Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Scioscia continues to drive Angels' ship
By Arash Markazi
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia doesn't like change very much.
He has lived in Westlake Village, a quaint community on the Los Angeles and Ventura county line, for 20 years. He has continued to live there with his wife, Anne, and make the 140-mile round-trip commute to and from Angel Stadium on game days despite working a stone's throw from some of the most sought-after real estate in Southern California.
He also is the longest-tenured manager in Major League Baseball, getting ready to wrap up his 13th season with the Angels after being hired in 1999. Two years ago, he signed a 10-year contract that runs through 2018, seemingly assuring him that he wouldn't have to make any changes in the foreseeable future.
Mike Scioscia doesn't like change and figures to be the Angels' manager for the foreseeable future.
Of course, much of that security was swiped from him this season as he has had to adjust to working with new Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto and assistant general manager Scott Servais, not to mention dealing with the new-found expectations that come with managing a payroll that ballooned to one of the biggest in baseball this offseason.
With the Angels on the outside looking in at the playoff race this entire season, there had been some speculation that Scioscia's job might not be as secure as it once was. That speculation was put to rest Saturday when Angels owner Arte Moreno said Scioscia and Dipoto would return regardless of what happens in the team's remaining games.
When I asked Scioscia about coming back next season, he smiled, "That's last week's news. Did you hear the price of a gallon [of gas] is over four dollars, too?"
Considering the price of a gallon of gas was about $1.40 when he was hired, that probably speaks to his longevity better than anything else.
The bigger question is what took Moreno so long to make the public declaration if Scioscia knew "long ago" that he was coming back.
"I couldn't say anything because it wasn't a question for me," he told me.
Fair enough, but is this still the team Scioscia wants to manage given the way he was essentially left out in the cold by his owner, at least publicly, when many questioned his job security? Remember, this is after Moreno and Dipoto already fired Scioscia's close friend and longtime hitting coach, Mickey Hatcher, on May 15 against his wishes.
"I'm passionate. This is where I want to be," Scioscia said. "I feel very strongly that I love this opportunity and Arte obviously feels the same way. There's a lot of chatter out there and we're just concentrating on baseball now."
After Wednesday night's 4-3 win over the Seattle Mariners, the Angels remained two games back with seven games to play in the chase for the final wild-card playoff spot in the American League. One person who has been keeping tabs on Scioscia and the Angels is Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, who was Scioscia's bench coach until 2005 and was the Angels' manager before Scioscia was hired. His Rays are one game behind the Angels in the race for the final wild-card spot.
"I will pat myself about one thing," Maddon told me recently. "When he first came on board I said he will be here for at least 10 years. People were asking me about my situation and I said, 'Listen, this guy is good and he's going to be here for at least 10 years if he wants to.' He has obviously exceeded that. It doesn't surprise me. The most significant thing an organization can do is to keep one guy in that manager's chair regarding continuity."
Maddon gives Moreno credit when it comes to giving Scioscia that continuity even if Scioscia is on the verge of missing his third straight postseason, which would be his longest drought with the Angels after becoming the first manager to reach the playoffs in six of his first 10 seasons.
"The ownership is important," Maddon said. "Arte's the best. He's always treated me well and all the front-office people I've had great relationships with, but Scioscia has really provided stability. Before that when I was there, it was a revolving chair and a revolving managerial situation. Their ballpark is one of the best ballparks in baseball. When I first started there you might get 15,000 a night when it was enclosed and it sat 50,000. Now it's packed almost every night with red. It's a tremendous cultural shift."
It's a cultural shift that will continue to be spearheaded by Scioscia for the foreseeable future and one he hopes will result in a playoff berth and perhaps even a World Series as early as this season if the Angels can find a way to sneak into the postseason.
"Some things stalled last year. We didn't quite get there the year before," Scioscia said last week. "We want to be here for this championship we feel is going to come. I want to be part of this."