After nearly two decades, Mike Scioscia’s reign as the manager of the LA Angels is coming to an end (maybe). As the Angels begin their search for their next manager (probably), here are five things that General Manager Billy Eppler must team up with the next manager to do to turn the ship around (definitely):
1. Learn to Love The Math
Yeah, fans and sportswriters hate the new math and the new numbers, but you know who doesn’t? LA Angels manager Mike Scioscia for one. But when the World Champion Houston Astros. The Yankees. The Dodgers. The Red Sox. It’s not just mid-market teams like Oakland or Pittsburgh going all Moneyball on their payrolls anymore. In 2018, any franchise worth a damn is pouring money into their analytics department. The teams that are most successful at identifying statistical measures and bringing that knowledge onto the field are, not coincidentally, the best teams in the league.
During the Scioscia years, the Angels were famously dismissive of the nerd parade. That attitude was fine when the Angels were winning division title after division title, but that doesn’t fly when you’re missing the playoffs eight times in nine seasons. Former GM Jerry Dipoto’s quest to push the Angels in a more stat-heavy direction got cockblocked by Scioscia. Current GM Billy Eppler’s new skipper is going to have be on board with baseball in the 21st century.
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2. Sit The Veterans
Let’s face it: they stink. Ian Kinsler has been traded, Luis Valbuena has been DFA’d, and Zack Cozart is broken. David Fetcher is the second baseman now, Taylor Ward is at third, and Shohei Ohtani is DHing every game (insert platoon caveat here). With a boatload of young players on the way up in the next 18 months, the Angels need to figure who can stick and who can’t. The only way to find that out is to play the kids, and sit the vets.
3. Forget The Closer
Probably the easiest of the five things, because the Angels don’t really have one. Bullpen by committee is cheaper, and allows for more versatility. The next manager can’t be afraid to use any reliever at any time. As with the previous point, giving guys innings is the only to figure who can pitch, and who can’t. Enslaving the bullpen to fixed roles will only get in the way of that process.
4. Define The Angel Way
The Angel Way during the first half of Mike Scioscia’s tenure was marked by aggressive baseball: make contact, run hard, take the extra base. There was a coherent organizational understanding as to how the Angels played baseball that ran from the big club on down through the farm system. The win-now attitude Arte Moreno has adopted since the end of the Vlad Guerrero years, trying to buy his way into contention, trading away young talent at the drop of a hat, has destroyed any sort of organizational cohesion. It’s time to get away from that. Long-term contenders are built, not bought.
5. Control The Owner
The hardest thing to do. That the Angels haven’t won a playoff game in nine straight seasons is an indictment of Arte Moreno’s impatience. After the successful run by Bill Stoneman, Moreno elevated Tony Reagins to the GM spot at the end of the 2007. Unlike Stoneman, Reagins was a Yes Man who seemed to exist only to make his owner’s worst free spending impulses a reality — Bobby Abreu, Vernon Wells, Josh Hamilton, C.J. Wilson, and, yes, Albert Pujols all became very expensive Angels on Reagins’ watch.
When Jerry Dipoto became the GM, he lost his front office battle with Mike Scioscia. Dipoto had the nerve to try and build something, trading for Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skaggs, trading away Howie Kendrick. But the old team that Reagins built with Moreno’s money fell apart, Dipoto’s young arms got hurt, and the franchise collapsed. But for the brilliance of Mike Trout, the team would have been staring at a series of 90-loss seasons.
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Organizations are a reflection of their owners. Arte Moreno is the biggest reason his team is where it is today. These problems were allowed to happen over a period of years, and it will take more than just a few quick fixes to uproot the issues that plague the Angels. Time and patience are what’s called for. We’ll see if Moreno has enough of either to let his team move forward.