I linked to it earlier this morning, but I think it merits further discussion and investigation. Could Mike Scioscia someday be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager? So many fans and experts alike consider Scioscia to be amongst the elite bench bosses in the game today, but with only 17 managers ever being elected to Cooperstown, Scioscia is going to have to end his career with a pretty impressive resume. Is his current body of work even close to good enough and what, if anything, must he do if he really wants his portly visage to appear on a plaque in the Hall of Fame?
Is winning the Angels their only championship enough, or does Sosh need to win it again to get to Cooperstown?
There are very few Angels fans that don’t think Mike Scioscia is a great manager. In fact, he might be the best asset the Angel franchise has in their possession (at least until Mike Trout arrives, he said hoping he didn’t just jinx it). My biased brain tells me that Sosh has as good a shot as any at becoming a Hall of Fame manager, but the bar is set to high that I don’t know if it will actually come to pass.
Consider this: there are only 19 managers elected to the Hall of Fame in the decades upon decades of history of baseball. And of those 19, only three were elected in this century (Sparky Anderson, Billy Southworth and Dick Williams) and only Anderson and Tommy Lasorda have been active managers in the last 20 years. In other words, there are no Bert Blylevens in the HoF Managers wing, only the greatest of the great get in. So, sorry Sosh, but finally making the Angel franchise relevant just isn’t going to cut, you’ve got to compile plenty of stats to make your case.
Looking at the profiles of the current managerial inductees though, it sure seems like Scioscia has a pretty good chance of joining the elite club. First and foremost, longevity goes a long, long way. 11 of the managers spent 20 or more years on the bench and everyone but Southworth managed for 16 or more seasons. In that respect, Scioscia should be just fine since he already has 11 seasons under his belt and seems to have carte blanche from Arte Moreno to manage the Halos for as long as he wants. Heck, Scioscia even has a contract that locks him in through 2018. With that in mind, he’d have to steer the Angels into the ground in the next four seasons to not see a 16th year running the Angels, and even then, some other club would probably hire him in a heartbeat. It seems to me that Scioscia is as close to a sure thing as there is to manage 20-plus seasons.
Of course we all know that winning is important as well. For Scioscia, so far, so good. His .550 career winning percentage ranks him 36th amongst qualifying managers. That isn’t eye-popping, but it is still pretty good, especially since Sosh is managing in the modern era. To put that in a proper frame of reference, Scioscia is fourth amongst active managers trailing Joe Girardi (four seasons, barely counts), Charlie Manuel and Ron Gardenhire. That also places him ahead of contemporary greats like Tony LaRussa, Lou Pinella and Joe Torre and just barely behind Bobby Cox. The only problem here is that Scioscia is likely to come back to the pack. Logic simply dictates that he will probably call it quits after having a downturn in his results. If he can keep his winning percentage greater that .525, he should still be able to consider that a point in his favor. Add that to his overall win total, which is currently at 980, ranking him 59th all-time, and Scioscia should have wins covered, especially with a conservative estimation that Scioscia averages 75 wins over the next six seasons, easily pushing him into the top 25 in total managerial wins.
Where things start to get a little murky for Scioscia is the types of wins he gets, namely World Series wins. Out of the 19 HoF managers, all but four have World Series rings and 12 of them have multiple championships on their resume. The good news for Sosh is that he doesn’t have to rattle off seven World Series titles like Casey Stengel. When it comes to championships in the modern era, two World Series rings is probably enough. That’s how many Lasorda and Williams have and they are in. Sparky has three and Earl Weaver only has one. What should really be a tell-tale sign for Scioscia is what happens with Tom Kelly and Cito Gaston, who both have two WS wins. If they both get in, despite having somewhat less sterling reputations that Scioscia, Sosh should stand a good chance with his one title. Of course, there is no guarantee that Scioscia will win another World Series, much less appear in one. In fact, Scioscia probably doesn’t stand a chance if he doesn’t gain entry to another Fall Classic. Every HoF manager has a minimum of two appearances and 14 of them have four-plus World Series appearances, including contemporaries like Lasorda, Williams and Weaver who all have four each.
At this point it is pretty clear that Scioscia’s Hall of Fame case will be made or broken based on what he does in the playoffs, as well it should. He’s gotten his team to the post-season plenty, but history isn’t going to be as impressed by that as it once was since the Wild Card is now in play, and educated voters will likely remember that the AL West was a relatively weak division during Scioscia’s first decade at the helm (though it is shaping up nicely for the next few years). But even with those playoff appearances, reaching the ALCS three times isn’t all that impressive at this point. If Scioscia doesn’t at least get his team two more pennants, I’m not sure he will even get serious consideration. Does one pennant in 15 to 20 years sound impressive to you? But a few more pennants might not even be enough if he doesn’t win another World Series. Even in this modern era of 30 teams, crazy free agency and an extra round of post-season play, two World Series rings seems like it is going to establish itself as the bare minimum.
Finally, there is one more interesting wrinkly to Scioscia’s candidacy and that is the managers who will come up for election before him. Joe Torre and Bobby Cox both retired this last year and seem like virtual locks for the Hall of Fame. In addition to those two, Lou Pinella and Cito Gaston recently called it quits as well and should at least merit some consideration. And in the coming years, other managing greats like Tony LaRussa and Jim Leyland figure to come up on the ballot. Considering how stingy Cooperstown has been on letting managers in, they might get even more picky over the next decade. Torre, Cox and LaRussa all should get in, which might put Scioscia in the unfortunate position of coming up for election right around the time when the voters get tired of letting managers into the Hall. As crazy as it sounds, that means that a second championship may not quite be enough to get Scioscia in unless he also then tacks on a few additional pennants on to his record after that second hypothetical World Series win. It is a pretty high bar, but not one that Scioscia can’t clear, but it definitely won’t be easy, nor should it be. This is the Hall of Fame we are talking about after all.