There is a new entry on the extinct species list: the Scioscia apologist. As of today, I am done. Done with sticking up for Mike Scioscia. In the struggles of the last few years there have been few who have defended Scioscia as ardently as I have. But now I must relent and admit that it is now time for the Angels to fire Mike Scioscia.
And I mean that literally they need to fire him *now.* Today. This morning. This hour. This minute. At least if the Halos are clinging to any hope of salvaging their season.
In my many defenses of Scioscia I have said that he is one of the top managers in the game. Like all managers, he has flaws, but his strengths greatly outweigh them. I still mostly believe that to be true. He just isn't right for this team anymore and the longer Dipoto and Moreno wait to admit that, the more damage they do to the already tenuous long-term viability of the Angel franchise.
Make no mistake, Mike Scioscia is going to be fired. This will be his last season at the helm of the Angels. It is a question of when, not if. And the when is critically important. Some have suggested that Arte Moreno has too much respect for Scioscia to let him be fired mid-season. That would be a mistake. As we've seen in Pujols and Hamilton in recent years, even the best players in the world go through bizarre, inexplicable slumps. Well, so do managers.
The once unimpeachable Scioscia is rapidly turning into a parody of himself. As the SciosciaFace meme pokes fun at, Mike was a model of consistency; an unflappable, calming and confident presence in the dugout. His hackneyed but effective mantra of "one game at a time" buoyed the Angels for years, but now it is becoming his undoing and Scioscia placid demeanor is beginning to crack.
Just 31 games into the season and we have already seen Scioscia pull out every trick in his bag as he tries to deal with the ridiculous amount of injuries and bad luck the team has suffered, elements that are all beyond his control yet still incumbent upon him to deal with. The closed door meeting? Been there done that. Standing behind a badly struggling star despite an outcry to do something with him? Check. Giving a player mire in a long slump a "mental day off?" Done and done. Juggling the bullpen roles? Absolutely.
The problem is that none of his usual gambits have worked, not even a little bit which is why the Halos must let Scioscia go. Even Mike seems to have lost confidence in himself. With his normal tactics failing him, he has resorted to strategies that fly in the face of his standard philosophy. The most obvious of which is the confounding lack of aggression when it comes to the Angels stealing bases. He's also even started contradicting himself. He spent all off-season saying how he would keep Trout in the leadoff role only to go back on that a few weeks into the season and then doubled down on the move by emphatically stating that Trout is in the two-hole for good.
Some of his more curious moves, like Trout in the two-hole or Richards moving back to the bullpen, do smack of desperation but they also are well-intentioned and, at least on paper, the correct move. But those and his other moves have been met with, to be generous, mixed results. The Angels keep losing and the loss of control from Scioscia has become evident. The moment I knew Sosh had finally passed the point of no return was last week when he suffered some kind of brain fart by heading out to the mound to remove Nick Mardone from the game despite it being a 3-1 count, which of course he couldn't do because he sent the pitching coach out to talk to Maronde at the beginning of that at-bat. Not only was that stupid and embarrassing, it also made no sense as, even with Maronde struggling, a dangerous lefty was up next and Scioscia was making the call to the pen to bring in a fringy righty, Barry Enright. That blew up in his face, just like most everything else this season.
Now he is just doing things that are clearly stupid for the sake of seeming like he is trying to make things happen. Just this weekend he ordered J.B. Shuck to lay down a sac bunt in the late innings of a game where the Angels trailed by two. He did this with a 3-1 count. A 3-1 COUNT. Oh, and the pitcher on the mound was struggling mightily to find the zone. The Halos did tie the game, but giving up that out also cost them an out that could have been instrumental to them actually taking the lead.
Perhaps his most unforgivable offense is his insistence on letting the ailing Albert Pujols play the field. Pujols is in so much pain he can barely run and is struggling to hit. If ever there was a someone who need to DH, it is Pujols, but there he is manning first base almost every day. Not for Scioscia apparently who in some attempt at naive belief that he can get Albert's bat going by allowing the veteran star to maintain his normal routine by playing the field, even if it hastens the disintegration of his body.
There is no arguing it. Scioscia has lost his mojo. One could even argue that his "mojo" is now sitting in the Tampa Bay dugout, but that is a different story for a different time. The point is that Scioscia is not going to be the one to pull the Halos out of this downward spiral. The Scioscia way would actually be to let Scioscia keep managing until he gets out of his mental slump, and brings the team with him. They can't afford to do that though. The Angels clearly take their cues from Scioscia. As he panics and loses confidence, so do his players who have become a mental mess on the field making uncharacteristic fielding errors, regularly run into outs and are generally making inexcusable mental errors on an almost daily basis. They are a team lost in the desert and Scioscia is their Moses.
As dreary as this all sounds, I don't think that the vultures circling overhead should ready themselves to swoop down to eat away at the Halos' carcass. They can survive this, just not with Scioscia. The Scioscia way to handle this situation would simply be to "turn the page" on their past errors, say some encouraging words to Scioscia and wait for him to work his way out of his managerial slump. Alas, the Angels no longer have the margin of error to allow that to happen. They are about to enter a 29-game stretch of their schedule that is far and away the easiest part of their schedule this season. They absolutely must start winning and winning a lot immediately. That seems unlikely to happen with Scioscia screwing things up. That is why he must be fired today, an off day, giving him no chance to muck up even one game of this all-important 29-game set.
It will be a shame to see him cut loose in such unceremonious fashion, but if the Angels don't go off on a big winning streak over the next five weeks, they are going to miss the playoffs and Scioscia will be fired at the end of the season this way. At least by firing him now the club can at least make one last run at a post-season berth in 2013 rather than standing pat and watching the season slowly circle the drain.
Whenever the Angels do get around to parting ways with Scioscia, I have no doubt he will land on his feet and find success once again. At his core he is too smart and too revered not to lead another winner. He just doesn't have it in him anymore to do that in Anaheim. In light of that, I fully realize that firing Scioscia is a desperate act. But the Angels are a desperate team mired in the worst start in franchise history and carrying a flawed roster that is inflexible because of all the contracts they've doled and the prospects that they don't have. There are no other options at their disposal. It is either fire Scioscia now or resign themselves to the death of the 2013 season and probably a season or two after that.
Sorry, Mike. But it is time for you to go.