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Scioscia Takes One for Team

Angel skipper is a solid choice for American League manager of the year. Cardinals' La Russa gets NL honor.

November 07, 2002|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

In the waning days of his tenure as the Angel general manager, in the final days of a wretched 1999 season, Bill Bavasi met with Don Baylor and Phil Garner about the team's managerial vacancy. Both men were interested in the job, and Bavasi recommended both to Disney executives interested in hiring a big-name manager.

But as those executives then dawdled for weeks in replacing Bavasi, the Detroit Tigers grabbed Garner and the Chicago Cubs nabbed Baylor. The new general manager, Bill Stoneman, settled for Mike Scioscia, otherwise bound for a minor league managerial job with the Colorado Rockies.

Funny how things work out. Three years later, Baylor is out of work. Garner is out of work. And, 10 days after the Angels won their first World Series championship, Scioscia was honored Wednesday as the American League manager of the year.

On a conference call conducted as he chaperoned his daughter's fifth-grade class on a field trip to a Thousand Oaks botanical garden, Scioscia deflected the honor onto his players.

"I'm proud to accept this award on their behalf," he said.

The National League honoree was Tony La Russa of the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals won 97 games and the NL Central title during an emotionally trying season that included the deaths of pitcher Darryl Kile and beloved broadcaster Jack Buck, four days apart. Nothing could prepare La Russa for the leadership inherent in trying to balance what he called "personal sadness and professional responsibility."

Said La Russa: "I don't think anybody will ever be able to describe just how sad and how deeply affected everybody was.... This award is a recognition our club and our organization didn't give into it."

The voting, conducted by the Baseball Writers Assn. of America, was concluded before the playoffs started. Scioscia received no extra credit for leading the Angels to the World Series, but he got credit for leading a team that finished last year 41 games out of first place and started this year 6-14 to a club-record 99 victories and the Angels' first playoff berth in 16 years.

Of the three other AL managers to receive votes -- in order, Oakland's Art Howe, Minnesota's Ron Gardenhire and the Yankees' Joe Torre -- none led a team that finished with a losing record last year.

Scioscia selected an enthusiastic and relatively young coaching staff that helped restore joy to a clubhouse torn apart by mutiny during the final year under former manager Terry Collins. Two of those coaches, Bud Black and Ron Roenicke, have been considered for managerial openings this year. Another, Alfredo Griffin, has been called the next great Dominican manager by former Montreal manager Felipe Alou.

This year, Scioscia persuaded the Angel hitters to sacrifice at-bats -- not to mention their statistics -- so that the team could win via bunts, stolen bases and hit-and-run plays. It worked, in no small measure because Scioscia empowered the players to enforce the plan and take credit for its success.

"The fact that he talks about all these people who had input into our success speaks volumes for Mike," Stoneman said.

"He's obviously at the center of all that. He understands very clearly that baseball is a team game and we need everybody to pull their weight. He's very appreciative when everybody does, and that leadership helps get the players to understand."

Center fielder and team leader Darin Erstad said repeatedly during the season that "I would love to play for Mike Scioscia the rest of my career." After the Angels won the World Series championship, ace pitcher Jarrod Washburn saluted Scioscia and said, "I hope I never have to play for anyone else."

In Scioscia, the Angels have found not only success but stability. He is the 16th manager in club history, but next season he will become the first since Bill Rigney -- the Angels' expansion manager -- to be the opening day manager for four consecutive years.

Stoneman declined to discuss whether the Angels would consider reworking Scioscia's contract. Howe, who never has led a team to a postseason series victory, left the A's for a reported four-year, $9.4-million deal with the New York Mets.

The Angels originally signed Scioscia to a three-year contract worth about $1 million.

Last year, they extended his contract through 2005, upgrading the final year of the original deal and making the four guaranteed years worth about $3 million.



Top Honors

*--* Local managers of the year: MANAGER TEAM YEAR Mike Scioscia Angels 2002 Tom Lasorda Dodgers 1988 Tom Lasorda Dodgers 1983 Tom Lasorda Dodgers 1977 Walter Alston Dodgers 1974 Walter Alston Dodgers 1966 Walter Alston Dodgers 1965 Bill Rigney Angels 1962 Walter Alston Dodgers 1959


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