August 3, 2011

Three Guillen's walk into a blog and the author ends up praising Mike Scioscia

I have had a few days to digest the events surrounding the Angels/Tigers game that took place this past Sunday. I’ve listen to some commentary, read some comments (including a great piece by one of my favorites Joe Posnanski) and I’ve come to some conclusions and opinions of my own; some of which may surprise you.

I write this as a huge Jered Weaver fan and an even bigger Angels fan.

That being said, in my personal opinion Jered Weaver acted in a manner that was detrimental to the team. I’m not condemning Weaver and I’m not saying that I would have done anything different myself, but upon a great deal of reflection I think Weaver was absolutely wrong in the choices he made Sunday.

What Jered Weaver did was act in his own best interest. If you want to take it a step further, you could say he was simply selfish.

I’ve been saying for some time now that I believe the Angels margin for error in winning the west is very slim. Losing Weaver for even one start could prove to be the difference between making the play-offs and an early off season. You see Weaver was suspended by major league baseball for six games (he’s appealing) which could equate to one less start.

I understand why he acted as he did and I’m not angry with Weaver. I even empathize with him to a certain degree. I guess you could say I don’t expect baseball players to be perfect (which might tell you something about why I’m probably a little more tolerant of blown saves than most fans), but I would like to think that they put their team first on a regular basis.

As I watched the events unfold Sunday and Weaver threw over the head of Alex Avila something struck me. I knew for certain that this was Weaver taking matters into his own hands. If I know anything about the way Mike Scioscia manages his ball club, I know that he does not seek out retaliatory actions in the course of a game. It’s just not his style and more importantly, it’s something he simply doesn’t believe in.

It’s also something that probably makes a lot of fans crazy and I imagine it may even bother some of his players (this was one of the problems Jose Guillen had when he was an Angel).

I believe that Scioscia knows every win is precious and I’m guessing that he doesn’t like to give opposing teams any kind of advantage (like not being able to put in his best players). He wants to win as much as anyone – but he also wants to win playing baseball the “right” way. I believe he wants to attack games in a respectful fashion and stay clear of any “one-ups-man-ship” that is so prevalent in today’s sports and society as a whole.

Baseball is rich in unwritten rules, codes and the like; however, I believe Scioscia answers to a higher code. Scioscia is as traditional and “old school” as they get, but I think he differs in the area of “gamesmanship” from most. He doesn't let tradition or secret codes get in the way of winning.

When I listened to Scioscia talk to the media on Tuesday prior to the game, it was clear in my mind that Scioscia was focused on the big picture. It wasn’t about whether or not Weaver should have done what he did – it was about how his actions could impact the team and influence the course of the season.

He never came out and spoke out against Weaver (not his style), but when I read between the lines, I concluded that he wasn’t pleased (again, my interpretation) because he was focused on winning a division.

Mike Scioscia get’s it. Scioscia is the guy who is always going to take the high road and his primary focus is to get his team to think, work and act like a team. Getting 25 individuals to focus on being a team is a difficult task. John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach knew how to do this better than anyone and his results speak for themselves.

Mike Scioscia swims upstream and against the tide every day. He’s not Ozzie Guillen (who openly talks about retaliatory actions) and holds himself to a higher standard than most of us. His view isn’t a “world view” per say and it reminds me that I too must rise above that kind of thinking as well. Perhaps his way is a direct reflection of his faith; perhaps it’s a reflection of his character. Perhaps it’s both because the two are intertwined. In any case, it makes me respect and admire him all the more.

You see, Scioscia’s take on baseball often helps put life in the proper perspective for me.

I have to believe that Scioscia is disappointed in Weaver because Weaver strayed from the agenda at hand and that’s to win the American League West. Remember John Lackey’s last game as an Angel (it was game 5 of the 2009 ALCS)? Remember how Lackey reacted when Scioscia came to remove him from the game against the Yankees? Lackey uttered something along the lines of “C’mon Sosh, this game is mine.”

I’ll never forget it.

Like just about every other Angel fan at or watching the game I wanted Lackey to finish that game. I was rooting for Lackey more than I was rooting for the team.

I was wrong; and dare I say - we were all wrong and Scioscia was right. It wasn’t “Lackey’s game” at all – that game and the decision to pull him was about what was best for the team. Regardless of the outcome (the Angels did win that one) – Scioscia’s decision was based on what he believed needed to be done to win the game and not necessarily appease Lackey.

Most fans think that particular moment sealed the Angels’ fait and there was no way Lackey would resign with the Angels. I have come to believe perhaps that’s only half true and that it was actually Lackey’s fait that was sealed because Scioscia saw someone who continually went against the agenda.

It’s the kind of stuff that sent Jose Guillen packing. Guillen hated the fact that whenever an opposing pitcher hit him his teammates (the pitching staff) didn’t retaliate. He didn’t understand. Guillen made things about him. Lackey made game of 5 of the 2009 ALCS about him and this past Sunday – Weaver did the same.

There’s a great book written by Rick Warren called “The Purpose Driven Life.” The first line in the book hits you like a ton of bricks. It simply reads “It’s not about you.” That idea goes against the grain of just about every “world view” and yet – success really does come when we understand it’s not about us.

Jered Weaver made the wrong choice on Sunday. I don’t hate him or condemn him for it. Like I said earlier, I probably would have done the same thing. I simply want to acknowledge that I believe he made the wrong decision.

It’s like driving. Ever been behind a “slow poke” when you were in a hurry? Ever tail gate that person or pass them and shoot them a glare or worse? Ever have the tables turned on you – where you were driving along minding your own business and someone came up on you like a bat out of hell? You didn’t like it much did you? And yet – we often do things to others that we don’t want done to us.

We know better; however, sometimes we do the wrong thing anyway. I have to believe Weaver knows better and I’m certain his manager does. I just hope that when all is said and done it doesn’t cost the Angels a pennant.

On a personal note – writing this post was an enjoyable process for me. I have to admit, when the events unfolded Sunday, I felt a certain amount of obligation and/or pressure to post something in a timely manner; however, I had a problem. Every time I tried to put my thoughts into words, something was wrong.

My original goal was to focus my wrath on Carlos Guillen and rant about the pathetic and “bush league” behavior he demonstrated. Now we both know that’s something I can really sink my teeth into and yet – it just wasn’t coming together like I wanted.

I kept putting the post aside and continued to think about what I saw and what I had heard and read in the aftermath. I knew there was something at the core of all of this that struck me and it just took a couple days for it to surface. I know enough about myself that my immediate reaction to things is often different than what comes to light with time and reflection.

Weaver was in the moment. If he had more time to reflect and consider the consequences he might have made a better decision. He didn’t have that luxury.

I know the natural reaction to what happened to Weaver via Carlos Guillen is to do exactly what Weaver did. I also acknowledge that would most likely be my own natural reaction as well. I also understand that it not ought to be because I am "not of this world” and in his own way Mike Scioscia reminds me of that “code” every now and then.

It’s funny - this post started out being about Jered Weaver and somehow ended up being a tribute of sorts to Mike Scioscia. You know what? I’m okay with that.

To say the Angels are blessed to have Mike Scioscia as their manager is an understatement on so many levels and I admire the way he stays true to his beliefs and doesn’t waiver in the course of what others think or more to the point - of what others want him to do. He takes his responsibility to actually manage the team seriously and he owns it. It’s a beautiful thing.

Like Weaver, I’m not perfect and that’s not to say Scioscia is. Even though Scioscia is a terrific manager, he doesn’t always make the right decisions on the field (no manager does). However, I am confident the reasoning behind the decisions he makes is based on a core set of values that represents exactly who he is. What we see is what we get and I appreciate that very much.

The amazing thing is that Scioscia is probably even a better person than he is a manager.

On a somewhat funny note... did I just reference three different Guillen's in this post (Carlos, Jose, Ozzie)? I guess I did.

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