Scioscia remains at top of his game this season

June 23rd, 2017

NEW YORK -- By any account, Mike Scioscia has had a Hall of Fame career as a manager. He's in his 18th season, all with the Angels, which is unheard of in this day and age when Major League skippers are as disposable as hot dog wrappers.

Under Scioscia's tutelage, the Angels won the 2002 World Series after capturing an American League Wild Card berth and six AL West titles. His .540 winning percentage is tops among active managers with 1,500 or more wins. He has 1,528, including Thursday night's come-from-behind, 10-5, victory over the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

The Angels are 38-38, nearing the halfway point of the season. And the job Scioscia's doing, keeping them at .500 considering injuries to , plus most of the starting rotation and bullpen, may be his masterpiece.

"Ah, I'm just trying to stay out of everyone's way," Scioscia said with all due modesty.

Billy Eppler, the fourth Angels general manager to work with Scioscia and in his second season, sees it a bit differently.

"He's able to make adjustments on the fly and make the day-to-day adjustments that come with an ever-changing roster," Eppler said. "Mike's done a tremendous job putting guys in a position to succeed."

Eppler came from the Yankees where he worked for more than a decade under general manager Brian Cashman in a number of capacities, including vice president and assistant GM. During his New York tenure, Joe Torre and Joe Girardi were the managers.

Asked how Scioscia stacked up against those guys, Eppler chuckled and simply said:

"He's a great manager, that's all I can tell you."

Scioscia, at 58, has one more year after this one on his contract. He said he hasn't thought about how long he'd like to manage and will "look over that horizon" when he gets to it. But he still loves the job, he said, and is making a strong case for continued longevity with the Angels the way he has managed his way through turbulent times thus far this season.

Trout was on his way to a third AL MVP Award-winning season when he tore a ligament in his left thumb and had surgery, the result of sliding head first into second base on a steal attempt during a loss to the Marlins on May 28. The Angels were 26-27 at the time and were expected to collapse. They've played 12-11 ball in Trout's absence and he's projected to be out for at least another month.

"Whether Mike was in the lineup or injured, we had issues in the lineup that needed to be addressed," Scioscia said. "We couldn't be just Mike and for long stretches of the first two months we were. You can absorb someone like Mike being out of the lineup for the short term as long as the rest of your team is doing what it can do. We're seeing some of that, but you've never going to replace what Mike brings."

Then there's the matter of the starting rotation. Andre Heaney, Nick Tropeano, , and have combined to miss 279 games, which adjusts to about 56 starts with an assortment of elbow, ligament and shoulder injuries.

As far as the backend of bullpen is concerned, , , , and now have all missed significant time. Bedrosian and Street returned from groin and lat injuries, respectively, just as Norris hit the disabled list with a sore knee.

Yet, the Angels slapped-together pitching is ranked 10th among the 30 Major League teams and sixth in the AL with a 4.11 ERA. The starters are 12th overall and sixth in the AL with a 4.41 ERA and the bullpen is eighth in MLB and fifth in the AL with a 3.61 ERA.

The bullpen has a lot of under-the-radar names, but on Thursday night, that crew shutout the Yankees on one hit during the last five innings as the offense scored nine unanswered runs to erase an early 5-1 deficit.

"These guys have been terrific," Scioscia said about his relievers. "Hey, .500 is nothing to throw a parade about, but I don't think we're even .500 without the job our 'pen has done from the start to this point in the year."

A lot of it is the deft work of pitching coach Charlie Nagy, said Mark Langston, a former Angels pitcher and now a radio commentator on the club's games.

"But Mike gives him the authority and the autonomy to do his job," Langston said.

That, of course is the key to being a good manager. The Scioscia tree includes Cubs manager Joe Maddon and Rockies skipper Bud Black, who were bench coach and pitching coach, respectively, on the 2002 team that came from behind to beat the Giants in seven World Series games.

"That was a heck of a talented staff we had back then," Scioscia said.

All of this hasn't gone unnoticed. The Angels are on their way to opening a three-game series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Friday night, having taken four of the six games they played against the Yanks the last 10 days.

And over in the other dugout, Girardi marveled at the job the former Dodgers catcher is doing.

"He's had some guys who stepped up in the absence of players and played at a very high level," Girardi said. "His rotation is not what they anticipated. They've had to make some moves in the bullpen, to mix and match and do some different things with closers. He's a very, very good manager and I think he's gotten the most out of his team."