- The Washington Times - Friday, August 5, 2005

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Baltimore Orioles fired manager Lee Mazzilli yesterday in the midst of a massive losing streak and just three days after slugger Rafael Palmeiro became the biggest Major League star to be caught using steroids.

Sam Perlozzo was appointed interim manager for the rest of the season. The Orioles had lost eight straight and 14 of 15 before beating the Los Angeles Angels 4-1 yesterday in Anaheim, Calif.

“It’s not the kind of week that you want to have very often, that’s for sure,” Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts said.

The announcement was made just two hours before yesterday’s game. General manager Jim Beattie said he told Mazzilli of the club’s decision at the team hotel yesterday morning. Perlozzo held a closed-door meeting with the players before the game.

“It was quiet in there,” he said. “I probably spoke a little longer than I’d planned to. I thought that we’d point the finger at each other today — all of us. We’re all part of what happened here. After today, they can point them at me, if they want.”

The Orioles have a 52-56 record and are 101/2 games behind first-place Boston in the American League East.

The Orioles finished 78-84 in 2004, Mazzilli’s first season, and this year appeared on course to end a run of seven straight losing seasons.

Baltimore got off to a solid start and on April 23 gained sole possession of first place, ahead of the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

The Orioles stayed on top through June 23. Baltimore was in second place, just one game back, on July 15 — the day Palmeiro got his 3,000th hit and became the fourth player in baseball history to reach 3,000 hits and 500 homers.

But Baltimore then went on the skid that cost Mazzilli his job. From July 16 through Wednesday, the Orioles lost 16 of 18 to fall into fourth place.

“I don’t think anybody really saw it coming,” Roberts said. “But the way that we’ve played, I don’t know that it blows anybody’s doors off.”

Added Perlozzo: “Are we as good as we were the first two months? I’m not sure. But we do know that we aren’t as bad as we are now.”

One thing Mazzilli didn’t expect was for Sammy Sosa to struggle as badly as he has in his first season back in the American League. Sosa, fifth on baseball’s career home-run list, is hitting just .239 with 14 homers and 40 RBI in 87 games.

“I’m not frustrated,” said Sosa, who was sidelined for almost three weeks in May because of an abscess and staph infection in the bottom of his left foot. “I go out there and try to do the things that I have to do every day, work hard at everything. I’m in a different league and everybody who’s played this game sometimes has got to go through tough times, and now it’s happening to me. So I’ve got to deal with it.”

Perlozzo was a minor league manager for five seasons before becoming a third base coach in 1987 with the New York Mets, where Mazzilli spent the final three years of his playing career. Perlozzo also worked under Davey Johnson, Lou Piniella, Ray Miller and Mike Hargrove before Mazzilli got his first managing job and kept Perlozzo on the staff.

“Maz is a good friend of mine,” Perlozzo said, “so in that respect, it’s a bittersweet day for me.”

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