On September 22, Arte Moreno and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim publically announced the returns of General Manager Jerry Dipoto and Manager Mike Scioscia for the 2013 MLB season. The timing of the announcement seemed strange then, and feels even stranger now. For most Scioscia supporters the announcement undoubtedly should have come sooner. For others it now seems perhaps the announcement should have never come at all.
Without question the 2012 Angels season has to be seen as a disappointment. Falling short of the Texas Rangers in the AL West standings was something most casual fans could understand or at least stomach. Staring up at the bargain bin Oakland A’s seems nothing short of tragic. With a payroll north of $150 million dollars, multiple All-star selections and a roster chalk full of household names how could this team spend the postseason fishing instead of playing baseball? Thinking about that can boggle the mind, accelerate the heart rate and cause temporary emotional chaos, which of course can be the only reason Mike Scioscia is returning to the Angels dugout in 2013.
The “quick trigger” has always been the target destination of those who have ripped Arte Moreno in the past. His reactions to failure have been swift, painful, expensive and absolute. Never one to settle, Arte has made his reactionary moves to situations he deemed less than satisfactory at warp-speed and in grand fashion. Miss the playoffs in 2006, sign Gary Matthews Jr for $50 million. Realize the signing of GMJ was a poor one after the 2006 season, sign Torii Hunter for $90 million in 2007. Miss the 2010 playoffs, trade Mike Napoli for Vernon Wells. Miss the playoffs in 2011, drop a quarter billion dollars on Albert Pujols and another $77 million on CJ Wilson. It’s easy to see why after missing the 2012 season Mike Scioscia would be fired.
So, in the midst of a playoff push that by September 22 was all but lost, why would Arte publically stand by Mike Scioscia? It was clear already that after less than one season on the job Jerry Dipoto would be back after he had successfully signed the aforementioned Pujols and Wilson, made the uber-successful trade for Ernesto Frieri and showed his gun-slinging capability by closing the blockbuster swap for Zack Greinke. But why would Scioscia get the stamp of approval? In a word, it is balance that has brought Mike back. The same in-game mundane personality that some fans have learned to loathe from Mike Scioscia, is the exact calmness Arte Moreno is looking to brood from in 2013.
Highs and lows were the detriment of the 2012 Angels season. The sways of emotion got to the fans, at times it appeared to get to the players and I can’t imagine it not having gotten to Arte himself. But if there was ever a guy to keep the lows not so low, and the highs not so high, it was Mike Scioscia. He appears to be the yin to Arte’s yang. Miss the playoffs under Arte and he might spend hundreds of millions of dollars. Go 0-4 with 3 k’s make a game blowing error under Scioscia and you are probably still starting the next day. Watch an ump gag a call that damages the Halos chance at a victory and Mike can still remain expressionless at the top step of the dugout. The public calmness defines his persona. It can be maddening watching him work. It can also be rewarding, just look out to the World Series flag flying in center field for proof.
Spring training will start for the Angels sans some familiar faces. Already gone are Ervin Santana and his no-hitter battery mate Bobby Wilson. Also gone is Dan Haren, who, barring a major salary cut, will not be re-signed. Maicer Izturis, a full blown teachers’ pet of Scioscia will be wearing a new uniform as well, having signed with Toronto. Crowd and media favorite Torii Hunter appears to be headed somewhere east of California and will leave an empty hole in the teams’ outward personality not to mention the hole he’ll leave in right field. Zack Greinke may or may not return. But Mike Scioscia absolutely will. He will bring his “one game at a time” quote and lifestyle philosophy with him. It begs a question though: What if the 2013 team underachieves?
It has been three years since the Angels last stepped foot on a playoff diamond. Arte Moreno burns deeply to be a World Series Champion himself. His competitiveness as an owner to win and win now is nearly unrivaled. If he sits in his luxury suite in 2013 and watches his team once again underperform, it could actually be he that takes the blame. To many, Mike Scioscia should or could have already taken the axe due to those three vacant years. Terry Francona for instance could’ve possibly been a candidate for the managerial position in Anaheim instead of becoming an Indian. Arte could have made that possibility a reality by not announcing the return of Scioscia when he did. Obviously not interested in that option, Arte let the world know that Mike would be his guy in 2013.
Here is the problem: The 2013 Angels now have an unfamiliar pressure to overcome starting immediately. If they stumble early, late or even somewhere in the middle of the season the national and local media along with rabid fans are going to be calling for Scioscia’s head. Of course, had they already been served a dish of Scisocia’s dome they would no longer have the appetite for it. What Arte has done by bringing back Mr. Calm is create yet another potentially fissile situation. One wrong move and it could blow up right in his face. Fans and media will say “we told you so Arte. Mike was the problem!” Play poorly and “Fire Mike” is going to need to be its own segment on the airwaves of local radio programs and column of local papers. This blog will also be following that situation closely.
The reward in all this of course is if the Angels achieve greatness in 2013 Arte becomes the hero who had Mike stay. We will all eventually see if Arte Moreno’s risk results in his own reward or if, true to previous form, the 2013 offseason is spent looking for a big splash to replace Scioscia. Just like you, I can’t wait to find out.
Please follow Drew Mumford Jr on Twitter @jrjantreshunt.