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June 27, 2014

The View from the Loge Level

The Evolution of Mike Scioscia

by Daron Sutton


Do you happen to remember the catchy tune "Maria Maria" by Santana and the Product G? Not a bad blast from the past, at least not in my mind. The song was the top dog on Billboard’s Hot 100 the very week Mike Scioscia started his managerial career in April of 2000. Doesn’t quite give you perspective on Scioscia’s tenure? Fair enough…a gallon of gas would have run you about $1.50 based on the national average when the new skipper took the helm (about $0.50 more in California). This past Thursday morning, in the back hallways of the Angels clubhouse, just hours before he won his 1,277th game as a skipper, Mike remembered that 41-year-old rookie manager and compared him to the 55-year-old seated behind his desk today.

“You can’t help but change, I think,” Scioscia said. “It’s easy to say that everything’s the same and that your thought process is the same. I do think the process stays the same, but certainly I think the way information’s gathered has changed. I think the nuts and bolts of this game, as far as I’m concerned, haven’t changed, and haven’t changed in a century as far as the fundamentals and what you need to do. The way players are evaluated keeps evolving daily, and I think to be in tune with that helps you to make some cleaner decisions. So yeah, I would say that there’s been some growth in myself as a manager over that time and I think you’d expect that.”

As a rookie radio announcer, I had the good fortune of calling that Halos season back in 2000. The team boasted unique faux sleeveless uniforms, periwinkle blue in their color scheme, a ton of offense (.825 ops and 236 homers) and not nearly as much pitching (5.00 team ERA). Back in those days, the intense 41-year-old skipper would use a 70-mile drive home to Westlake Village to unwind as he battled through the day- to-day learning curve of managing. As it turned out, some days the commute was used to grind as much as it was to unwind. Even today, when the drive is much shorter in-season to the O.C. coast, the mental workout behind the wheel remains the same.

“There’s only 24 hours in the day, so you can’t start grinding 25 hours,” Scioscia said. “But the game stays with me as much as it did then, and I think the process through as much as I did from the first day in this position until the last day that you have the opportunity to do this. That has not changed one bit. But I think the passion that I have for the game, and talking to other managers, if that starts to waver and maybe you start to take some things in stride, I think that’s going to be disturbing. You really have to pay attention to that. Every day I wake up, I’m always in tune with the feeling, ‘Is this what you want to do? Is this where you want to be?’ It’s always a resounding ‘Yes.’ After every season I kind of sit back and I’ll go, ‘Is this, you know, where you want to be? Do you want to keep going? Do you want to have another opportunity with this?’ So I think over the course of time that is something you have to be mindful of. I still love it.”

And if you’ve paid close attention (many have learned that Mike does), you can not only love the game, but be wiser because of your experiences within it. At 55, he serves as the leader of his squad in a more paternal role than that of an older brother, at least with regard to age. But does it go beyond that?

“I think the core of what our value system is about in this country is really the structure of a family,” Scioscia said. You’re not going to be able to replace that as a manager. But I do think that you can impart some things on players from time to time. And there’s times when you feel like, that when you’re bringing a player in here and talking to him, and sometimes you sound like a parent. But I think the thing with trying to connect a manager with being a parent, I don’t know if that really works for me. I think it’s really just the common sense you have to impart, sometimes you’re bringing a guy in because they’re just not applying themselves and you have to kind of tighten some things up. But also, on the other end if it, the patience you need is important in this position. So you can probably make that correlation, but I don’t know if it’s as strong to say, 'Hey, you’re a parent if you’re in this position.'”

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Related Content:  Managers,  Mike Scioscia,  Managing

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