Scioscia factory churns out top managers
Maddon, Black, Roenicke byproducts of former boss' leadership
SEATTLE -- Mike Scioscia remembers the conversations, the debates, the disagreements, the compromises and the solutions.
The Angels' manager, now the longest-tenured skipper in the American League, recalls the passionate discourse more than the clubhouse champagne parties, the passing of the victory cigars or the shiny, hard-earned trophies.
Five seasons have passed since Scioscia's old band of rock stars -- otherwise known as the Angels' coaching staff that won a World Series in 2002 -- began a protracted, much-publicized but amicable breakup.
The exodus of Scioscia's disciples began when his bench coach, Joe Maddon, was named manager of Tampa Bay prior to the 2006 season.
It continued when his pitching coach, Bud Black, landed the head field job with the San Diego Padres the winter before the 2007 campaign.
And it rolled along into inevitability last winter when Ron Roenicke, his bench coach and former third-base coach, earned the job of managing the Milwaukee Brewers.
Scioscia keeps losing huge parts of his team's foundation and he keeps reloading. It's become baseball's version of "The Program," a bona fide breeding ground for leadership that has already produced three of the game's bright managing minds.
Maddon, who managed the Angels as an interim skipper in 1996 and '99, went through two losing seasons before his young Rays came to fruit, going all the way to the World Series in 2008. He was named the American League Manager of the Year.
Black has navigated sometimes difficult waters in San Diego, but his underdog 2010 team won 90 games and fought eventual World Series-champion San Francisco down to the last day of the season before bowing out of the postseason race. He was named the National League Manager of the Year.
And Roenicke? All he's done is take a beefed-up Brewers club that underperformed in 2010 all the way to the biggest division lead in baseball and cement himself as a leading candidate for NL Manager of the Year Award honors right away.
When he's asked about this astounding legacy of success, Scioscia does what he always does. The former All-Star catcher puts on his figurative chest protector and deflects praise as if it were another splitter in the dirt.
"If any one person should get the credit, it should probably be Bill Stoneman," said Scioscia, mentioning the former Angels general manager and current team advisor who lured Scioscia away from the Dodgers system prior to the 2000 season.
"He did the hiring, and he knew what he wanted. He had certain qualities in mind and he put together a heck of a staff."
"My style of managing is, really, what we did with the Angels."
|-- Ron Roenicke|
That staff, which also included hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, first-base coach Alfredo Griffin and bullpen coach Bobby Ramos, operated with a veteran core of position players and a mishmash of proven starters and relievers, Minor League castoffs and high-profile prospects.
It crystallized in the organization's first World Series title, an improbable run that ended in a memorable seven-game triumph over the Barry Bonds-led Giants.
"We had a certain type of club, and we knew we had limitations," Scioscia said. "We had to operate with those limitations in mind. We knew we weren't going to hit tons of home runs, so we had to get creative. That's where all of the discussions came from, and let me tell you, there were some real hum-dandies in that room.
"We were not afraid to raise our voices, and it was all about finding ways to win. It was the product of a bunch of guys who love the game and were trying to challenge each other to get the best out of the team."
Scioscia mentions how the team used light-hitting Orlando Palmeiro in the No. 3 hole for a good month of the 2002 season, because he was the only player getting on base consistently at the time. He's done the same in ensuing years with Maicer Izturis and others.
He recalls Maddon's affinity for the five-man infield in do-or-die late-game situations in which a double play was a necessity. He recalls how the team "almost" went to a four-man outfield to face Bonds.
"We talked about everything, all the time," Scioscia said. "There was never a moment when we weren't going over various scenarios that could come up, when we would be talking about calling up certain guys from the Minors, changing batting orders, moving guys from position to position.
"There was always a great discussion on a daily basis about baseball, which was led by Mike. Mike did a great job of empowering his coaches, the whole freedom-of-speech thing, and listening to us talk about our team. It was a great dynamic from different personalities that meshed together. We had a great time with each other and enjoyed being around each other."
|-- Bud Black|
"There was always an open forum for opinions, because when you think about it, all of us were trying to figure this stuff out together. We all came in at the same time, and we were all learning from each other."
They're still learning, but Maddon, Black and Roenicke say they learned much of what they know from Scioscia.
"I loved working on that staff, because I felt like we were competent in every area of the game," Maddon said. "You felt really good working under Scioscia, because you just felt good about every game.
"We won in 2002, and many times you can't say that a coaching staff had a really big impact on it. But I think that coaching staff did. I really did. There were so many little things -- in-game moves and adjustments -- that made a difference."
Added Black: "There was always a great discussion on a daily basis about baseball, which was led by Mike. Mike did a great job of empowering his coaches, the whole freedom-of-speech thing, and listening to us talk about our team. It was a great dynamic from different personalities that meshed together. We had a great time with each other and enjoyed being around each other."
Roenicke saw it for more than a decade and tried to emulate it as soon as he walked in the clubhouse of Milwaukee's Spring Training complex at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix.
"My style of managing is, really, what we did with the Angels," Roenicke said.
"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 a whole lot.
"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."
"I loved working on that staff, because I felt like we were competent in every area of the game. You felt really good working under Scioscia, because you just felt good about every game.
|-- Joe Maddon|
The Scioscia style begins with consistency.
Scioscia arrives in Spring Training every year and tells his team that there are three rules players must adhere to when putting on a uniform under his watch: be on time, prepare and play hard. That's it.
Although "play hard" includes everything: early work, infield and batting practice. All of it.
And when players see the unwavering steadiness that their skipper strives to maintain on a daily basis, they know they have to operate on the same even keel.
"He's the type of guy that if you're 0-for-5 or 5-for-5, won 20 in a row or lost 20, his dog got hit by a car on the way to the stadium, whatever the case, you'd never know," said former Angels outfielder Darin Erstad, another Scioscia product who has landed a top job -- head coach of the University of Nebraska baseball team.
"He showed up at the park the same way every day and created the right frame of mind for his players to go out there and play with the same level of intensity night in and night out."
One way he did it was by having "more knowledge of the game than just about anybody I've ever seen, including the umpires," according to Angels right fielder Torii Hunter.
"Seriously, second to the Holy Bible, the baseball rulebook is Mike Scioscia's other Bible," Hunter says.
"He knows every single rule in there because he's constantly studying it. It's unbelievable. He's always telling the umpires about this rule or that rule, and it's kind of like the college kid who points out stuff that the professor didn't know. Sometimes the umpires don't react to it so well."
Catcher Jeff Mathis, who has stayed with the organization because of his defensive prowess and ability to work with pitchers, recognized early that Scioscia valued the pitcher-catcher relationship more than anything else in the game.
"He learned it with the Dodgers and carries it out here," Mathis said. "When you think about it, the game doesn't start until the pitcher throws the ball, so what goes on between the pitcher and the catcher really dictates how your team and your organization will be built.
"He recognizes that, and he works with us catchers all the time on getting better because he sees it as the foundation for a team."
So who's next?
Will it be Hatcher? Pitching coach Mike Butcher? New bench coach Rob Picciolo? Third-base coach Dino Ebel? Who will be the next Scioscia product to land a big league managing job?
Scioscia smiles when asked if it's a constant burden of sorts, knowing that any time he spends with a particular group of coaches could be fleeting because the rest of baseball is watching and waiting to poach the talent of one of baseball's strongest leadership-development pipelines.
"I don't think of it that way, but it does get to a point where you realize you're working with extraordinary baseball minds, and at some point they're going to get opportunities to take those talents to the level they deserve to be at," Scioscia said.
"The best thing about it is we're all friends first. That will never change."