When matters seem dire, like after young pitcher Nick Adenhart and two friends were tragically killed in a car accident last April, that’s when Angels manager Mike Scioscia is at his best.
It took every bit of courage and calm to keep his team on a steady course, while one of his own was laid to rest.
It’s true that Scioscia had talent in center fielder Torii Hunter, and right fielder/designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero, along with pitcher John Lackey, to help weather the storm. That the club finished 97-65 and won the American League West was remarkable. Adding spice to the cake was the fact that the Angels finally knocked off their longtime playoff nemesis the Boston Red Sox in three games, before losing to the New York Yankees in the AL Championship Series.
Prior to Scioscia arriving in Anaheim for the 2000 season, the Angels had been to the playoffs in 1979, 1982 and 1986, losing each time. Further, much of their history was filled with losing records and sparse crowds.
This all changed once Scioscia came on board, and his clubs have finished first in the AL West five times, and is still the team to beat in the division as the season begins this week.
The highlight had to be the magical summer of 2002, when as a wild card the Angels downed the Yankees, and then the Minnesota Twins in the ALCS. Once there, the Angels faced the San Francisco Giants, who had Barry Bonds, a power-hitter deluxe, and Jeff Kent, one of the best second baseman of all time.
The result was an exciting seven-game World Series that saw the Angels win their only title. In Game 6, the Angels rallied and forced a deciding Game 7.
Like his playing days with the Dodgers when Scioscia was a two-time All-Star, he’s been steady and sure, encountering only one losing season as skipper.
That by itself is impressive, because Scioscia’s entering his 11th season at the helm. His .556 winning percentage has become a standard in the industry, and he now ranks among the very best managers in baseball.
Not flashy, Scioscia, a two-time Manager of the Year, says what’s on his mind, and goes about his work in lunch-pail style.
Six times the Angels have won 90 games or more, and claimed 100 victories during the 2008 season.
It all began for Scioscia in 1976, when he was drafted by the Dodgers in the first round with the 19th pick.
In a 13 year career, Scioscia knew how to handle a bat and a catcher’s glove. But his specialty was blocking the plate, and taking an oncoming runner’s best shot. His violent collision with Jack Clark at Dodger Stadium is still talked about, and so is his game-tying, ninth-inning homer off New York’s Dwight Gooden in Game 4 of the NLCS in 1988.
That blast set in motion an improbable comeback, as the Dodgers defeated the Mets in seven games, before handing the heavily-favored Oakland Athletics a five-game setback in the World Series.
When Scioscia, a .259 lifetime hitter retired after the 1992 season, he was being groomed to replace Tommy Lasorda as Dodgers manager.
That never happened, and he ended up wearing the colors of the Angels. It was a bad move for the Dodgers, and a great one for the Halos.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a contributor to trufanboxing.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org