October 28, 2011

Shearing the sheep

Sometimes baseball fans are like sheep. They play follow the leader or in the case of baseball opinions – follow the popular consensus. Someone assumes they have the answers, voice their opinion and before you know it – it becomes the popular opinion. That’s been the case in and around Anaheim lately.

The moment Tony Reagins resigned as the general manager of the Angels and talks began about who might replace him – the sports talk shows, message boards and every conceivable media outlet was a blaze with the idea that none of it mattered because Mike Scioscia was the "real" general manager.


Seriously, sometimes I wonder if the vast majority of baseball fans ever came up with an original thought of their own.

Let me explain something that hopefully will make sense to those of you who having been crying “baaaaah” lately and let me do it by looking at a team that’s about to play a 7th game in this year’s World Series – the Texas Rangers.

When you watch the Rangers – the camera seems to always find Nolan Ryan in the crowd. Nolan Ryan is one of those larger than life personas. He has the reputation of being his own man and a no-nonsense kind of guy. Kind of like Mike Scioscia. Whenever the baseball public talks about how good the Rangers are – they give most, if not all of the credit to Nolan Ryan. After all, he’s clearly the face of the franchise.

Well, the truth of the matter is that the Rangers are where they are today because they have a brilliant young general manager named Jon Daniels. He’s the man responsible for putting the current Rangers roster together, but since his face isn’t necessarily recognizable to the television viewing audience – it’s Ryan’s mug that constantly receives face time and as a by-product of that exposure – it is he who also receives most of the credit.

Who is the face of the Angels? You got it – Mike Scioscia. Scioscia like Ryan isn’t responsible for making roster moves – what they have done (each in their own way) is instill a mentality and a philosophy on how to play the game. They’re responsible for setting a tone and attitude more than anything. And because they have that role – a lot of people have made the very false assumption that their “control” extends to personnel issues as well.

I can see how people would make that assumption (IF they’re 8 years old and believe everything they see, hear and read).

Its funny how the public has this need to assign blame or give credit to just about everything that happens and they don’t necessarily put a lot of thought or research into the process.

Mike Scioscia recently took the baseball talk circuit and made it clear that he only has the time and ability to manage, period.

Those who have already made up their minds otherwise; won’t buy it. Those that like Scioscia found reason to believe him.

Think about this – the baseball season is a grind. For a manager there isn’t much time for anything other than preparing for a game, playing a game and then traveling to the next one. Think about how much time a manager has to spend reviewing scouting reports, making out a lineup, checking on the health and attitude of his team, etc. And on top of that keep abreast of what’s happening within his team’s minor league system.

Does anyone really believe Scioscia has the time (or the energy for that matter) to evaluate the talent on other teams and make recommendations as to who the Angels should acquire? It doesn’t make any sense what-so-ever. I can’t imagine Scioscia staying on top of the waiver wire or reviewing the statistics and tape of players all over baseball, including those in the National League.

Does he have input? I would hope so. I can’t imagine any manager not having some kind of input into player personnel decisions.

Every franchise has a face. It is often the face of that organization that gets all the credit or all the blame for how well or how poorly that team does.

Mike Scioscia is responsible for a lot of the Angels’ success. He’s also accountable for a lot of the team’s failures as well. Both of those things are related to what he does on the field – either in a game or on the practice fields at spring training and not about him being some kind of defacto general manager. When you really think about it – the idea is more than a little silly.

And before you try to equate this to what happens in the National Football League (NFL) with people like Mike Holmgren or Bill Parcells; stop. Comparing the two is like comparing apples to kiwi. They’re not even the same shape and you really don’t need me to explain how they’re different; do you?

Come on; admit it. When you think about the idea that Mike Scioscia is really the team’s GM – you have to laugh, don’t you?

So... here we are - Jerry DiPoto, formerly of the Arizona Diamondbacks is about to be announced as the Angels new GM (announcement will be Saturday). Those who believe Scioscia is the real GM will look at this guy as an inexperienced man who will have to defer to the larger-than-life Scioscia. Those who believe it's a new day will look at DiPoto as a breath of fresh air, who comes with a diverse background and the ability to help change the direction of an organization.

I'm optimistic and hopeful. How about you?


  1. Okay, James. I love you and your site, but the thing here is that you can't have it both ways. In your last post, you want to lock Scioscia in a room and ask him how he let Napoli go. Then in this post you say he isn't the de-facto GM. Isn't that a contradiction? If you want the Scioscia is the GM thing to stop, you have to stop perpetuating it yourself, no?

  2. Like the DiPoto hire, to the extent we know little about him. We'll get ample opportunity to check out his work presently.

    The thing fueling the Scioscia-as-shadow-GM trope is Scioscia's long -- very long -- contract, much longer than the GM's. That's a sign he has an awful lot of power, much more than most executives, including the GM. Not something to dismiss readily, and the main reason (along with Napoli's expulsion and subsequent comments about playing for Scioscia) why I think the man is, in fact, a shadow GM.

  3. True. I freely admit that I have a hard time reconciling the Mike Napoli deal - but that doesn't mean I really believed Scioscia was the actual GM making the moves. I have no doubt Scioscia has input, but I don't believe he has the final say.

    Given what we know about Scioscia's opinion of Napoli - I don't think he did anything to stop the move - but I don't think he ordered it.

  4. William... In the post prior "Making sense of it all" - I first stated my disbelief that Scioscia is the defacto GM as well.

    And I should thank you for the kind words about my blog. THANKS!

    In any case - I will probably forever remain conflicted about the whole Napoli thing because I can't reconcile any of it.

  5. Here's something to consider... Jerry DiPoto is a name that's in demand.... unlike Reagins who's only shot could come with the Angels. DiPoto has leverage - if he has to butt heads with Moreno and/or Scioscia - he can leave for another job.

    He's going to be a fresh new voice. Count on it.

  6. Mike Napoli had a terrific season no doubt, however the Rangers blew it and probably wont see another World Series for a long time. Complain about Mike all you want but he did give the Angels its first WS Title.

  7. One saving grace about Napoli: this is his final season of arbitration eligibility, if I read my calendar correctly and understand the rules thereof (and haven't missed Texas giving him a longer-term deal). With both the Red Sox and Yankees suffering from glaring holes at the position, I can see both getting into a bidding war for his services.