Scioscia's success extends beyond numbers
TEMPE, Ariz. -- While looking through the rankings of active Major League managers, you're going to find that Mike Scioscia of the Angels is fifth in victories, but that he has a higher winning percentage (.550) than any of the managers above him on the list.
Scioscia's record is remarkable, but it may not be accorded enough recognition. He has won a World Series championship, two American League Manager of the Year Awards and five of the past seven AL West division titles. Entering 2011 with 980 career victories, at some point early in the season, he will become just the 23rd Major League manager to record 1,000 wins with one team.
This is good stuff. But despite the fact that the Angels are a major-market Los Angeles/Anaheim/SoCal franchise, they do much of their best work after much of America has gone to bed. Scioscia's work probably requires a steady gaze for full appreciation.
On a broader level than even the won-loss record, the Angels during Sciocsia's tenure -- this will be his 12th season -- have become known for playing an aggressive, alert, intelligent style of baseball, which is centered on truly putting the opposition on the defensive. Call it little ball, small ball, or, in a tribute to a time when the leagues were more different than they are how, "National League ball," it has worked for the Angels. And now, in the post-steroid era, much of baseball is coming back to the classic baseball virtues that the Angels have been utilizing all along under Scioscia.
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There is a sense in contemporary professional sports that the longer a manager or head coach lasts in his job, the more likely that he will become ineffective. The players are far less likely than their predecessors to take orders without question; some players' agents organize mutinies as a hobby. But the record is going to show that Scioscia's leadership has not eroded over time.
He manages to strike a balance between encouraging his players to enjoy their work, and, on the other hand, being a manager who is clearly in charge. This was noticed immediately this spring by veteran outfielder Vernon Wells, who had come to the Angels in a trade with the Blue Jays. Wells spotted an upbeat clubhouse atmosphere that he said "starts with Scioscia." On the other hand, it was also clear, Wells said, who was in charge and how.
"There are three things Mike Scioscia expects from you," Wells said. "He expects you to practice hard, he expects you to prepare and he expects you to play hard. If you follow those three rules, you'll be just fine in his book."
What has further enhanced Scioscia's reputation is the success of men who have been on his coaching staff and then moved up to be managers. Joe Maddon of the Rays and Bud Black of the Padres have won Manager of the Year awards. Another former coach on Scioscia's staff, Ron Roenicke, began managing the Brewers this spring.
Scioscia is definitely not inclined toward self-promotion. In this situation, he takes no credit whatsoever, giving the credit instead to former Angels general manager, now senior advisor, Bill Stoneman, who assembled the coaching staff.
"I'm happy for them, but it's not personal satisfaction," Scioscia said. "I'm happy for them that they're getting the opportunity to do something they love. I think Bill Stoneman's the guy who put that staff together. He did an incredible job, when you talk about keeping Joe, understanding what Joe's impact would be, hiring Buddy, hiring Ron, all our staff. Bill's really the one who had the final voice in putting that staff together. I think, if anything, there is some satisfaction that he made some terrific choices."
In the same way, Scioscia isn't taking credit for his former coaches having success managing the game in much the same way he manages it.
"We have similar philosophies, but it's not the philosophy, it's being able to implement the philosophy," Scioscia says. "So you have to go all the way to our player development system, all the coaches there, and everything we do as a staff. I think that's where the proof is in the pudding, being able to implement a philosophy. Yeah, we all have a similar philosophy, but they've been able to implement it as well as we have here."
No matter who gets the credit, this style of play, this style of managing, gains further credibility with each former member of Scioscia's coaching staff who is hired to manage and then makes good in a big way.
"My style of managing is, really, what we did with the Angels," Roenicke says. "Mike Scioscia and I have been friends for a long time. We worked together in the Dodgers organization and we talked a lot about strategy, about what we thought was the right way to do things. When I came on board with Mike and the Angels, that's what we were doing. So our style didn't change whole a lot.
"The only thing that changed was, over 11 years of watching Major League players, some things that you can do in the Minor Leagues, you really can't do in the Major Leagues because the players are just that much better. So really the style hasn't changed at all. Sometimes your personnel dictates how much you can do. And we had that through the 11 years. We had some teams that we could do a lot with in certain areas and other teams that we couldn't."
In this way, Scioscia has become not only very successful, but very influential. He won't take one nickel's worth of credit, but the record says that he has had an obviously positive impact, an impact that has extended well beyond the Angels.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.