Let’s start with the obvious:
Whether or not the Angels end up making the playoffs—and chances are likely they won’t—Mike Scioscia does not deserve to be fired. He built this franchise into the perennial contender it is today and is the only thing standing between keeping them that way and them possibly turning into the Yankees of the 1980s. (For those of you too young to remember, that is not a compliment.)
But as Snoop Pearson from the HBO series The Wire once famously said, “Deserve got nuthin’ to do with it!”
The 2012 Angels were expected to contend for a world championship, and they are going to fall well short of that goal, not even making the postseason in a year in which the league added an extra wild card.
Their high-priced roster is going to end up finishing behind the likes of Oakland and Baltimore. That’s right, Oakland, whose entire 2012 team payroll is less than what the Angels are paying two players, one of whom doesn’t even start every day. Baltimore, a city that hasn’t even had a winning season in 15 years.
The result of that underachievement is that heads are going to roll, and if they do, they’ll belong to Scioscia and his coaches. I don’t agree with it. In fact, I think it’s an incredibly foolish, short-sighted and counterproductive “panic move” but that hasn’t stopped this team before from making this kind of move, particularly under owner Arte Moreno’s direction.
So as the saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.” If the Angels do indeed fire Scioscia at the end of the season, here is my list of the top five candidates to replace him:
5. Harold Baines
Consummate professional as a player, he has the near Hall-of-Fame resume that current players respect, and he would bring a quiet strength to the job that just might be what this team needs to perform better.
4. Terry Francona
Knows how to manage in a big market, has shown he can handle the high expectations that would come with this job and was generally well-liked by his players. He’s a good in-game strategist who knows how to handle a pitching staff.
3. Tony La Russa
C’mon, do you really think he’s going to stay retired? The man lives and breathes baseball.
And he loves Albert Pujols. He commands the utmost respect in the clubhouse and Moreno will gladly open up the checkbook to bring him to Orange County. He’s definitely worth a conversation.
2. Sandy Alomar Jr.
Hey, former catchers make good managers and it’s not like we haven’t had success before going this route so why not try it again?
Alomar is a baseball lifer from a family of baseball lifers and has been preparing for a job as a manager ever since he retired as a player in 2007. He’s more than ready and the team that hires him is going to get a good 10-year run out of him so it might as well be the Angels.
1. Darin Erstad
Hands down the no-brainer choice here for best candidate to replace Mike Scioscia, should the Angels let Scioscia go.
He was the heart and soul of the team as a player and the unquestioned leader in the clubhouse. He set the right example for how the game was to be played and never let his teammates believe, even for a minute, that they were out of any ballgame, even if they were down 5-0 in the seventh inning of a World Series elimination game.
Even if he wasn’t coaching baseball presently (he’s the head coach at his alma mater, University of Nebraska), I’d still pluck him out of whatever cornfield he was tending to and hand him the keys to the franchise.
Like I said, I don't want it to happen, I don't think it should happen, but that doesn't mean it's not going to happen. And if it does, I want the Angels to be in the best position to succeed afterwards. They would be fortunate to land any of these five men, with Erstad being the best of the bunch.