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Scioscia becoming fixture in postseason

Scioscia becoming fixture in postseason

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As he steers the Angels toward a possible sixth postseason appearance in a decade under his guidance, Mike Scioscia is establishing himself among some elite managerial company.

His stewardship already has made Angels history when it comes to playing in October, with the franchise's only World Series title in 2002 and more postseason appearances this decade than in the team's first four decades.

Pulse
Angels at a glance
2009 record: 97-65
2008 record: 100-62
AL West champs

WHO ARE THESE GUYS?
Figgins: Staying true
Angels: Road warriors
Figgins/Abreu: Spark plugs
Bullpen: Stepping up
Figgins: The ignitor
Scioscia: Fundamental key
Vlad: Focused on present
Hatcher: Enjoying success
Scioscia: Approach the key
Aybar: More than just glove
Morales: Putting it together
Abreu: Lauded by 'mates
Wilson: Not alone
Vlad: Resume builder
Weaver: Family matters
Abreu: Hall of Famer?
Saunders: Overcame injury
Lackey: Playoff veteran
Kazmir: Ties to Morales
Jepsen: Remembering Nick
Weaver: Path to pros
Hunter: Humbled by honor
Lackey: It all began in '02
Weaver: Growing as player
Reagins: Built from within
Morales: Back in the groove
Abreu: Influence extends
Scioscia: Catcher at heart
Lackey: Halos' leader
Morales: Gomez's legacy
Abreu: Embracing his role
Jepsen: Honoring Adenhart
Lackey: Takes place as ace
Weaver: Glue of staff
Scioscia: Postseason fixture
Morales: Perseverance

But he's working his way into baseball's October Managers Club as well. Among the managers whose teams are in playoff contention through Saturday's games, he's matched with Detroit's Jim Leyland for the third most postseason appearances, with five going on six, albeit well behind the Dodgers' Joe Torre (13) and the Cardinals' Tony La Russa (12).

At age 50, and with some time to catch up with those colleagues, Scioscia has shown he has what it takes to become an October fixture for years to come.

And part of that is knowing when it's time to talk about the postseason. Even a recent question about setting up a postseason rotation, being that the division lead over the Rangers remains tight and there remains three weeks in the season, is enough to snap Scioscia into his ever-present focus.

"Our challenge is ahead of us to get to the playoffs," Scioscia said. "Nobody's looking ahead to say this guy's going to be fresher than that guy."

Getting there is more than half the work, and 2009 has had its challenges -- both on the field and, tragically, off it. And here are Scioscia and the Angels again, on the cusp of the postseason.

Scioscia is part of an experienced group of managers who could be headed for the postseason in 2009. Based on results through Saturday, the eight managers whose teams are in the playoff picture have a combined 51 postseason appearances among them, far more than in previous years. For example, the 2008 postseason managers had 36 postseason appearances among them, and the previous highest total since three-tiered playoffs began in 1995 was 45 in 2005.

With Scioscia, Torre, La Russa and Leyland leading the way, this group of potential postseason managers also owns 17 league titles, 11 World Series titles and 11 Manager of the Year awards. Scioscia accounts for one of each.

Still, to be mentioned in that class 10 years into his managerial career is a testament to not only the organization's resurgence under Arte Moreno's ownership, but to Scioscia's presence in the clubhouse, recognized as one of the more influential in baseball.

Perhaps it has not been tested as much as it has in 2009, when the Angels were faced with adversity that went well beyond the lines and the walls of that clubhouse.

The April 9 death of pitcher Nick Adenhart, killed in an early morning auto accident caused by a drunk driver, staggered the baseball world as a whole. But the pain was felt more nowhere outside Adenhart's family than in the Angels family, of which Scioscia is a constant and characteristic face.

"Obviously, we've faced challenges we've never faced in a season," Angels general manager Tony Reagins said. "He's done a great job of keeping guys together and focused, really focused on the day at hand."

Lesser distractions like missing star slugger Vladimir Guerrero for a good chunk of the season have been overcome as well, thanks in part to Scioscia's guidance. The steady hand at the wheel Scioscia brings is what compelled the Angels to sign him to a 10-year deal last winter -- a commitment pretty much unheard of in baseball or other pro sports. Scioscia is the Angels, and the Angels are Scioscia.

In his 10 seasons in Anaheim, Scioscia has produced a franchise-record 888 wins against 710 losses. His .556 winning percentage is currently highest among active managers with at least 500 wins, and his teams have won more regular-season games since the start of the 2005 season than any other franchise.

If a fourth consecutive AL West title is in fact in the offing for the Angels this season, the consistency won't be a mistake and it won't be one particular thing or another.

But there will be one constant, right at the helm.

"Watch [Scioscia] in the playoffs when something goes wrong, even terrible," outfielder Reggie Willits said. "His expression doesn't change. He's even-keel. Spring Training or playoffs, up 10 or down 10, there's never any panic with Mike. He never overreacts. I think players feed off it."

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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