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So Long, Sosh

October 2nd, 2018 · No Comments · Angels, Baseball, Dodgers

The last time someone other than Mike Scioscia was manager of the Angels … it was another decade. Another century.

Heck, it was another millennium.

Lots of Angels fans have no memory of the club without Scioscia. And may not even know Scioscia was a key player for two Dodgers World Series championships, in 1981 and 1988.

Scioscia led the Angels from the 2000 season through 2018, which is 19 seasons. Which also made him a pretty special character for a franchise mostly known, before his long tenure, for short-termism and mediocrity.

Under Scioscia, the Angels reached the playoffs seven times and won the World Series in 2002. Before him, the club gained the playoffs three times in 41 seasons and never got past the first round.

He was pushed out as Angels manager two days ago, after the club finished 80-82 this season, its third successive losing campaign — despite having mega-star Mike Trout, in his prime, on the roster.

The trouble with the club, in recent years, was not Mike Scioscia. It was the fact that management surrounded Trout with not much of anything beyond has-beens and never-weres, and was not in the habit of producing its own stars. Something has to change when a team is losing and, usually, in baseball, it is the manager.

It made sense for the Angels, at least vaguely.

–A new manager! Someone new will take over and do … something. Perhaps not as well as Scioscia did, what with 1,650 victories as a manager, 18th on the all-time list, behind Jim Leyland and ahead of Ralph Houk.

–Mike Trout’s career is being wasted! Best player in ball over the past seven seasons, and only one playoffs appearance. Trout isn’t old, at 27, but he’s long past his days as a kid. Something Must Be Done.

–Scioscia maybe perhaps possibly was not a committed devotee to advanced metrics, the tools and weapons of the stat wonks who have taken over just about every front office position in the game.

All we know for sure is that Sosh did not get along particularly well with Jerry Dipoto, the previous Angels general manager, and when things got ugly enough it was Dipoto who left in the middle of the 2015 season and Scioscia who stayed.

This time, current GM Billy Eppler remains and it is Scioscia headed out the door.

I can offer this, on Scioscia and stats. Back in the mid-aughties, when I was still working in sports in Southern California, I went to Angel Stadium to see a Sunday (afternoon) game. It was a good place to get live material for a column.

The Angels were struggling, at the time, and their on-base percentage was particularly dire. After everyone else left Scioscia’s office, I remained behind, with one other columnist.

Turned out, we were pursuing the same angle: What did Scioscia think about the club’s inability to get to first base? After all, metrics guys had demonstrated, pretty much to everyone’s satisfaction, that on-base percentage was important, perhaps crucial. (See: Moneyball.)

Scioscia did not agree. He told us he did not see his club being in crisis. He was not going to do anything radical. He was going to wait for a turnaround — in terms of scoring runs, not by trying to raise the OBP.

As I recall, he seemed to think it was mostly about clutch hitting. He felt that OBP was overrated. The club needed to drive in runs.

And both of us journos said, “But don’t you have to have baserunners to drive in runs?!?”

So it went. Scioscia was not worried about his club or his offense or the team’s OBP. And, it must be noted, the Angels in the mid-aughties, under Mike Scioscia, made the playoffs five times in six seasons, through 2009.

Apparently, Sosh knew what he was talking about; a good OBP was not a silver bullet.

The foundation of his reputation was, of course, the 2002 World Series, which was one of the greatest played over the past 20 years, and which the Angels won in seven games — including the rally from 5-0 down in the seventh inning to win 6-5 in Game 6

That bought Scioscia credibility that he built on throughout the decade, and then it waned in the current decade when ownership began doing silly things like signing expensive, back-side-of-their-careers guys like Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Which wasn’t about Sosh, and neither was the tendency for Angels pitchers to have their throwing arms explode.

I liked Scioscia. He rarely lost his temper, when he wasn’t aiming it towards umpires who had made a bad call, in the manager’s opinion.

Scioscia has said he would like to return to managing, and at age 60 he has time for filling out more lineup cards.

He certainly has the experience. Though it seems the trend is towards hiring forty-somethings for Major League Baseball who are OK with stat wonks telling them who should come out of the bullpen.




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