. . in the Peanut Gallery that is the world of Sports journalism. Mike Vaccaro writes in today’s NY Post what many other pundits have been saying, that the ‘genius’ label for Angels manager Mike Scioscia has worn thin over the course of this series. He writes:
Lesson 2: Familiarity breeds contempt. Mike Scioscia came into this series with a reputation as something of a baseball Yoda: wise, savvy, capable of managing the Angels year after year to 90-plus wins and the playoffs because his team played the game smarter, harder and with more purpose than anyone else. It didn’t hurt, of course, that the Angels have as many big-ticket players in their lineup (and riding the bench, in the case of Gary Matthews Jr.) as anyone besides the Yankees. They won because the guy in the dugout gave them the winning formula day after day after day.
That was the story, anyway. It was an easy one to buy.
Well, the more we see Mike Scioscia’s work, the more it seems fair to say that his reputation — at least as far as we knew it in New York — was based on three things: a) the fact he beat the Yankees in the 2002 and 2005 playoffs, the first manager to do that twice since Walt Alston; b) the fact that Anaheim had become a slightly cooler destination than Hell for the Yankees ever since he arrived; and c) the Angels play 100 or so games long after most of us have gone to bed on the East Coast. Most of us have no idea how well or poorly he manages day to day. We just read the standings.
Look, Scioscia is by no means Art Howe. But he hasn’t channeled his inner John McGraw much in this series, either. Where has the Angels’ vaunted aggression gone? Where is the running game? Where is taking the extra base?
This is quite the reversal for Vaccaro, who just two weeks ago prior to the 2009 ALCS said this about Scioscia:
So here he comes again, with that calm demeanor and quiet swagger, his team playing as it always does, taking extra bases, playing smart and savvy, bursting with belief. And you’re not sure what to call him: a menace, a thief, a torturer, an executioner, or simply the best damned manager in baseball.
This is no surprise, since the Angels manager is getting second guessed by fans and sportswriters in laid back Los Angeles almost as much as Yankees manager Joe Girardi has been in New York, and that’s in a game which the Angels won. His aggressive style was a stark contrast to Joe Torre’s laid back approach in years past, and his was the only team in Baseball to have a winning record against the Yanks since 2003. But in 2009 facing Joe Girardi’s detail oriented approach, Scioscia has come across as in the eyes of some as being off his game and out of sorts in the moves he’s made. Never mind the fact that his current roster is far different to those prior teams, as is the Yankees.
Such is life for Baseball managers in October. If a hitter bats .333 he’s had a great series, but managers need to bat 1.000 to steer clear of controversy. Laid back managers like Joe Torre and Bobby Cox get criticized for the moves they don’t make, and stat conscious managers like Tony LaRussa and Joe Girardi get killed for the moves they do make. Even given all the micro analysis of the micro managing, I’m sure there are 26 other managers who would gladly trade places with the remaining three. Fairly or not, the only reputation that survives is that of the World Series winner. It is the modern journalistic version of Gladiators in the Roman Collesium. In her latest piece in the NY Times titled “Open Season on Managers”, columnist Lynn Zisner sums it all up nicely:
Fortunately baseball’s circus is not a life-or-death affair. Unless you’re talking about the managers’ reputations.
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