For most of Scioscia’s tenure, the Angels have been a scrappy team whose success has stemmed from superior pitching (keep the opponents run total manageable), adherence to a small-ball philosophy (running first-to-third, timely sacrifice bunts, successful hit-and-run plays), and good old-fashioned quality game management. The “big fly” has played second fiddle to “manufacturing runs” in the baseball world that is Sciosciaball.
If Tony Reagins had found a way to sign Adrian Beltre and Carl Crawford, purveyors of the game would have put the Angels at the top of the World Series-contenders heap. The East Coast machine would no longer have considered the Angels to be a Yankees stepchild. Angels fans in general, and the HH community in particular, would have set their sights on a 100-win season, and Arte Moreno would rightfully be expecting a World Series ring for the millions of dollars he dropped.
Now, put yourself in Mike Scioscia’s cleats. You are dealt a proverbial royal straight flush: solid hitting, solid fielding, and solid pitching. Expectations are sky high (infinity and beyond!) from the fans and the team owner. Are you feeling the pressure yet? If you are Mike Scioscia, the answer is a definitive “yes.”
But Sosh is a master “tweaker”; he prides himself in making good players great, and strives to have his team perform at a “higher level.” If you are blessed with the best, where do you go from there? Your opportunities to exert your managerial finesse all but disappear; your strategizing denigrates to merely playing the big boys and hoping they perform.
I think Mike Scioscia is much more comfortable with an underdog team because it gives him a chance to utilize his managerial skills. There is pressure to win, but the expectations are realistic and attainable. How much success can a manager be expected to achieve with such raw talent as Wood, Bourjos, and Callaspo?
Maybe, just maybe, Scioscia heaved a sigh of relief a few weeks ago when Adrian Beltre became the second major free agent that the team failed to sign. Sosh avoided being stuck in a pressure cooker with no relief valve.