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Would Dumping Don Mattingly for Mike Scioscia Kick-Start the Dodgers in 2014?

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Would Dumping Don Mattingly for Mike Scioscia Kick-Start the Dodgers in 2014?
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Exit Don Mattingly, enter Mike Scioscia at Chavez Ravine?

Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com thinks it could happen after the 2013 season is in the books. He's of the mind that Scioscia's tenure with the Los Angeles Angels has run its course, and he's not wrong about that.

He may be the longest-tenured manager in baseball, but Scioscia no longer boasts the influence within the Angels or the success on the field that he used to. It hasn't gotten ugly yet, but his partnership with the Angels is definitely trending in that direction.

Instead of quitting after 2013, however, what Scioscia could do is sit down with Angels owner Arte Moreno and talk him into dealing him to another club, a la the trade that sent John Farrell from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Boston Red Sox this past winter.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, writes Rosenthal, would be the "most obvious possibility" for Scioscia, who starred for the Dodgers as a player from 1980 to 1992. 

What I say is this: If the two SoCal clubs were to strike a deal to send Scioscia to the Dodgers, he would cease being the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he would become the right guy in the right place at the right time. No question about it.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Poor Don Mattingly...

Let's be clear that this isn't meant to be an indictment of the current Dodgers manager's managerial skills. Mattingly only has a 181-172 record in two-plus years, including a 13-17 record this season. He hasn't proven himself to be a brilliant manager, but he hasn't had it easy either.

In Mattingly's first year on the job in 2011, the Dodgers had Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, and...well, Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw. Outside of them, Mattingly had little to work with.

He had more to work with last year, particularly later in the season, when the Dodgers acquired Hanley Ramirez from the Miami Marlins, Shane Victorino from the Philadelphia Phillies and, later, Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez from the Red Sox.

But while the talent was there, Mattingly was faced with the nearly impossible task of getting a lately assembled team of hired guns to come together for the sake of overcoming a deficit in the NL West behind the eventual World Series champions. No easy task, that.

Mattingly entered 2013 as a lame-duck manager after the Dodgers refused to pick up his option for 2014, and the season has proceeded to be a test of his patience. Kemp hasn't looked right all season after offseason shoulder surgery, and the Dodgers have lost the likes of Zack Greinke, Hanley Ramirez, Chad Billingsley, Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly to the disabled list.

So the Dodgers' 13-17 record is hardly Mattingly's fault, and he's not going to deserve being scapegoated if the club's season finishes as poorly as it's started.

But too bad. That's what would happen anyway, especially if the Dodgers see a chance to acquire Scioscia from the Angels. He's precisely the kind of manager the Dodgers would jump at if they do indeed decide they need a new one.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Scioscia knows what it's like to manage a high-priced team with big expectations.

At the absolute very least, getting Scioscia to trade in his Angel red for Dodger blue would be a big public relations victory for the Dodgers. Bringing him aboard as the club's manager would be sort of like bringing Sandy Koufax aboard as a consultant: a case of a former star player coming home again.

But bringing Scioscia aboard, of course, would be so much more than a PR move. 

For starters, the Dodgers would be trading out an unaccomplished manager for a highly accomplished manager. Whereas Mattingly has proven little in what time he's had as a manager, Scioscia has won five division titles, two Manager of the Year awards and one World Series in his time with the Angels.

Donald Miralle/Getty Images
Scioscia has three rings: two as a player and one as a manager.

Bringing in a manager such as him could liven up the players, who may be all the more energized by the likelihood that Scioscia wouldn't be going anywhere, as he has a 10-year contract that runs through 2018.

So as far as chemistry goes, the Dodgers could be cooking up something special by bringing Scioscia aboard. And chemistry is something they should want, as the San Francisco Giants will vouch (and have vouched) that chemistry can make a big difference. So will the Red Sox, who have found new life under Farrell in his first season at the helm.

But there's another thing to like about the possibility of the Dodgers bringing Scioscia aboard: He's a pretty good fit for the talent they have on their roster.

Rosenthal acknowledged the reality that's developed in Anaheim over the last few years. Slowly but surely, the Angels have moved away from the Scioscia-ball style that defined so many successful teams.

The Angels used to be a scrappy team that got by on good baserunning, unselfish hitting and solid defense. Now they're much more of a Moneyball team, predicated on things like on-base percentage, power and not giving up outs.

Scioscia proved in the last four-and-a-half months of last season that he's not totally hopeless when he has a roster suited to this kind of style. But having him preside over a Moneyball-style team is kind of like having Michael Bay preside over an indie rom-com. It's just a bad fit.

If Scioscia were to find his way to the Dodgers, he'd find himself in charge of a roster much more to his liking.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford would be a very interesting duo under Scioscia.

He'd have a fair amount of speed at his disposal, for one. Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp are both capable of being 30-steal guys, and Hanley Ramirez has stolen at least 20 bases every year he's been in the big leagues. Scioscia could make Dee Gordon his new Chone Figgins: a multi-purpose player who could burn up the basepaths on demand.

Scioscia would also be presiding over a better collection of contact hitters than the one he has now.

Per FanGraphs, the Angels have the 13th-highest strikeout rate in the league. The Dodgers have the 25th-highest strikeout rate in the league, making them a much better match for the Scioscia Angels of old—the 2002 championship team had the lowest strikeout rate in the league—than the Scioscia Angels of present.

Defensively, the Dodgers rank 11th in MLB in Defensive Runs Saved. Their most glaring weak spot is Kemp in center field—he owns a minus-8.9 UZR and minus-two Defensive Runs Saved—and that's a problem that could be solved with either money or creativity.

The Dodgers could upgrade their center field defense this winter by signing Jacoby Ellsbury as a free agent. Either that, or the Dodgers could follow through on their idea to make Gordon an outfielder by morphing him into a starting center fielder. Or they could roll the dice on Yasiel Puig in center field, where Baseball America (subscription required) thinks he has the speed to stick.

Either way, the idea would be to push Kemp to a corner outfield spot, where his legs would be in less danger of wear and tear and he'd be in better position to contribute to a strong overall defense.

Would Mike Scioscia be a good fit as manager of the Dodgers?

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As for pitching, Scioscia wouldn't have much to do to get acclimated to the Dodgers' staff. Fully healthy, the Dodgers' starting rotation is head and shoulders better than the Angels' starting rotation. Even despite the fact that bad health has found Dodgers starters this season, their rotation still ranks 12th in ERA.

Angels starters, by comparison, rank 27th in ERA. Ditching their starting staff for the Dodgers' starting staff would surely mean a big decrease in headaches for Scioscia.

From a big picture perspective, Scioscia going from the Angels the Dodgers would surely mean a big increase in wins and a greater likelihood of a championship coming to Los Angeles. Basically, bringing him aboard would put Magic Johnson and his cronies in a better position to deliver the things they've been promising since they took over last year.

Actually making it happen will be the tricky part.

Both the Angels and the Dodgers are going to have to stay the course on their disappointing 2013 seasons, and then the Dodgers are going to have to convince Angels owner Arte Moreno to surrender Scioscia.

My guess is that wouldn't happen unless the Dodgers agreed to provide the Angels' pitching staff with a much-needed upgrade, which would likely mean Hyun-jin Ryu or, at least, top prospect Zach Lee.

The dominoes will have to fall just so in order for Scioscia to find himself in a Dodgers uniform again. But if it happens, good things will be in store for SoCal's blue guys.

 

If you want to talk baseball, hit me up on Twitter. 

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