USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale breaks down how players and teams fared at the MLB trade deadline.
It was the secret that Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia hoped to keep all season.
He made up his mind before spring training this would be his final season, not only as Angels’ manager, but with no intention to manage again.
Scioscia, the longest-tenured manager in the Major Leagues, and third-highest paid manager in baseball, is retiring after this season, three people directly involved with his decision told USA TODAY Sports over the past two weeks.
The people were granted anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly on Scioscia’s decision.
He told his family and friends that he wanted no publicity. No fanfare. Please, no farewell ceremonies.
Just privacy, hopeful that after the Angels’ final game Sept. 30 against the Oakland A’s, he could quietly step away after 19 seasons at the helm.
Yet, in this day and age, it’s so tough to keep a secret, and when word leaked Saturday night in a report by The Athletic that Scioscia likely would step down, Scioscia was left scrambling, saying he would address his situation after the season.
“Nothing has changed since we talked last October,’’ Scioscia told reporters in his office Sunday morning. “That’s the best way I can put it. There’s always chatter out there. The only word I have is poppycock. That’s all it is.’’
Too late now. Scioscia will be thrust into the spotlight these last six weeks, subjected to questions wherever he goes, listening uncomfortably to accolades, and will have folks debating on the airwaves whether he’ll be in the Hall of Fame, while others predict his successor.
Scioscia, 59, and General Manager Billy Eppler still haven’t had a conversation about his future, and it’s unknown whether Scioscia would be invited back if he wanted to return. Yet, Scioscia will make the decision easy by stepping down without the need to talk.
There’s already a short list of in-house candidates, among them former Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, bench coach Josh Paul, and special assistant Eric Chavez, but there soon will be hundreds of resumes landing on Eppler’s desk. Eppler declined comment last week when USA TODAY Sports asked about Scioscia’s retirement plans.
Scioscia, who likely would be on the short list of the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and other teams seeking a permanent manager this winter, has no interest in managing again. This is it. He also has no current plans to stay in baseball in any capacity, at least for the next few years, hoping to spend his next few summers traveling.
After 19 years in this game as manager, you get burned out. He has had the longest run of any manager since Hall of Famer Bobby Cox spent 21 years with the Atlanta Braves, and the sixth-longest of all-time. The only active coach in North American sports with a longer tenure is Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs.
Maybe it would be different if the Angels were winning, but that stopped years ago. They’ve reached the postseason only once since 2009, and haven’t won a postseason game in nine years. There were hopes this season would be different, but after being ravaged with injuries, the Angels’ season ended in June, sitting 11 games out of a wild-card spot.
This has nothing to do with owner Arte Moreno, or Eppler, with whom he has enjoyed a strong relationship since Eppler was hired after the 2015 season. The depleted farm system and woefully thin pitching staff over the years made it nearly impossible to compete in the powerful AL West. Still, Scioscia never made excuses, publicly or privately.
Whether Scioscia winds up in the Hall of Fame or not, this has been a glorious run, and his hiring may be the greatest decision the Angels ever made.
He provided instant credibility, stability, leadership and changed the culture of an entire organization, becoming the most powerful manager in the game at one time, with the Angels reaching the playoffs six times in nine years.
Scioscia led the Angels to their lone World Series title in 2002, winning six division titles, a wild-card berth, two Manager of the Year awards, and ranking 18th among managers with 1,625 victories, eclipsing his mentor, Hall of Fame manager Tom Lasorda, in May. He has won the second-most games with one franchise in baseball history, trailing only Walter Alston (2,040) of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I think he’s a Hall of Famer, just look at the huge difference Mike has made,’’ said Boston Red Sox bench coach Ron Roenicke, who spent 13 years on Scioscia’s staff. “If not for Mike managing that team in 2002, we don’t win the World Series.
“We had good players when we got there [in 2000], but Mike created a different culture. He came in with an aggressive style. We created runs, we hit home runs, we did all of the little things that today’s analytics probably would not agree with, but they were important.
“It was such a different thought-process because Mike let the players know it was OK to make mistakes. They played aggressive, played free, and it worked.”
The Angels were a National League-style team playing in the American League, taking the extra-base, stealing bases, and making life uncomfortable on every opposing manager. Yet, despite attracting the biggest free-agent stars in Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, and developing the game’s greatest player in Mike Trout, the winning stopped. It became a battle for survival rather than contending for World Series titles.
“I’ve always admired Scioscia from the other side,’’ says San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who coached Scioscia for one year in the San Diego Padres’ organization. “He’s a very aggressive manager, not afraid to take risks, and his teams always play hard. Just a very good fundamental team that played the game right.
“He’s had quite the career as manager.’’
It’s doubtful Scioscia will relent and permit the Angels to have a farewell ceremony for him during their final homestand. He may steadfastly refuse to even address his future until the season ends.
He’ll forever be remembered in Angels’ folklore, and once he takes off his uniform, No. 14, it likely will never be worn again, permanently retired.
It has been quite the ride playing in the shadows of Disneyland, but it’s finally time, Scioscia says, to turn off the lights.
Just don’t tell anybody.