Seeing the spot, one thing's immediately apparent: Mazzilli is a great actor, a smooth operator who knows when to thicken the Brooklyn accent and how to spice his speech with hand gestures straight out of Little Italy.
Still, he's no Earl Weaver -- and we mean that in a positive sense.
American League leader in ejections with 91, not to mention
four suspensions. But for all the cap-backward, chin-to-chin screaming he did
with the umps, it was a picnic compared with the way he relentlessly beat on
"Earl was hard on players, hard on his staff," Orioles vice president
Flanagan said yesterday, which has to be the greatest understatement of the
past two centuries.
A famous quote about Weaver -- among many -- defines a hard-driving,
critical leader who poked and provoked his players to perform: "You know Earl.
He's not happy unless he's not happy."
If Weaver barked his way through the clubhouse, Mazzilli is 180 degrees the
opposite. Hired to be as much a motivator and a communicator as a game
tactician, the 48-year-old New Yorker appears to be making it a priority to
build relationships that establish him as a solid, compassionate but expectant
Unlike Weaver, it's easy enough to detect soft spots in Mazzilli, who said
he's already not looking forward to trimming the roster, making cuts.
"Are you kidding me? You're dealing with players' livelihoods. You're
dealing with their families. You have to have compassion for people. At the
same time, you have to put the best people on the field. It's not easy, unless
you don't care about people," Mazzilli said.
It took Earl Weaver almost eight years after he was inducted into the Hall
of Fame to admit his heart ached having to make the tough decisions that go
along with being a big league manager. Stepping on toes comes with the
territory, just like screaming and yelling at umpires and needling and
provoking his players came with Weaver's territory.
Now it's a new era starting for the Orioles, with Weaver happy to let
Mazzilli take a crack at it.
"I don't have any contact with the front office. He just came out of
nowhere, but I'm very interested. He's very well regimented. He's running some
very good drills, working on a good schedule. This brings back some memories,"
For all the good memories, you could tell the old manager had a few that
weren't so good. It's a great job. Mazzilli, like so many coaches, was aching
for his chance. Now comes the test of a lifetime: doing the job, living it.