If the measure of a man rests in the company he keeps, then Mike Scioscia is a living legend.
Scioscia is second among active managers in win percentage (.551) and ranks 22nd all time, ahead of such great baseball names as Whitey Herzog and Casey Stengel.
He has also been a mainstay in the Angels' clubhouse since 2000, a 10-year span during which 27 other teams have hired and fired skippers, desperately looking for that chemistry that the Halos seem to have found.
Keenly aware of his attractiveness to other clubs, Angels owner Arte Moreno and general manager Tony Reagins negotiated a 10-year extension this offseason on Scioscia's contract through 2018, effectively doing everything but chaining the big man to the Big A.
It's easy to see why.
Scioscia's sound baseball mind and sharp instincts for the game in front of him have guided the Angels to four AL West division titles, an American League pennant, and a World Series Championship.
But there is more to the man beneath the halo than just numbers and stats. Scioscia is the rock that supports the franchise, and that was never more apparent than after the tragic death of 22-year-old rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart just three games into this season.
When players were adrift amid a sea of shock and horror, Scioscia provided the gust of wind they needed to get back on course. He empathized with the both the team and the Adenhart family, sharing in their grief and promising that Nick would never be forgotten by this organization.
And then he said we must press on.
Without missing a beat, Scioscia embodied both friend and mentor, teammate and manager. In the Angels' greatest time of need, he was able to shed a tear for a fallen comrade, and then regain the focus of his team.
Few have the leadership abilities to guide a club with such compassion and wisdom.
As a result, Scioscia's abilities earned him Manager of the Year honors 2002, but more importantly, they've earned him universal respect within the baseball fraternity.
Players and coaches alike, all throughout the game, recognize him as one of the premiere managers in baseball. Former Angels shortstop Orlando Cabrera has even gone so far as to label Scioscia “the best manager I ever played for.”
That particular quote may not have gone over so well with his then-manager Ozzie Guillen, but Cabrera seemed to be echoing what many around the game already agree upon.
When Mark Teixeira made a similar comment about his Yankee skipper, Joe Girardi, the good folks at MLB Network begged to differ, contending that Scioscia is right up there with Cox as one of the most effective and savvy managers Tex will ever see.
It's a hard point to argue.
Scioscia has a unique skill-set that is unmatched by most professional coaches in any sport. He is neither overly aggressive nor frustratingly passive in his managing style, but has found a useful balance between the two.
A no-nonsense kind of leader, he takes charge of both games and personalities in a way that leaves no questions as to where his players' success begins.
If baseball is a chess game, consider Scioscia to be Bobby Fisher. With delicate force, he pressures the opposition to compete against the best his teams have to offer night in and night out.
However, that is not to say the Angels are always the better team on the field, and this is where Scioscia is so effective: He is able to maximize his players' assets without exposing their liabilities.
The Angels have always been a light-hitting team under Scioscia's rule, often ranking at or near the bottom of the league in home runs. To compensate, he stresses a hit-and-run style of offense that relies on timely hitting and aggressive base-running to wear down opposing pitchers and defenses.
Scioscia is also a big believer in giving his players the benefit of the doubt and letting them work through their on-field struggles. But again, he maintains a careful balance between stroking egos and winning games.
Currently, Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis share catching duties for the Halos. Though Napoli has proven to be the bigger offensive threat, he is also a streaky hitter and when his bat begins to slump, Scioscia steps in and asks Mathis, who lives and dies by his stellar defense, to help shoulder the load.
There are no hard feelings, no comparisons of contract size or batting averages. Scioscia gives his players the opportunity to succeed, but is fair in letting them know where they stand.
If they don't produce in a timely fashion, then they don't play.
It is exactly that kind of wisdom and guidance that makes Scioscia one of the great baseball personalities of his generation and, perhaps when his career is over, of all time.
He brings a demeanor and commitment to the game that is rarely see in professional sports, and in an industry dominated by me-first attitudes and stress-addled coaches, Scioscia's steady hand has guided the Angels through the best and the worst that life and baseball has to offer.
And he still has 10 years to go.
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