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November 9, 2010

On the Beat

Scioscia's Tree is Branching Out

by John Perrotto

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When ESPN.com's Jayson Stark went about determining who the best manager in the major leagues was last January, he ultimately decided on the Angels' Mike Scioscia. Though Scioscia might stay out of the spotlight while honing his craft in Orange County, he is certainly worthy of being considered the best in his profession as he has taken to his teams to the postseason six times his 11 years on the job.

The rest of baseball must think Scioscia does things right. He will have three former coaches managing in the major leagues next season now that the Brewers have hired Ron Roenicke to join the Rays' Joe Maddon and the Padres' Bud Black. Roenicke succeeded Maddon as the Angels' bench coach while Black served as the Angels' pitching coach.

Maddon couldn't be happier for his successor. Roenicke had previous interviewed for manager's jobs with the Mariners, Indians and Blue Jays without success. Like Maddon was before he went to the Rays, Roenicke is an anonymous figure with most fans.

“He’s not a self-promoting type,” Maddon said. "Never was, never will be. The Brewers did their due diligence and didn’t just rely on previous experience or a big name. It was good scouting on their part. Guys like Ron need to be found out. It’s not like Ron is going to go out there and blow his own horn to get a managerial job. I think the Brewers did a good job of finding him. I applaud them for that, I really do.”

While Roenicke might be unknown, he certainly isn't unprepared. Maddon said working for Scioscia and the Angels is excellent training ground for a future manager. Roenicke, Maddon and Black were all coaches when the Angels won the World Series in 2002, which remains the franchise's lone appearance in the fall classic.

“You had a bunch of guys there that came from good backgrounds that did things properly and did things right,” Maddon said. “They had them all there at the same time which made that particular group real good. You look at the 2002 World Series year and I think Mike and that coaching staff had a big impact on that team winning. That team was really, really good. It was a group that worked well together.”

Scioscia has long been a believer in getting opinions from his coaching staff before formulating decisions. Tim Mead, the long-time vice president of communications for the Angels, believes that is why Maddon and Black have had success as managers and why Roenicke will, too.

"The inclusion and involvement that Mike allows with them is critical,” Mead said. "They have a voice. Every day before workouts and after, in spring training, they have meetings. They have daily meetings during the season. Observations and opinions are sought after. It’s an environment that Mike has created to allow free-flow opinions. It has been one of our strengths. They go over the game every night before they leave the clubhouse. Mike’s favorite phrase is 'Let’s clean it up.' They don’t miss anything. Their attention to detail is phenomenal.”

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Getting to the World Series is a financial boon to an organization. However, don't expect the Giants to dramatically raise their payroll above last season's opening-day figure of $98 million even though they are coming off their first world championship in 56 years.

"We're always going to want to be somewhat creative," team president Larry Baer said. "We're not going to have a doubling effect or a double-digit massive increase. That's not who we are. The good news is, who we are is not going down in payroll, either."

More good news is that the Giants have their top four starting pitchers either under contract or under club control for the next two seasons in right-handers Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain and left-handers Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner. General manager Brian Sabean admitted that there were times he was tempted to trade some of that young pitching for a middle-of-the-order bat in the last two years.

"So many teams came to us wanting those guys, it was a never a situation where we went shopping of them," Sabean said. "There were some good offers but it just kept coming back to the same conclusion, everyone of our pitchers was just too good to trade. I didn't see how we were going to be a better organization by letting any of them go."

The Giants have only one reliever who is a free agent, right-hander Guillermo Mota, and he is expendable. However, first baseman Aubrey Huff, shortstop Edgar Renteria, infielder Juan Uribe and left fielder Pat Burrell are all are free agents and it is highly unlikely the Giants will re-sign all four since they already have some internal options.

Infielder Mark DeRosa missed most of last season because of elbow surgery and could wind up playing left field or third base in 2011 with Pablo Sandoval moving across the diamond to first base. Though marginalized late in the season and the postseason, outfielder Aaron Rowand still has two years left on his five-year, $60 million contract, so it's doubtful he will be a bench player. Thus, Rowand could either replace Burrell in left field or return to his old spot as the center fielder with Andres Torres moving to left.

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Ten of the players who contributed to the Twins' American League Central championship team last season are free agents. Even though the payroll went over $100 million for the first time in franchise in 2010, don't look for the Twins to re-sign all of them or replace them from outside the organization.

"In the end, yes, we have a payroll projection, and it helps if we're close to it or we hit it," GM Bill Smith said. "At the same time, sometimes decisions aren't just made because of money. We need to see if these players are able to become major-leaguers. If they are, that's wonderful. If they aren't, we need to find replacements."

One player who will benefit from Smith's desire to fill holes from within is infielder Alexi Casilla. He will move into the starting lineup next season because second baseman Orlando Hudson is a free agent and arbitration-eligible shortstop J.J. Hardy is likely to not be tendered a contract.

"It's time for us to find out if he can play or not," Smith said of Casilla. "He's been here for a while now and was good for us a couple of years ago, and not very good in 2009. He was better this year. It's time for us to find out if Alexi Casilla can play. He's going to have that opportunity."

The Twins will likely have a rebuilt bullpen, too, as left-handers Randy Flores and Brian Fuentes and right-handers Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier and Jon Rauch are free agents. Closers Joe Nathan, assuming he recovers from Tommy John surgery, and Matt Capps will be back but the Twins will likely need some pitchers already on their 40-man roster to fill spots, including left-hander Glen Perkins and right-handers Alex Burnett, Jeff Manship and Pat Neshek.

"We're going to have to piece a bullpen together," Smith said.

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The American League Rawlings Gold Glove Awards will be announced today and National League will follow on Wednesday. With that in the mind, here were the league leaders by position—remember Rawlings doesn't distinguish outfielders by position in the awards— in Fielding Runs Above Replacement this season:

American League
Pitcher
Trevor Cahill, Athletics (9)
CatcherMatt Wieters, Orioles (42)
First basemanMark Teixeira, Yankees (24)
Second basemanAaron Hill, Blue Jays (33)
Third basemanAdrian Beltre, Red Sox (39)
ShortstopAlexei Ramirez, White Sox (59)
OutfieldersB.J. Upton, Rays (41), Franklin Gutierrez, Mariners (39), Denard Span, Twins (34)

National League
PitcherTim Hudson, Braves (9)
CatcherYadier Molina, Cardinals (56)
First basemanAdrian Gonzalez, Padres (21)
Second basemanMartin Prado, Braves (34)
Third basemanPlacido Polanco, Phillies (34)
ShortstopBrendan Ryan, Cardinals (37)
OutfieldersJay Bruce, Reds (42), Drew Stubbs, Reds (39), Marlon Byrd, Cubs (34)

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MLB Rumors & Rumblings: Word going around agent circles is that Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols is seeking an eight-year, $200 million contract extension … While it seems left-hander Cliff Lee's decision will ultimately come down to either re-signing with the Rangers or jumping to the Yankees, the Nationals, Phillies and Brewers are also expected to make offers … The Rangers plan to rotate various players at designated hitter next season if they are unable to re-sign Vladimir Guerrero … The Padres have conceded they have no shot to re-sign first baseman Adrian Gonzalez when he becomes a free agent at the end of next season but plan to begin the year with him in their lineup then trade him if they fall out of contention before July 31 … The Marlins plan to listen to trade offers for second baseman Dan Uggla after he turned down a four-year, $48 million contract extension … On the free-agent designated hitter market, the Athletics are interested in Hideki Matsui and the Blue Jays have at least cursory interest in Johnny Damon … The Tigers are aggressively pursuing catcher Victor Martinez as a free agent … The Phillies' top free-agent relief target is left-hander Scott Downs … The Cubs plan to start Tyler Colvin at either first base or right field next season, depending upon whether they can trade outfielder Kosuke Fukudome … The Mets will reportedly interview internal manager candidates Ken Oberkfell (Triple-A manager) and Tim Teufel (Double-A manager) along with Red Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale, Rangers hitting coach Clint Hurdle and newly minted Blue Jays bench coach Don Wakamatsu after already talking to Bob Melvin, Dave Jauss,  Terry Collins, Chip Hale and Wally Backman from inside the organization … The Pirates' manager search is on hold as they are waiting to see what happens between the Mets and Hurdle, who is their top choice and one of two remaining candidates, along with Pittsburgh bench coach Jeff Banister

John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see John's other articles. You can contact John by clicking here

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