Scioscia puts new face on fundamentals

Scioscia puts new face on fundamentals

ANAHEIM -- Yankees manager Joe Girardi made the remark the other day that Mike Scioscia is the "face" of the Angels franchise.

When Scioscia heard this, he shuddered at the thought.

"That," he said, "is an ugly look."

But Girardi had a point.

Now 10 years into his managerial tenure with the Halos, the 50-year-old Scioscia has been the guiding hand at the helm of the franchise's most successful era. He became the first manager in baseball to reach the postseason six times in his first 10 seasons, and the Angels have averaged exactly 90 wins a season under Scioscia after winning 90 or more only four times in the 38 years before he took over.

It's little wonder, then, that the Angels decided to make this partnership a little more permanent by signing Scioscia this year to a contract extension that runs through 2018.

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 if the Angels are going to continue their success under Scioscia in this American League Championship Series against the Yankees, they'll have to recover from two ugly games in the Bronx to come back to life in the series.

And they'll have to do so by playing what has been commonly referred to as "Angels baseball" -- i.e., executing sound defensive fundamentals and wreaking havoc on the basepaths.

The fact that the term "Angels baseball" exists in such a positive light is a reflection of the job Scioscia and his coaches have done here. But Scioscia, as you might expect, downplays his impact.

"It's nothing that we invented," he said. "It's something that you can go back and look at the Dodgers through the '60s. We had a lot of the guys who played on that team were instructors that really influenced myself and [bench coach] Ron Roenicke and [hitting coach] Mickey Hatcher, [first base coach] Alfredo [Griffin], guys that were in touch with that organization. I know it started before then. I'm sure it has. I'm not a baseball historian, but I just know with the product of the organization I came through, that was always stressed."

Down 0-2 in a best-of-seven set against the team with baseball's best record, the Angels find themselves in a stressful situation. But their demeanor, even after an overnight cross-country flight, has been one of defiance, not defeat.

That, too, is a credit to Scioscia, who jokingly told reporters after Game 2 in New York that he was leaving his suitcase at Yankee Stadium, firmly expecting to return to claim it for Game 6.

"We know this thing could turn in a heartbeat," Scioscia said. "The momentum in a short series turns even pitch to pitch or inning to inning. So for us to come out here and play well in Game 3, obviously, that's important. And if we win Game 3, you know, we've got a different vibe in this whole series, and that's what we want to create."

Scioscia and his staff have created something special in Anaheim. Scioscia's tenure is the third-longest among active big league skippers, behind the Braves' Bobby Cox (hired in 1990) and the Cardinals' Tony La Russa (1996). It has been a remarkably successful run, with Scioscia compiling a record of 900-720 and winning the World Series in 2002.

And Scioscia is quick to give credit where it's due.

"Being the manager," he said, "and having the privilege to work with such a great organization, from the owner down to the general manager, all the way down to the guys who are in player development and scouting [departments], it's a team effort. And it's not one guy that's running point on this thing. It's a whole group of guys that I think are very creative, have great baseball minds, and it's just fun to be around and fun to keep moving in the right direction."

The Angels got a little lost in New York. Now it's up to Scioscia to guide them back down the right path.

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