As the Angels' magic number creeps uncomfortably toward 2016, there is a new kind of urgency in Anaheim. The scoreboard on Mike Trout's career soon could read four and zero — four seasons in the major leagues, all at an MVP level, all without the Angels winning a postseason game.
The man most responsible for changing that is — well, that position remains vacant. The Angels are in the process of interviewing candidates to become their general manager, and club President John Carpino would like to make one thing perfectly clear.
"Mike Scioscia will not be involved in the GM selection process," Carpino said.
There are any number of ways to define "involved" or "process." The bottom line is this: If the Angels do not involve Scioscia in the process in some way, they are setting themselves up for failure, and for another few years of the kind of dysfunction that could persuade Trout to start counting down toward free agency in 2020.
The perception is that this is Scioscia's kingdom, that he has outlasted three general managers, that the incoming fourth ought to enter warily. The reality is that, when Scioscia told reporters in Oakland last week that he would not be involved in the selection process, he said the organization must "be philosophically on the same page."
Carpino said he agreed with Scioscia's comments, and on the surface that makes sense. But, when we asked Scioscia on Wednesday what went into an organizational philosophy, he went far beyond making out a lineup card.
"Philosophy is a broad term," Scioscia said. "It encompasses, certainly, how you are going to recruit talent, the free-agent draft, free agents, international scouting, and the development process."
Scioscia said he does not need to join Carpino — and owner Arte Moreno and interim General Manager Bill Stoneman — in interviewing GM candidates to rest assured the Angel Way will remain the Angel Way.
"They understand the philosophy that is in place here," Scioscia said. "To a man, everybody trusts that philosophy.
"I know those guys know the Angel perspective — how we go about playing the game, how we go about teaching the game, what's important to put into players — and I know they will search long and hard for somebody that is philosophically along the same lines."
In theory, the general manager would be the Angels' chief baseball executive. So would the general manager be responsible for setting the Angels' baseball philosophy?
"It is a collective effort," Carpino said.
This is more than a manager suggesting — and a club president essentially confirming — that the new general manager would lack unilateral autonomy to revamp the baseball operations department from top to bottom. Rare is the general manager who works without input from the owner or manager.
This also is about the specifics of how that would work here, or not work. Under Scioscia, for instance, the Angels have been relentlessly aggressive on the bases.
This year's Angels, with a roster not blessed with speed, rank in the top three in the major leagues in taking extra bases, and in making outs on the bases, according to Baseball Reference statistics through play Tuesday. They rank in the top six in going from first base to third, in the bottom six going from second to home, next-to-last in stolen bases, last in stolen-base success rate.
What if the Angels want to hire a general manager who believes that kind of philosophy leans toward the reckless rather than the aggressive, a general manager who wants his team to make its outs at bat rather than on the bases?
"What's your question?" Scioscia said. "Would I stay if something like that came into place?"
Scioscia can opt out of his contract after this season. He is not expected to do so, although he declined to address that issue Wednesday.
"I don't anticipate any philosophical change in the things we are talking about," he said. "I do anticipate better execution of it, and an understanding of what we need to put into players, and what we need to become perennial contenders again."
No matter what the limitations might be in Anaheim, there are only 30 positions as a major league general manager, so the Angels should have no shortage of candidates. They have interviewed the in-house assistants, Matt Klentak and Scott Servais. Their external candidates include New York Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler and Texas Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine. They ought to take a look at Greg Smith, the Pittsburgh Pirates' assistant GM.
Whoever the preferred candidate turns out to be, the Angels ought to sit him down with Scioscia and find out whether any philosophical gulf might be too wide to bridge. Better to find out now than to risk another general manager walking out in the middle of a season, and Trout following right behind.