The Sun has a feature-length article today on Lee Mazzilli called "The Yankee in our midst." Written by Patricia Meisol, it takes a lighter, more human-interest slant than the typical sports story, making it refreshing in its own way.
As Meisol trailed Mazzilli during his first extended homestand as manager of the Orioles, she discovered that Maz has the theme to The Godfather as his cell phone ring tone, befitting the Italian-American from Brooklyn that he is. He also claims to have given the "godfather" nickname to Joe Torre, manager of the Yankees and his former mentor. I suppose all this stuff is tongue-in-cheek, yet it makes him a ripe target for comedy in the vein of the Godfather, the Sopranos, and every other Italian-American mob stereotype in the book.
The initial read on Mazzilli is that he is a player-friendly manager who has succeeded in creating a positive vibe in the clubhouse. I cite the following from the article:
Larry Bigbie, who some say is the next great Oriole, or one of them, says Maz is "definitely a players' manager." He lets people do their thing until or unless he sees they can't do it. Every day he checks in with every player. They always know his mood, which except for yesterday, is always good. He connects with you in a way that makes you want to work harder.
Mazzilli is apparently big on talking with his players (unlike Baltimore's standard-bearer Earl Weaver, who often went weeks without talking to his stars), yet I wonder how he can check in with each player every day, as the article says, beyond the usual "hey" and "how are you." But even if that's all he does, it couldn't hurt to keep the lines of communication open.
This excerpt sums up his managing style pretty well:
Just know this: He runs the team like his family, setting out rules, values, expectations, trusting them, setting them free, pulling back the reins when things go wrong.
This winning attitude, a lot of things account for it: family, upbringing, community. When you have pride in yourself, he says, you don't settle for less. "You sacrifice a lot to win. Sometimes you ask yourself, is it worth it? Then when the moment comes, you say it is."
With the Orioles above .500 and in second place as April ends, it's so far, so good for Mazzilli. Despite a few hiccups along the way, most of his decisions have worked in his favor. Co-GM's Mike Flanagan and Jim Beattie seem to have made a solid choice in picking the relatively untested Mazzilli as their manager last fall.
p.s. I'll have a harder analysis of Mazzilli's performance later. Right now, I'm preparing some articles on Miguel Tejada and the coverage of the Orioles in the media.