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Mazzone's future not only thing in question in Baltimore

The extra money was an enticement. So was the three-year contract.

But Leo Mazzone insisted that he would've have left the Atlanta Braves for the Baltimore Orioles before last season if it wasn't a chance to work with long-time pal Sam Perlozzo.

Now, Perlozzo is out as Orioles manager and pitching coach Mazzone is missing more than a friend.

His baseball future looks very much in limbo.

Mazzone's reputation as a pitching guru is tattered. No one is referring to him as a genius any more.

That will happen when you go to a franchise that has stunningly gone from one of baseball's best to one of its worst.

Blame owner Peter Angelos.

Someday, he'll probably finally sell the team to a group headed by Orioles icon Cal Ripken. But until then, there will likely be more woe in Baltimore.

The once-proud franchise has had nine straight losing seasons. This will be the 10th.

The Orioles had lost 13 of 15 and were 29-40 at Perlozzo's firing. He was 122-164 in parts of three seasons. The last four Baltimore managers have all had losing records.

Dave Trembley is filling in as interim manager and the Orioles did snap a nine-game losing streak with a victory at San Diego on Wednesday.

No one, however is expecting a quick turnaround.

Andy MacPhail, formerly of the Minnesota Twins and Chicago Cubs, was brought in as the Orioles' chief operating officer, but he'll have to fight the Angelos factor.

MacPhail offered Joe Girardi the job as Orioles manager. Girardi turned it down.

After being canned by the Florida Marlins following a season in which he was named National League manager of the year, Girardi wasn't eager to tackle the Orioles mess and baseball's worst owner.

Nothing seems to go right in Baltimore any more.

Once packed, Camden Yards is now barely half full. Who can blame the fans?

Baltimore now battles Tampa Bay to stay out of last place in the AL East, instead of fighting the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox for first place.

The Orioles spent $40 million during the offseason to improve the bullpen, but it was 0-5 with an 8.44 ERA in the eight straight losses that preceded Perlozzo's firing.

The worst loss, though, came on Mother's Day, when the bullpen imploded in the ninth inning to turn a 5-0 win into a 6-5 loss.

Mazzone, who grew up with Perlozzo near the panhandle of West Virginia, has had a few pitching successes with the Orioles, but many more failures.

It's a lot easier to look like a genius when you have pitchers like Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz.

Mazzone, an eager self-promoter, seemed to have run his course with the Braves despite the continued string of division championships.

Fans were stunned when he left Atlanta. Those close to the Braves, however, weren't.

Many pitchers had tuned him out, tired of his my-way-or-the-highway approach. His relationship with manager Bobby Cox had also seemed to wane.

When asked early last season if he had talked to Mazzone lately, Cox said, "No. Why would I?"

Although the Braves bullpen struggled last year, Cox always praised the work of new pitching coach Roger McDowell. After all, the Orioles pitching was even worse.

Since Perlozzo's firing, the usually talkative Mazzone has declined comment. Obviously, though, he's not happy about the mess he's gotten himself into.

Instead of quaint, Leo's rocking in the dugout now just seems goofy.

Mazzone's reputation is definitely tainted, although maybe unfairly.

More often than not, it's the pitchers who make the pitching coach, not the other way around.

It is the same way with managers, who are no better than the players they are given.

Mazzone got too much credit with the Braves and has received too much ridicule with the Orioles.

Baltimore officials say that Mazzone has told them he intends to stay on no matter who the new manager is. After all, he is only part way through his three-year contract and doesn't want to walk away from the money.

If the Orioles have a future, though, it's unlikely that Mazzone will be a part of it.

In Baltimore, they just hope that Angelos will finally sell the team.

Mazzone, despite his success in Atlanta, couldn't help turn things back around.

Even local hero Ripken - baseball's all-time iron man - may not be able to do it.