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OC Register: Angels manager Mike Scioscia on the verge of passing mentor Tommy Lasorda


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TORONTO — For 13 years as a catcher with the Dodgers, Mike Scioscia shared a dugout with venerable manager Tommy Lasorda. In all of that time, Scioscia said he never imagined becoming a manager, let alone the milestone he’s about to reach.

“When I was playing,” Scioscia said, “I was so consumed with playing that you don’t think about what the next step is.”

The next step is passing Lasorda.

As the Angels open a series against the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday, Scioscia has 1,596 regular season victories as the Angels manager. Lasorda won 1,599 games with the Dodgers.

Lasorda also said he never thought of Scioscia, the player, becoming a manager, but once he did, he knew he’d be a good one.

“I was worried about him him beating me out,” Lasorda said by phone on Monday. “It took a better man than me. He is great. I am happy for him. He is one of the greatest managers and greatest players that God ever put on this earth. I’m so proud of him.”

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Scioscia, 53, bristles at any talk about his personal record. He is quick to say “these aren’t my wins,” acknowledging they are product of work by the players, the coaches and the front office.

He also said he still doesn’t feel he’s in the class with Lasorda, who won two World Series in his 21 years leading the Dodgers and has been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“Just knowing what Tommy did for the Dodgers, what my role is here, you can’t compare,” Scioscia said. “What Tommy did for the Dodgers’ organization is special. I certainly don’t put myself in that boat, but having the opportunity to be here as long as I have is something I do not take for granted.”

Scioscia certainly could not have envisioned this when he was hired to manage the Angels in November 1999, during the Bill Clinton administration. Today, the Angels have prospects who weren’t even born then.

Scioscia has managed the Angels for 19 years. No other big league manager has had his current job longer than the 12 seasons Bruce Bochy has led the San Francisco Giants. Kansas City’s Ned Yost is third, in his ninth season.

Both Bochy (24 seasons) and Buck Showalter (20) have managed more years than Scioscia, but with different teams.

Holding one job for so long is virtually unheard of today. Only San Antonio Spurs coach Greg Popovich, who has held his position since 1996, can top Scioscia among coaches or managers in the four major sports. Even Bill Belichick got his current coaching job with the New England Patriots a few months after the Angels hired Scioscia.

Scioscia’s job security has certainly been helped by the fact that owner Arte Moreno gave him a guaranteed 10-year contract in January 2009, after they had won a World Series and four division titles in his first nine years.

That contract expires at the end of this season. Although there has been no word of an extension, there’s also no indication from Scioscia, Moreno or general manager Billy Eppler that either side is looking to end the relationship.

While some Angels fans have been critical of Scioscia during a drought that has seen them miss the playoffs in seven of the previous eight years, those around him believe he still does a good job.

Mike Scioscia, seen giving a fist bump to Angels starting pitcher Andrew Heaney, right, is within four victories of surpassing mentor and former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda in career managerial wins. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)
Mike Scioscia, seen giving a fist bump to Angels starting pitcher Andrew Heaney, right, is within four victories of surpassing mentor and former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda in career managerial wins. (Photo by Paul Rodriguez, Contributing Photographer)

“It’s something to celebrate,” said Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch, who is in his sixth season with a second team. “In today’s era, as soon as one thing goes wrong there seems to be a calling for the head of the manager. He’s been able to stand the test of time, to be good at it, to have different style teams, different general managers. That’s a challenge in itself and a testimony to how well-rounded he obviously is and how successful he’s been. I have a lot of respect for him.”

Ian Kinsler, who has played for four managers in his 13 years, said he appreciates what Scioscia brings to the table.

“Experience is something you can’t really replace,” the Angels’ second baseman said. “He’s seen a lot of games, been part of pressure games, World Series games, playoff games. For me, a manager with a tremendous amount of experience is always somebody that you try to pay attention to.”

Scioscia was no doubt paying close attention to Lasorda, the only manager he had during a playing career that went from 1980 to 1992, so it’s no surprise there are similarities.

Angels third base coach Dino Ebel was a manager in the Dodgers farm system late in Lasorda’s time as the big league manager. He worked more closely with Lasorda when he left the dugout to work in the front office. Ebel then joined the Angels as Triple-A manager in 2005 and was added Scioscia’s major league staff in 2006.

“I’m lucky to have the chance to work with, for me, two Hall of Fame managers,” Ebel said. “A great baseball mind with Tommy, and a great baseball mind with Mike. He doesn’t forget anything, and Tommy never forgot anything.”

Much of what Scioscia does is pulled from the Dodgers organizational philosophies under Lasorda, most notably encouraging aggressive baserunning.

The strongest links, however, go beyond in-game strategies.

“It’s the way he handles a clubhouse,” said Angels first base coach Alfredo Griffin, who played with Scioscia under Lasorda and has coached with Scioscia throughout his entire tenure with the Angels. “He makes everybody come together. That, for me is the way to manage a group of men for a long time. That’s what Tommy did and that’s what Mike does… You have to have a group come together and work together and feel like they are a family.”

Lasorda agreed that managing the clubhouse is the most important job, beyond knowing when to use a pinch-hitter or change pitchers.

“A good manager is someone the players have respect for and that will allow them to have a free hand,” Lasorda said. “That’s the combination you need. You need happy players.”

The manager also has to set the tone for the clubhouse, starting with a confidence and drive to win every game. Scioscia said those were two of Lasorda’s biggest strengths, and not just in the dugout.

“I’ve seen him in his younger days, in Vero Beach, playing one-on-one basketball games against guys that were way better than him, and he was going as hard as he could because he wanted to win,” Scioscia said. “Every ballgame he was in, every pitch, there was never any feeling of being intimidated by another team. You always felt you were going to play well and win every day.”

Lasorda, however, had a lighter side that Scioscia doesn’t, according to Griffin: “Tommy jokes around. Mike doesn’t do that. He jokes around, but not the way Tommy used to. Not even close.”

Scioscia said he still talks to Lasorda occasionally, and his former manager still has suggestions for him.

“He supported me incredibly as a player,” Scioscia said. “I know he wants us to do well, but he’s very quick to point out, not as well as the Dodgers. He’s made that very clear.”

UP NEXT

Angels (Garrett Richards, 4-2, 3.47) at Blue Jays (J.A. Happ, 5-3, 4.15), Tuesday, 4 p.m., Fox Sports West, KLAA (830 AM)

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nice to see that Scioscia is being a class act, still taking with Lasorda and giving him time and respect.

while Lasorda 'supported me incredibly as a player' says Sosh -- the word on the street when Scioscia just quit the Dodgers organization after spending about 20 years as an 'organization man' as a player, coach, minor league manager etc. - it was Lasorda who sort of under-mined Sosh in order to curry favor with the News Corp. folks -- who-ever it was that owned the team -- well before the total train-wreck disaster of the McCourt ownership.--

the Dodgers brass were directing Sosh's moves at Albuquerque from the corporate penthouse suites -- drove Sosh nuts and finally drove him to just up and quit. The Angels brass at the time were quick to scoop him up and the rest, as they say, is history.

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It just occurred to me that I'd never seen the joke made that Griffin still has a coaching job with the Angels because his first name reminds Scioscia of one of his favorite pasta sauces. 

Not that it should be made, think Alfredo is great, just surprised it hasn't been made (that I've seen). 

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Im neutral on sosh. Ive been ready for someone new for years.

But respect ehat the guy has done. He keeps his clubhouse quiet, hes been one of the best (by far) rules guys in the game. The world series guys praise him (thats worth something to me).

We can replace him, and maybe be better off. But we'll miss him when hes gone.

Lasagna

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it's interesting that lasorda feels so positive about sosh because his public comments at times have been very vitriolic to the angels having any success. i was at the hollywood bowl once and it was dodgers night. lasorda came out and sounded like a braying jackass, taking clear shots at the angels and the former dodgers working for them.

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2 hours ago, Jeff Fletcher said:

That was corrected. The version that shows up here never shows any updates. 

 

I saw that later when I clicked the Register link. I prefer that over the RSS feed. Scioscia and I are the same age so it immediately stuck out. Now if I had my choice I'd much rather be 53.

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45 minutes ago, Blarg said:

I saw that later when I clicked the Register link. I prefer that over the RSS feed. Scioscia and I are the same age so it immediately stuck out. Now if I had my choice I'd much rather be 53.

I’m older than both of you so see what your future looks like. Some old guy scouring a message board looking for someone, anyone to post the word “dick.”

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All I can say about Scioscia, is that he is so clearly the best manager we've ever had, that we're spoiled and think the grass is always greener on the other side. The problem is that it really isn't. We don't know whether the new manager would be good or bad, we don't know what we'd get unless we hired someone with a long managerial career. It wasn't that long ago that the Red Sox ditched Francona for Farrell, only to fire Farrell and replace him with unknown Alex Cora.

Joe Girardi makes some sense, but I doubt that's the manager direction we'd be going in.

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