Welcome to Second Guessing Scioscia, our look back at some of the questionable decisions that Mike Scioscia made in the last week. And, boy, there are some questionable decisions to be reviewed. In the history of this column, we have never once struggled for content. However, we aren’t anti-Scioscia, but we aren’t exactly pro-Scioscia either. In particular, we believe his in-game tactics need some help and we are here to provide that help by nitpicking them incessantly and grading them with our patented SciosciaFace grading system.
In this week’s edition of Second Guessing Scioscia we take a break from the in-game tactics and focus on all of Scioscia’s preaching about the Angels’ “baseball philosophy.”
Philosophy or Philoso-me?
If Mike Scioscia is to be believed, and really, why wouldn’t we believe him? He’s not going to be involved in the process of selecting a GM. Via the OC Register:
“I don’t plan on being part of any selection committee,” Scioscia said. “I know the role of a manager in an organization, and I love that part of it. It’s not to go pick a GM.”
That’s great news! He’s supposedly the biggest thing that is going to scare away GM candidates. If he’s out of the way, there is nothing stopping the Halos from hiring the most qualified person for the job, except for a meddling, megalomaniacal owner, but that’s a story for a different time. All of our problems are solved!
/puts hands in pockets, casually strolls away while whistling
Oh, wait, I think I missed something. When Scioscia said he wouldn’t be involved, he actually meant he would TOTALLY be involved, from that same OC Register article:
“We’ve talked baseball for a long time, so I don’t think there’s any questions from John or Arte about what our baseball philosophy is and what we need to do to keep moving forward,” Scioscia said. “And obviously if any potential GM wants to have those conversations with me, obviously I’d love that, just to make sure that they’re comfortable with being on the same page.”
So, if you read between the lines here, we see that Scioscia while definitely, completely not involved in the GM interviewing process will definitely, completely be involved in setting the hiring criteria for hiring the new GM. He just won’t be doing any of the interviewing himself. We know this because he and the organization (which is him, Arte, the Carpino puppet and no one else) are looking to hire someone who will implement “our” (which again encompasses only Scioscia, Moreno and the animatronic Carpino-bot) philosophy.
They aren’t looking for someone to create a new philosophy or shape the existing philosophy. The only want someone who is “comfortable with being on the same page.” This is a page that Scioscia is already on and even though he loves to “turn the page,” it isn’t a page he is particularly keen on moving off of. He isn’t talking about meeting with prospective candidates to “get on the same page,” a common term which implies compromise. He is talking about having the candidate being comfortable with being on the aforementioned page which Scioscia has already chosen, written and published. Via the LA Times:
“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.”
This is the exact sort of thing that is creating industry rumblings that the Angels GM gig is an undesirable one. In the Angels’ newfound 2015 tradition of being completely tone deaf in the media, I actually think that Scioscia and the hand that he had up Carpino’s butt thought that these comments were going to assuage those fears, not confirm them. Instead of convincing candidates that he doesn’t hold more organizational power than most managers, he inadvertently proved that he did have more power than he should, but at least he made it sound as if there wouldn’t be any GM-manager strife so long as the GM does things the way Scioscia wants them done.
I, for one, am SO glad Scioscia chose “not to be involved in the process.”
What exactly is the philosophy?
So we’ve established that Scioscia’s philosophy shall soon be implemented unencumbered in 2016. That’s pretty significant because it means that the team can be remade in that image starting this winter. Make no mistake, the current roster is very much NOT built in the image of Scioscia (and I don’t mean that in the sense that they lack rotund physique’s). No, Scioscia wants new players that fit the philosophy. Again, via the same LA Times article:
“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.”
Yep, now it is time to go and get “Scioscia guys” to fill out the big league roster AND the minor league. But what exactly makes a Scioscia guy?
Honestly, you just need to look to the past to learn that. For all of Scioscia’s bluster about how much he has evolved in the wake of Dipoto’s resignation, he is still pretty much the same guy, maybe with a few minor evolutionary enhancements like being willing to use a left-handed reliever every once in awhile.
No, this is the same old Scioscia. It wasn’t that long ago that he was complaining about how the offense was too station-to-station for his liking in the wake of signing alleged sluggers Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.
This is the same old Scioscia that still has his team running the bases very aggressively even though this lineup has very little speed outside of Trout and Pujols. That’s one of the big reasons the Angels have by far the worst stolen base success rate and made the third-most outs on the bases this year but also have the third-most extra bases taken. The other big reason is Gary DiSarcina being bad at his job.
This is the same old Scioscia that still believes in smallball things like sac bunts (40 sac bunt attempts and counting this year) and hit and runs (third-most attempts in the AL this year).
This is the same old Scioscia that still is so firmly entrenched in the idea of managing the bullpen according to the inning number that he installed Trevor Gott into the “seventh inning role” despite him being totally unproven and achieving all of his early success through smoke and mirrors.
This is the same old Scioscia that thought the solution to the Angels’ offensive woes was to move Mike Trout down a spot in the order where he would get fewer plate appearance and Johnny Giavotella would get a ton more plate appearances.
On the surface, these are not great things. However, they are almost exactly the things that the Royals are doing and doing very well. You can succeed building a team this way.
The problem is that it isn’t something that is going to happen overnight. Albert Pujols and C.J. Cron aren’t going to become burners anytime soon. Building up a bullpen that is so deep that Scioscia can’t mismanage it no matter how dogmatic he is about inning-based roles will take some time. And that is just on the big league roster, changing the minor league prospect pool and altering the player development strategy will require a lot of work as well.
That’s not time that the Angels really have. Arte Moreno wants to win now. Scioscia’s contract runs through 2018 (assuming he doesn’t opt-out this winter, which he won’t), so he will want to win now. The team generally needs to make sure they don’t waste Mike Trout’s prime or the last few years of Albert Pujols being not completely useless, so there is another huge incentive to win now. Whoever the new GM is thus will have to win now.
That creates a potentially dangerous situation where the team will be trying to pull off a make-over and win at the same time. If it works, everyone is going to look like a genius, if it doesn’t the result could be utterly disastrous. We’re not talking about one or two years where the Angels are mediocre, but rather five to seven years of the Angels being flat out terrible because they buried themselves in another landslide of bad contracts and gutted the already sparsely talented farm system.
So it really isn’t that the philosophy is unto itself a bad one, it is more that the Angels just are so far off from being in line with that philosophy that getting in line could mean the club’s ruin.