Scioscia Leads Angels to Victory
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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) _ Mike Scioscia was the kind of player who asked questions and listened.
He turned into the kind of manager who listened to veterans not much younger than himself on the Anaheim Angels, won their respect and led them, in only his third season, to a World Series championship Sunday night.
Scioscia learned from Tommy Lasorda. He asked a million questions of Roy Campanella. He found a mentor in Dusty Baker.
Scioscia learned from all of them, and others in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ organization, that champions are built on the fundamentals of the game, playing baseball the right way.
One of the youngest managers to win a World Series, the 43-year-old Scioscia didn’t panic when the Angels struggled. He kept counseling patience, pushing his players to be aggressive at the plate and on the field. They played hard, just as he had.
A man does not catch 1,395 games, a Dodgers record, without learning all the nuances of the game. Scioscia learned that and more.
Lasorda always believed Scioscia would be a manager because of the way he handled pitchers as a catcher.
``He was a very, very tough guy behind the plate,″ Lasorda said. ``And he was very patient. He still is.″
Scioscia spoke to his players in spring training this year about keeping up the pressure on offense, not waiting for homers. He brought a style to the Angels that was closer to that of a National League team, more the way he had learned the game with the Dodgers.
``Mike told everybody how aggressively he was going to be managing, how we had to manufacture runs to be a championship ballclub,″ said batting coach Mickey Hatcher, a teammate of Scoscia’s on the Dodgers.
``From there, we let some of the players talk, Ersty, Garret Anderson. The thing they came up with, more important than hitting .300, is on-base percentage, runs scored and RBIs. Spring training is where they needed to find that approach.″
Scioscia encouraged the team’s natural leaders to emerge _ Darin Erstad, Anderson, Tim Salmon, Mike Spiezio _ and he shaped the Angels into exactly the kind of team he had envisioned.
They won 99 games during the regular season, got the wild card into the playoffs, and rode their non-stop pressure offense to a world championship.
``I’ve been in this game for a long time and have never been around a group of guys so passionate,″ said Scioscia, a member of the Dodgers’ 1981 and 1988 World Series’ championship teams.
``It’s much better as a player. I’m enjoying it, but what these guys have done _ they’re going to enjoy it for a long time.″
Scioscia showed over and over that he wouldn’t shy away from taking risks. He gave his players the green light on the bases and sent a rookie out to start the seventh game of the World Series.
John Lackey rewarded Scioscia’s confidence by becoming the first rookie starter to win Game 7 in 93 years.
``We knew we were going to be thin tonight,″ Scioscia said. ``The pieces of the jigsaw fit perfectly. I think that’s a credit to the way John Lackey pitched.″
The manager then praised the game’s other pitchers: Brendan Donnelly, Frankie Rodriguez and closer Troy Percival.
``What an effort,″ Scioscia said.
Angels pitching coach Bud Black, who played for San Francisco under Baker in 1993-94, saw similarities in the two managers.
``Their biggest strength is their honesty with the players,″ Black said. ``They both have the players’ respect, absolutely. They both had tremendous playing careers, giving them credibility.
``The players can see them as their manager, their leader. They can relate to them as teammates as well.″
Scioscia never bought into the notion that the Angels were doomed by demons from the past, that they would never be more than contenders.
They had gotten to the playoffs three times before this year, had won only 75 games last year and 82 the year before that.
This was their first World Series championship in their 42-year history.
``Everyone talks about a curse, demons,″ Scioscia said. ``I’ve only experienced the last three years and they’ve been incredible.″