The jury is still out about Mike Scioscia’s current value. Many are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, blaming Reagins for our recent struggles. Others want Scioscia’s head on a platter. Most of us are still puzzling it out. Is he a good manager or not? I recently came upon a thread of posts, enthusiastically advocating for hiring Francona and making Sosh the General Manager. This, of course, is a profoundly stupid idea to anyone who knows anything about Sosh’s strengths and weaknesses. For what it’s worth, I think Scioscia’s a potentially great manager, with one big problem buried, like a malignant tumor, deep inside.
What we’ve got is an above-average manager in terms of player motivation and on-field tactics. Sure, he’s had some trouble managing the bullpen lately, but he who is without sin cast the first stone. Everyone screws this up at some point; he has made mistakes, but I blame a lack of talent over bad managerial moves. We just don’t have a real closer yet. Scioscia’s problem, it seems to me, is psychological. He can't choose or manage catchers. At first thought this seems extraordinary, certainly ironic. But a little coffee house psychology may explain a lot.
Who does Scioscia really want catching for the Angels? He wants himself behind the plate, the young man he no longer is but still dreams of being. Because this is impossible in the light of day, Scioscia’s found the next best thing, a malleable player who he can control, utterly, and mold into a new version of his old self.
Strong players have their own unique skills. Napoli was never going to be Sciocia’s puppet. He’s too good. Conger’s obviously no miniature Sciocia either, try as he may. So Mathis it is. Mathis, who is smart enough to recognize that he’s not particularly good at any aspect of the game, will do anything, everything he’s asked, in his desperation to stick around the big leagues for as long as he can. So, until Scioscia either wakes up or finds another clone of himself, Mathis is the one.
And so the battle goes, between the rational Scioscia--who surely recognizes that he’s playing a sub-average catcher almost every day, damaging this team he obviously loves--and the dream-state Scioscia, clutching desperately to the fantasy that it is really him behind the plate, calling games, framing pitches, playing that excellent Sciocia D of those glory days of Dodger blue.
Will the recent example of Mike Napoli's breathtaking success in Texas finally get through the Sosh? Does he have, or will he find, the fearless self awareness to look into himself and find the festering wound, that stubborn child hiding in his subconscious, undermining his otherwise excellent managerial skills?