No, not that Sammy.
After resolving their front-office situation yesterday by making Mike Flanagan their top baseball administrator, today the Orioles went in-house again by bringing back Sam Perlozzo to manage the team next year. The club showed enough confidence in Perlozzo's ability to sign him to a three-year contract through the 2008 season.
Perlozzo, 54, began the season as Baltimore's bench coach and was promoted to field manager the last two months of this season after Mazzilli was sent packing. The managerial change slowed the team's ghastly mid-season slide, but failed to resurrect the startling success of the season's first two months, as Perlozzo guided the O's to an underwhelming 23–32 (.418 winning percentage) record in the season's final 55 games.
However, several unfavorable circumstances undercut Perlozzo's trial run as a big-league manager. One was the turmoil that surrounded the team because of controversies such as Rafael Palmeiro's positive steroid test and Sidney Ponson's legal issues that led to both being booted from the club in September. An injury to Sammy Sosa's right big toe dampened his production in August and sent him to the disabled list after August 25. Brian Roberts and Daniel Cabrera missed significant time due to injury as well. And the Orioles' lack of depth certainly didn't make Perlozzo's job any easier, as the fill-ins provided mostly inferior performance to the players they replaced. Because Perlozzo inherited the job under such adverse conditions—a depleted roster, a boatload of distractions—and had just two months to demonstrate his wares, it's too early to make definitive statements about his managerial ability or strategic tendencies.
Perlozzo's back pages
Perlozzo's 24 years of experience as a minor-league manager and big-league coach, however, comprise a lengthy and varied foundation of work that earned him this chance. In that time he has been an instructor and handler of talent as well as a tactician. Along the way, he has learned from three of his era's most successful managers in Davey Johnson, Lou Piniella, and Mike Hargrove, and has been a part of four league-champion clubs. Perlozzo is a well-travelled baseball lifer, respected and liked by many, who has paid his dues and then some.
Perlozzo's story begins in Cumberland, Maryland, where he grew up rooting for the Orioles and the Pittsburgh Pirates, starred athletically at Bishop Walsh High School, and earned a full scholarship to George Washington University in Washington, D.C., in 1968. He was a standout player at GW as well and graduated with a degree in physical education in 1973.
In August 1972, Perlozzo signed a free-agent contract with the Minnesota Twins, beginning a nine-year professional playing career as an infielder that resulted in two major-league callups, one in 1977 with the Twins and the other in 1979 with the San Diego Padres. But Perlozzo's bat was not potent enough to enable him to stick in the majors as a player. In 1980, he played a season in Japan for the Yakult Swallows, and he wrapped up his playing career at Tidewater, a Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets, in 1981.
Perlozzo broke into managing and coaching in 1982 as manager of the Little Falls (NY) Mets, a Low-A affiliate of the Mets in the New York/Penn League. It was a good place to begin; under the regime of former O's general manager Frank Cashen, the Mets in the early '80s were a player-development powerhouse, producing stars such as Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Lenny Dykstra, Kevin Mitchell, Randy Myers, and Rick Aguilera. (For all you Moneyball fans: Billy Beane, now Oakland's general manager, was a hot prospect in the Mets' system during those years, and Perlozzo managed him at Double-A Jackson, Mississippi, in 1984.)
Perlozzo had success at several levels of the Mets' system from 1982 to 1986, winning league titles in three out of five seasons and compiling a record of 364–263 (.581). He was the Carolina League's Manager of the Year after leading Lynchburg (VA) to the championship in 1983, and Baseball America named him its Minor League Manager of the Year in 1984 when he took Jackson to the Texas League title.
|1982||Little Falls Mets (NY)||NY/Penn||Low A||38||38||.500|
|1983||Lynchburg Mets (VA)||Carolina||High A||96||43||.691||Y|
|1984||Jackson Mets (MS)||Texas||Double-A||83||53||.610||Y|
|1985||Jackson Mets (MS)||Texas||Double-A||73||63||.537||Y|
|1986||Tidewater Tides (VA)||International||Triple-A||74||66||.529|
After Perlozzo's rapid ascent through the minor-league ranks as a manager, the Mets called him up to be their third-base coach for the 1987 season. His manager was Davey Johnson, who had blazed through the Mets' system in similar fashion a few years before Perlozzo. After winning a world championship in '86, the Mets won 92, 100, and 87 games the next three seasons.
But a third-base coach's job is never secure. After finishing second in 1989, the Mets fired Perlozzo against the wishes of Johnson and several of his players, and Perlozzo resumed the life of a baseball nomad. The Cincinnati Reds quickly snapped him up and made him their third-base coach for the 1990 season under manager Lou Piniella, just in time for Perlozzo to participate in a World Series championship. In 1993, Perlozzo followed Piniella to Seattle as the two reprised their respective positions with the Mariners. Then in 1996, Perlozzo moved back to Maryland, arriving in Baltimore to serve another term as third-base coach under Johnson, who by this time was manager of the Orioles. (Johnson was fired by the Mets during the 1990 season and replaced Piniella in Cincinnati from 1993 to 1995.)
Perlozzo survived two managerial changes to stay on as third-base coach under Ray Miller in 1998-1999 and Mike Hargrove in 2000. A staff reassignment in 2001 shifted Perlozzo into the dugout as Hargrove's bench coach. He remained there after the managerial changeover to Mazzilli last year and then moved up to interim manager upon Mazzilli's termination on August 4 this year.
|1987–1989||New York Mets||third base|
|1990–1992||Cincinnati Reds||third base|
|1993–1995||Seattle Mariners||third base|
|1996–2000||Baltimore Orioles||third base|
Perlozzo interviewed for the Orioles' managerial openings in 1999 and 2003 and for the Mariners' post in 2002, but was passed over all three times. However, he was reportedly one of four finalists for the Mariners' position, which went to Bob Melvin, and one of the final three (with Rich Dauer) for the Orioles' job in 2003 that went to Mazzilli. After over two decades of managing and coaching, Perlozzo was getting progressively closer to his first chance to manage a big-league team. But the pieces didn't fall into place until today.
Perlozzo has received the public backing of several players, including Melvin Mora and Javy López. And perhaps more important is that owner Peter Angelos thinks highly of him as well. In Tuesday's Sun, Angelos said, “Sam has done a good job for this organization for a long time. He is a solid baseball man. He has a great personality and is a very committed baseball professional.”
Early in the 2003 season, when Hargrove left the Orioles temporarily to be with his ailing mother in Texas, Perlozzo went 4–8 while filling in for Hargrove as manager. Hargrove, upon his departure from the club at the end of that season, recommended that Perlozzo succeed him. He told the Washington Post, “Sammy is as good a baseball man as you'll find in the game.... He has very strong opinions and beliefs, which I think you have to have as a manager. I think he'd be perfect for the job.”
Like Mazzilli, Perlozzo once earned the nickname "The Italian Stallion" as a player. For his part, Mazzilli told the Sun after being fired in August, “I hope it works out for him.... I hope [the Orioles] give him a chance next year.”
Perlozzo also has received endorsements from Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell, Sun columnist John Eisenberg, Minneapolis Star Tribune writer Joe Christensen (formerly O's beat writer for the Sun), and—perhaps less surprisingly—Mike Burke of the Cumberland Times-News.
(Perhaps I should retitle this article "Everybody loves Perlozzo.")
Perlozzo's wife, Beth, has been a taken a prominent role in the community activities organized by the Oriole Wives for the past several years.
Finally, here's a tidbit that should get the rumor mill going: Perlozzo's best friend is fellow Marylander (and Italian-American) Leo Mazzone, widely revered pitching coach of the Atlanta Braves since 1990. Last year, Mazzone told the Times-News's Burke that if Perlozzo secured a big-league managing job, Mazzone would be interested in becoming Perlozzo's pitching coach.
Correction: Perlozzo became third-base coach of the Mets beginning with the 1987 season. An earlier version of this article stated that he had been with the Mets since 1986. The change also means that he was a part of four championship teams as a coach or manager, not five.
Correction: The Times-News quote about Mazzone wanting to be Perlozzo's pitching coach first appeared in an article on December 2, 2004, and the interview from which that quote was taken took place in November of that year. I had written incorrectly that the utterance took place in August of this year.
Addendum: A New York Times article dated December 23, 1986, disclosed Perlozzo's appointment to the Mets' coaching staff for the 1987 season. In the article, Davey Johnson said that Perlozzo was called up to the coaching staff of the Mets in the Septembers of 1985 and 1986 after his minor-league seasons had ended. If this is true, Perlozzo may have been unofficially present for the Mets' 1986 championship run. The article also states that his cumulative minor-league managing record is 364–237. Since every other source I have seen reports his record as 364–263, I am led to believe that the Times's account is incorrect.