Atlanta Braves: Time to Bring Leo Mazzone Back

Abner LopeCorrespondent IApril 30, 2008

In recent years, the Atlanta Braves pitching has been in some decline; it would seem that this was never more obvious than this year.

Beginning in 1991, the Braves put together a franchise that not only won, but was expected to contend for a championship yearly. The foundation of this success has always been its pitching—first and foremost, the starters and then the relief corps. 

In the Braves' streak of division championships, the starters have grabbed the most headlines: Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Avery, Neagle, Millwood, etc.

In Atlanta's recent and constant failure to hold leads, the bullpen of those glory days beckons to memory: Pena, McMicheal, Clontz, Stanton, Mercker, Wohlers, (dare I say it?) Rocker, Freeman, Wade, Lightenberg, Embree, Seanez, Remlinger, etc.

These guys are long gone, but they were just as important as the starters.

Year in and year out, Atlanta put together a good bullpen—and the man at the revolving door was Leo Mazzone.

Sure, Bobby Cox ran the team and John Schuerholz made the deals; Leo was the man with the pitchers. He was usually at Cox's side rocking back and force, taking in the hurler's mechanics and delivery.

Mazzone has the reputation of having one of the best eyes in spotting mechanical flaws in a pitcher; he also has the reputation for being a stickler for side throwing sessions to keep an arm strong and disciplined with memory (our starters have struggled with injuries and consistency).

With a reputation for being a drill sergeant, even overbearingly abusive at times, he helped Wohlers and Mercker improve their pitching—even with their adverse responses to Mazzone's tactics.

I have seen Mazzone come out of the dugout on a reliever trying to find the strike zone to lambaste him for walking the tying run because he was trying to nick the corners.

Mazzone was also a stickler for living on the outer part of the plate—if the guy was going to hit it out, he's going to have to do it to the opposite field. Sinkers on the outer half usually meant a weak ground ball—a pitcher's best friend with men on.

In my opinion, Mazzone was the perfect balance to Cox.

Bobby was calm (except when protesting an ump's call) and never ripped his players; Leo was a nervous habit on two legs who would not hesitate to rip a pitcher on mechanics and execution in a packed stadium on national TV.

For me, the tandem of Cox and Mazzone was a proven recipe for success. Something our current pitching staff has seemingly struggled to find. I cannot help but wonder if bringing him back would help the Braves bullpen.

More importantly, I believe he is currently available and lives in the Atlanta area.