Mike Scioscia is the Angels’ problem.
And no one wants to say it, let alone hear it.
After all, Saint Mike is as loved as they come around here in sports. The daughter bought a refrigerator from Howard’s because Mike says that’s where you should shop.
He might wear red but he’s been true blue Southern California since making his plucky debut with the Dodgers in 1980.
He’s the rock-solid former catcher, nitty-gritty and a roadblock at home plate willing to sacrifice his body for the good of our favorite team.
Tommy loved him, and so did everyone back in a time when everyone loved their Dodgers.
Scioscia left the organization like a man when it became clear the new sheriff in town, General Manager Kevin Malone, didn’t value his talents as a potential major league manager.
As a result, Scioscia became an even more sympathetic figure, the one that got away.
Most folks believe he would have made the perfect Dodgers manager; so many imperfect ones failing thereby leaving no room for argument.
He goes to Anaheim, the Angels win a World Series, the team is bought and the new owner, Arte Moreno, eventually extends Scioscia’s contract through 2018.
That makes Scioscia the most secure, untouchable and therefore the most powerful manager in the game.
More than all of that, of course, Sciosch is a terrific guy with a nickname that makes him sound so cuddly and lovable.
Throw in an engaging personality, self-deprecating humor, a sense of community, and by all accounts he’s also the consummate family man. What a guy.
Oh, and he’s also a control freak.
When a woman at the Mini Gourmet in Placentia asked the other day if I had heard who the next Angels GM might be, I said the old one was still there.
She thought she had breaking news, telling me Tony Reagins was leaving the Angels, like he was ever there in the first place.
When I told her Scioscia was the GM and responsible for the Angels’ poor showing, she didn’t want to hear it. It was the same with her friend, both professing their love for Sciosch and wanting no part of anything that might be critical of him.
But while Reagins was here, he didn’t matter. Never did.
Mike Scioscia was the Angels GM. Always has been, while gaining more power with each passing year because of his long-term contract and Moreno’s obvious affection for him.
If the Angels were serious about getting rid of their general manager and going in a different direction, then why lop the head off the puppet?
How about the guy pulling the strings?
Most managers in baseball regard their GMs as their bosses, but do you really think Scioscia answered to Reagins?
There is media talk now of hiring a “creative” general manager who might exchange ideas with Scioscia.
There is no such thing as an exchange of ideas with Scioscia, who has his way. Hire someone strong and he’s going to butt heads with the strong manager, and don’t forget the strong and emotional owner. Talk about Angels fireworks.
There is an air of invincibility that surrounds Scioscia, his popularity one thing and his reputation as one of the game’s top managers yet another.
But is he one of the game’s top managers? Still?
Terry Francona won two World Series titles in his eight years on the job competing in the super-competitive American League East Division, and apparently left Boston because he couldn’t get to his players anymore.
Scioscia has been on the job 11 years; his one-game-at-a-time drumbeat the same year after year. When it came time to hear the battle cry this year, the Angels did not respond.
The Angels, who annually feature one of the league’s higher payrolls, compete in the only four-team division in baseball, a built-in advantage for making the playoffs.
The manager of the Angels, whoever it is, should win his share of division titles.
The Angels are in a division that includes Oakland and Seattle, which pretty much makes it a two-team race to win the division or secure a wild-card berth.
And yet the last two years the Angels, a combined 166-158, have failed to reach the postseason.
They have arguably one of the best managers in the game and starting pitching that most teams cannot match, but a year ago they finished 10 games out and this year they finished 10 out.
Some say the Angels lacked talent this year, but do you really believe the team on the field was a byproduct of Reagins’ decision making?
Even if Reagins and Scioscia discussed everything, who do you think had the final say?
How good a year did Scioscia have in the dugout? Is that ever open to examination?
A strong-willed GM, with the ability to tell Moreno his emotions are getting the best of him and that Scioscia’s stubbornness needs to chill, is probably just what the Angels need to get on track.
But who is everyone kidding? It’s not going to happen.
Scioscia has an 11-year head start on any new GM and seven years remaining on his contract as the voice of the Angels. As much as Moreno likes to think it’s his team, it’s really Scioscia’s team.
You see it happen in the NFL all the time. A head coach becomes successful in football, and as he does so he gains more power, knowing his success comes from controlling who plays and who doesn’t play.
Eventually he is working as both coach and GM, maybe someone else maintaining the title of GM but everyone knowing who is in complete control.
So bring on the Angels’ next puppet.