After his bullpen blew a 3-3 tie in the eighth inning and ended up losing 8-3 to the Texas Rangers, Angels manager Mike Sciosca lost it in a post-game interview. While it might have been mundane compared to legendary stack-blowers like Billy Martin and even Scioscia's old skipper Tommy Lasorda, Scioscia is legend for an even-keel optimism and he raised his voice, first in defense of one player and then to send an ultimatum to an unnamed few.
In fourteen seasons as Angels manager he has never reacted this way. He discusses turning pages when the team loses and keeping it going when the team wins. But after Tuesday night's loss he was asked about catcher Chris Iannetta allowing six stolen bases - most of which became runs and two of which were steals of 3B. Scioscia raised his voice in defense of Iannetta and immediately places the blame for the six SB at the feet of Angels pitchers.
Here is what he said...
"This is about the inability of some of our pitchers to make some adjustments they need to make. And the reality of it is if this is going to become instructional league, we need to make some changes."
That is not Billy Martin yelling expletives and throwing things nor is it Lasorda sneering at reporters and daring them to outsmart him. But longtime Angels watchers all know what happened there. Mike snapped. The press was picking on the catcher - and as a former catcher Scioscia has fundamentally favored the defense of his old position as the foundation upon which his team is built, a premise that absent a Molina brother has cost the franchise dearly over the last few seasons, and even severely at times.
Scioscia's implication in this tirade is that Angels pitchers are not quick enough to the plate. In a losing season with no focus, the difference between Ernesto Frieri getting a pitch to the plate in 1.4 seconds (which he was clocked at on Tuesday) instead of in 1.35 seems hare-splitting. To be thrown under the bus is terrible. And Scioscia did it to starter Garrett Richards and relievers Kevin Jepsen, Nick Maronde and Frieri over five one-hundredths of a second - on a night when the catcher on the Angels bench has a Caught-Stealing rate twenty percent higher than the starter (Hank Conger has thrown out 35 percent of would-be base stealers while Iannetta has nailed 14 percent).
So Mike raised his voice and made threatening overtures to easily identifiable players for the first time in fourteen seasons. He did this by privileging the importance five one-hundredths of a second in pitch delivery over a twenty percent difference in Caught-Stealing rate.
Tonight's snapping, and it was a snapping by Scioscia standards, glaringly speaks of Scioscia's limitations and redass riding of players for almost imagined-offenses. You don't have to be a believer in chemistry to accept that at some point this nitpicking and grudge-bearing makes players just shrug and go about their business at a professional pace without regard to maintaining the heightened focus needed to win every play possible in the game within each and every game.
And that is why this team is where it is - turning pages back and forth; pages in an out-of-date book nobody will ever check out of the Anaheim library once the Big Catorce is elsewhere.