the entire basis for Beatagan’s hiring process, winning creates chemistry, not the other way around.

“I’m not a big believer of chemistry creating a good team,” Torre said. “I think it’s the other way around. I think the winning creates the chemistry.”

Not Beatagan. If you will it, victory will come.

“He was the right man at the right time for the right job,” Flanagan said.

I’m sure in the B&O; Warehouse on a beautiful fall day in November, when there were no players on the field outside in Camden Yards, Mazzilli seemed like the right man at the right time for the right job. Whether he will be next July when he is managing a team with rising expectations is a question. Positive vibes won’t cut it then.

Yet Mazzilli might be the right choice. He was a successful minor league manager in the Yankees organization for three seasons with a record of 220-195 and certainly had firsthand experience on surviving in a pressure situation by watching Torre manage in the nuclear spotlight of New York the past four seasons.

After Boss Steinbrenner, Peter Angelos should be a breeze, and Baltimore has a far softer media pack than what the Yankees faced daily in New York.

Also, Mazzilli is walking into a team on the upswing. With the Orioles expected to be an active participant in free agency, starting with the general manager meetings Monday in Phoenix, he should have much more talent than Hargrove had.

Unless Mr. Personality blows a gasket or something like that, he will have a pretty long honeymoon period before he feels any heat.

Hargrove wasn’t Mr. Personality, which apparently contributed to his demise, despite the fact that he won 996 major league games, which is 996 more than Mazzilli.

And apparently something Hargrove did — or didn’t do — involving one of his players this year also contributed to the fact he was not brought back, based on what Beatagan said yesterday.

“There was a situation that came up this year, and before we could even ask him the question about it, Lee had the answer,” Beattie said. Neither he nor Flanagan would reveal what that “situation” was, but Flanagan said, “It was a situation that we wanted handled differently, and it was not.” Flanagan did say it did not involve strategy, so that means it involved handling a player.

I’m sure Hargrove felt the same way when Beatagan traded away Jeff Conine and left him without anything resembling a cleanup hitter in the final weeks of the season. I’m sure that was a “situation” he would have wanted handled differently if he was being judged on those final weeks.

Anyway, Hargrove is gone, Murray and Perlozzo were turned away and Mazzilli is the new Orioles manager. The positive vibrations are flowing from the warehouse.

“This is one of the greatest days of my life,” Mazzilli said after being introduced at a news conference yesterday.

That’s the way an optimist would think — that this is the best time of your life. A pessimist — or every other Orioles manager hired by Peter Angelos — would think that probably is true.


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