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Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Position previews: Manager and coaches

By Mark Saxon

The other day on the MLB Network, they did a special with Mike Scioscia and the three other major-league managers who came off his initial staff: Joe Maddon, Ron Roenicke and Bud Black.

That's an impressive coaching tree for a manager who, while now the longest-tenured in baseball, has only been at this since 2000. Two of Scioscia's disciples (Maddon and Roenicke) have reached the playoffs and two (Maddon and Black) have won Manager of the Year.

That group had a special dynamic, because Scioscia and Roenicke brought the Dodger Way -- good fundamentals, an emphasis on pitching and catching and small ball -- with them. The two outsiders, Black and Maddon, were willing to challenge the manager when they had conflicting ideas.

Has the attrition cost the Angels over the last couple of years? You don't take an innovator like Maddon away from a team and not feel it. You don't remove solid baseball men like Roenicke and Black and not feel a void. Has the conversation become less vibrant with the current staff? Is there as much creative tension as in the early days?

Quite possibly, but the Angels still have Scioscia, whose teams typically out-perform their projections. They still have one of the best infield teachers in the game, Alfredo Griffin, and respected coaches in Mike Butcher, Mickey Hatcher, Dino Ebel, Rob Picciolo and Steve Soliz.

Under the previous general manager, Tony Reagins, Scioscia enjoyed far-reaching power few managers can boast -- over trades, free-agent signings, even minor league personnel -- but his purview figures to shrink under Jerry Dipoto, who was given more authority by owner Arte Moreno. That could be a good thing, allowing Scioscia to focus his skills more narrowly on relationships in his clubhouse and in-game maneuvers.

It could also go the other way if Scioscia feels he's not sufficiently challenged in the new role. He's signed through 2018, but there's nothing to prevent him from exploring other jobs or opting to retire early.

Presuming things remain stable, the Angels might have finally found the right balance between the manager's office and the front office. It certainly doesn't feel like a lack of leadership will be the undoing of this club.