It might be hard to believe, but Mike Scioscia is the longest-tenured manager in Major League Baseball, having coached the Angels since 2000.
What’s been the key to longevity for the two-time AL Manager of the Year?
“I think it’s just good players,” the 56-year-old Scioscia said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “We’ve been very fortunate here that as we’ve grown, there was a lot of momentum building up even before our championship in 2002. I think ownership has committed to giving us the personnel we need to succeed and achieve. And hopefully we’re going to get back to that World Series and get a shot at our second world title.”
The Angels will almost certainly be in the mix this October. They went 98-64 and won the AL West a season ago before getting swept by the Kansas City Royals in the first round of the playoffs. The Angels enter 2015 with a great deal of excitement – and, sadly, with a great deal of concern for Josh Hamilton, who had a drug relapse this offseason.
Hamilton, who turns 34 in May, could be suspended by the league.
“We’re still waiting (to see what happens),” Scioscia said. “I think the information has gotten to a certain point or it’s progressed to a certain point (to where) its certainly out of our hands. It’s in the hands of Major League Baseball, the Players Association and some arbitrators to see exactly where this is going to go. Josh’s (past) is well-chronicled. He’s very candid about some of his life’s struggles. He’s always worked hard to be the player he can be, and he knows what his responsibility is to any team he’s been on. It’s a tough situation right now.”
Tiki Barber wondered if Hamilton – who hit .263 with 10 home runs and 44 RBIs in 89 games last season – should put baseball on the backburner for now and focus on getting his life in order.
“That’s a good question,” Scioscia said. “I think only Josh can answer that. I think he still has a passion to achieve. I don’t think people see behind the scenes how hard he works when he’s in the cage trying to find his swing (or if he’s working) on his defense. He wants to win. He wants to achieve. But as far as his baseball getting in the way of his life or making his life too stressful or too complicated for where he is right now, only Josh can answer that.”
With Hamilton potentially out of the lineup, more will be asked of Albert Pujols, who put together a fine season in 2014, hitting .272 with 28 home runs and 105 RBIs.
“I think like any player, as you mature . . . and as your physical skills are on the slightly downward slide, you learn how to compensate – and Albert has,” Scioscia said of the 35-year-old Pujols. “His bat speed is still terrific. There are some things that every player is going to lose through attrition, but Albert is still a force in the batter’s box. He’s got a chance to put up big numbers. He’s still extremely productive, and he’s a huge part of our club, needless to say.”
The same can be said for Mike Trout, who last year won his first AL MVP award. Trout, 23, is widely considered the best all-around player in baseball. Last year, he hit .287 with 36 home runs, 111 RBIs and 16 steals. But he also had a career-high 184 strikeouts in 157 games. By comparison, he had 136 strikeouts in 2013 – again, in 157 games.
Trout is reportedly making adjustments to his approach to cut down on whiffs this season.
“As you get into the league, there’s certainly adjustments you have to make,” Scioscia said. “Mike has made adjustments that haven’t been very public as far as what he’s done in the batter’s box over the course of just his short time in the major leagues. This is just another adjustment that he feels that he needs to make. It’s a subtle one. I don’t thin it’s going to be anything major, and I think that even if he continues to be on the same path he was last year, you’re talking about an incredibly productive player and MVP-caliber (player). He’ll be just fine.”