Mike Scioscia’s Last Stand?
For over a decade now, Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia has been revered as Halo royalty for good reason. After leading the franchise to its lone World Series title, as well as becoming the winningest manager in team history it seems unfathomable that the two parties would ever sever ties. Scioscia has built his managerial legacy on taking teams with more heart than talent and having them overachieve. Yet this is not the same sort of Angel team that Scioscia has become accustomed to dealing with. This is a team stacked from top to bottom with star level talent and overflowing with power bats especially after the addition of troubled super slugger Josh Hamilton. If Los Angeles happens to have yet another disappointing year, could this be the end of the road in Anaheim for the longest tenured manager in MLB?
Since being hired after the 1999 season, Scioscia has been at the forefront of the small ball movement that swept through baseball in the aftermath of the steroid era. Manning Angel teams that were low on salary and high on energy to great success throughout his tenure. After a change in ownership and a radical shift in the franchises mindset from small town upstarts to big market players, the structure of Angel teams have evolved into an entirely different animal. Gone are the days of stealing bases and drawing walks and winning tightly contested ballgames. The team is built on the philosophy of an ultra high octane offense and a patchwork rotation behind the two elite front-line starters in Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson. This shift in perspective seemed to flummox Scioscia at times last season to the detriment of the Angels’ playoff push.
Los Angeles floundered early and often last season, only gaining momentum from the call up of Mike Trout who added the base stealing ability that Scioscia has so often craved. Still the team struggled to remain consistent throughout the year, often succumbing to patches of inefficiency that ended up dooming the Angels to a third place finish in the AL West and being on the outside looking in of the playoff picture. One has to wonder if a feeling of inertia has begun to wash over the franchise, and whether Scioscia is still able to properly motivate his players on a day to day basis and get the proper response needed out of this group of players. The end of business relationship in no means is indicative of that business failing, sometimes a fresh face in a new place makes all the difference in the world.
Mike Scioscia is no longer the de facto face of this franchise on a team now filled to the brim with star power. It would appear to be very likely that with all of the cash that has been pumped into the creation of this squad, continued underachievement will not be tolerated for very long. A key storyline of this upcoming season will be how Scioscia adapts and whether he is able to thrive in this new situation. The stakes will only be higher with the addition of Hamilton, and Albert Pujols may not have very long left as a near elite hitter in this league, the time and expectation to win is now. The art of managing is the same song and dance it has been for over a century, it just remains to be seen whether Mike Scioscia can learn some new steps before it is too late.