Posted: Wednesday May 11, 2005 12:51PM; Updated: Wednesday May 11, 2005 12:51PM
Leo Mazzone has resurrected Mike Hampton's career after the lefty struggled in Colorado.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
One of the perks of squeezing out this here literary wonderment each week is reading your e-mail. The e-mail you send me, I mean, not the e-mail you get. I peruse all of it and I'm always impressed by your passion, conviction and intelligence, even when you inform me that I'm a few lobes shy of a brick.
This week, the mailbag yielded the following item of interest from Brian Robinson of Piedmont S.C.: "While Bobby Cox is a slam dunk to make the Hall of Fame, what about Leo Mazzone? He deserves at least as much credit for the Braves' 13-year run as division champs. Do coaches ever make the HOF?"
Interesting notion. Managers, umpires, executives and pioneers are enshrined in Cooperstown. The Hall honors broadcasters and sportswriters. So why not a wing, or at least a kiosk in the lobby, for pitching and hitting gurus who have enjoyed extraordinary success and influence?
I'm talking about guys such as Charlie Lau, the hitting czar of the powerhouse K.C. Royals of the 1970s. Lau's The Art of Hitting .300 became the bible of batting and his disciples include respected hitting coach Walt Hriniak. George Brett credited Lau upon his induction to the Hall.
Mazzone is a good place to start. Atlanta's pitching coach since 1990 has left his fingerprints all over the Braves' unprecedented run of titles. Atlanta finished first or second in the majors in ERA from 1992 through 2002, and 21 percent of the 550 major leaguers polled by SI in July 2003 cited Mazzone as the best in the business. Runner-up Mel Stottlemyre garnered a mere 7 percent of the vote.
Have a question or opinion for John? He might answer or address it in his next blog.
Yes, Mazzone has had stellar arms to work with, but what about his restoration of Mike Hampton after two confidence-shattering seasons in Colorado? And the dramatic improvement Mazzone wrought on the pedestrian likes of Mike Remlinger, John Burkett, Chris Hammond, Rudy Seanez, Mike Bielecki, and Paul Byrd? He also made effective closers out of Kerry Ligtenberg and John Rocker.
I reckon the acid test would be to put ol' Leo in a pitcher's Hades like Colorado and see if he's as effective. As the old philosopher O.A. "Bum" Phillips said about Don Shula, "He can take his'n and beat your'n, Then he can take your'n and beat his'n." I suspect Mazzone could'n in Colorado, too.
As I Was Saying
Several readers took me to task for calling out Brewers' owner Mark Attanasio in last week's writ about small-market teams that appear to be making a less-than concerted effort toward fielding a winner. Their main complaint was that Attanasio is in his rookie season in Milwaukee and deserves a grace period.
Agreed. I cited the owners of the D-Rays, Pirates, Royals and Brewers by name mainly to display their credentials as businessmen. As galling as it can be, there are times when it does not make business sense to throw a bucket of dough at premium players, and this can create a cloud of suspicion in the minds of fans, who deserve to be assured that management is doing all it can to win. There are certainly things ownership can do no matter what size market its team is in. Start with a search for a savvy GM and people who know how to assemble and maintain a productive player-development system. The Minnesota Twins are a nice example of one small-market franchise that has been fairing rather well in this manner in recent years.
"While I think baseball needs a salary cap because not everyone has the capital of Steinbrenner, I am also a strong proponent of the salary floor," wrote Jack Bartram of Kingston, N.Y. "That would be a minimum that a team can spend on salaries, or else they forfeit their share of revenue sharing. The object behind revenue sharing is to level the playing field, not make skinflint owners more wealthy."