The Corner

Culture

Genius and Talent, Pitchers and Coaches

Atlanta Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone (center) talks with pitcher Tom Glavine (right) during a game against the Montreal Expos in 2000. (Shaun Best / Reuters)

This year, the music world marks the 150th anniversary of the death of Hector Berlioz. They’re doing deaths now, not just births? Yes, yes. “Anniversaryitis,” I say. The music world has it, journalism has it. I once vowed never to do anniversary pieces — a “false peg,” I said. I fall off the wagon now and then …

In any case, I welcomed the opportunity to write about Berlioz. I have long had trouble with him. I never really came to grips with him. I have written about him on the homepage, here: “Berlioz, a Reckoning.” See what you think. A fascinating person, in any case.

Here on the Corner, I want to share a note that came from Nick Frankovich, my wide-ranging colleague. He is a man of the arts and letters — and history and that jazz — and also of baseball. In my piece, I cite a famous statement from Maurice Ravel about Berlioz: “a musician of great genius and little talent.” I then write, “Frankly, I have never understood this remark. Perhaps something is lost in the translation. Genius and talent go together, in my view. I could better understand something like ‘a musician of great genius and little discipline.’”

Nick writes,

I think I get Ravel’s remark. I think of it as the difference between vision and the ability to execute.

You can see it in the dynamic between pitching coaches and their pitchers. Leo Mazzone was a so-so pitcher, and Maddux and Glavine might have been too had they not been schooled by him. He had the vision, they had the talent. You join the two forces and you get that mighty Braves rotation of the 1990s.

For me, Mickey Callaway and Corey Kluber are an example closer to home.

Nick is talking about Cleveland …

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