Those of us who spend more time than we probably should on this site can rarely agree on anything. Nothing wrong with that. It's what keeps things entertaining. However, if you dig through all the smirking, snide remarks and self-congratulation it becomes apparent that there are some sacred tenets that all of us hold dear in at least some capacity. For example, you’ll find plenty of opinions on Tony Reagins. Some people think that he was the worst GM we’ve ever had, while some people believe he was a mole planted here by the Texas FO to weaken a once proud franchise. While the intensity of the hatred for Reagins might differ, the general sentiment is the same: Tony Reagins sucked at his job. If you’re seeking an argument on that point, you’ll need to find a different site (LSB, maybe?)
Likewise, you’d be hard pressed to find too many positive opinions expressed on these pages regarding Jeff Mathis. Maybe you resented watching him flail ineffectively at league average pitching while Napoli sat on the bench. Perhaps you got your expectations too high after he put up big numbers against the MFY in the ’09 ALCS only to be reminded time and time again that his presence in a batters box was an insult to mediocre hitters everywhere. Or maybe it was his shameless bitching for playing time while looking up at the Mendoza line. The common thread is that Jeff Mathis sucked, only the reasoning and the intensity of the hatred varied.
And so it goes with the Big Catorce. Mike Scioscia is the longest tenured manager in MLB. For some of the younger readers on this site, he’s the only Angels skipper that they’ve ever known. (Side note: If you think Sosh is the worst ever, you clearly don’t remember the days of Doug Rader, Terry Collins, John McNamara, Cookie Rojas…) Sosh was, of course, at the helm in 2002 for the Angels sole World Series championship, a fact that seems to have bought him about a decade and a half of uncritical loyalty from Uncle Arte. That loyalty in the wake of four consecutive years of failure to meet expectations has also made Sosh the plus-sized punching bag for a large cross-section of the readership around here. Some of it is well deserved. Some of it borders on delusional. Nevertheless, we are more likely to see Albert Pujols beat Mike Trout in a footrace than see any Manager of the Year talk about Sosh here on HH. Again, the general sentiment is the same, the only variables being the reasoning for and the intensity of the hatred.
Personally, I’ve never been as quite as anti-Sosh as most everyone here. I’ve always thought that some of the more ridiculous criticisms bordered on the comical. (Really?! You really believe that Scioscia intentionally pitched Blanton as part of a nefarious scheme to get Dipoto fired?!) However, Sosh wouldn’t be Sosh if he didn’t piss me off at least a little bit. And here’s what gets to me: Lineups. Seriously…effing lineups. He seems to get these weird notions about filling out a lineup and then sticks with it no matter how disastrous the result. (Think Aybar batting leadoff or Howie batting cleanup.) We’re still two weeks out from Spring Training, but I think we can already safely guess a few things about what the lineup will look like. It’s a given that Mike Trout, the best leadoff hitter in the game, will not be hitting leadoff. Nope, instead we’ll likely get a steady diet of Aybar at leadoff. A guy who posted a .271/.301/.382 slash line last year. A guy who only stole 12 bases…and was caught stealing almost as much as he was successful. A guy who averaged about 1 walk…every week.
Why on Earth would anyone do this? Because Sosh has an obsession with making sure that Trout-Pujols-Hamilton must hit back to back to back. Is there any sound rationale for this? Not that I can tell. To me, the first inning of games that Aybar leads off looks something like this… Stats tell us that 70% of the time, Aybar will fail to do what a leadoff hitter is meant to do. So now Trout comes up with 1 out. Lets say that Trout gets a base hit to bring up Pujols. Now, a rational manager would recognize that he has one of the best speed guys in the game on base and utilize that speed to get Trout into scoring position. But not Sosh. No, he’s too worried about "taking the bat out of Pujols hands." Ok, so maybe Pujols sees fewer pitches to hit with an open base. But is that a function of the open base at first, or the total lack of respect for a declining Josh Hamilton? And if so, wouldn't it make more sense to hit, I dunno, anyone besides Hamilton in that slot? But if we base our assumptions on last year’s results, we can pretty much expect that Hamilton will be the cleanup hitter and that more often than not he will use that platform to give us another one of his trademark 4-6-3 double plays. Inning over.
Now, lets look at that same inning with Trout leading off. Let’s say Trout gets on base. You can plug in any number of options to hit second: Aybar, Calhoun, even Ianetta with his high OPB. Let’s say you turn Trout loose early in the count. He swipes the bag. Trout on 2nd, nobody out. Now you’ve got options. You can sac bunt him over. A deep enough fly ball moves him to 3rd. Base hit might even score him. For argument’s sake, let’s say he gets bunted over. That brings up Pujols with Trout on 3rd and one out. Fly ball brings in a run. Now you’re on the board without even having to worry about Hamilton trying to pull a pitch that’s a foot outside. But it won’t happen. Why not? Because Sosh says so. Really, that’s it. I can’t think of any sane reason why at this stage of his career Trout shouldn’t be a leadoff hitter. Doesn’t matter. If the Big Catorce says no, it doesn’t happen. And that sucks.
Maybe Sosh doesn’t bear all the blame. Maybe it’s Hamilton’s fault for his rapid regression. Can you imagine if Hambone was putting up numbers like he did in Texas? Then I guess I could see hitting Trout 2nd. Can you imagine being an opposing pitcher and seeing Trout dancing around off first base, forcing you to pump in fastballs to Pujols, and knowing that throwback Hamilton was waiting on deck? You’d be sweating more than Angela at the free clinic. But that’s not what we got last year. And that’s my problem with Sosh; no matter how many times he is confronted with evidence that his strategy isn’t working, he keeps trotting out the same tired elixir. It’s an arrogant way to manage a team, and continuing to do this after the lack of success of the past few years is nothing short of crazy. Which brings me to the point of this Fanpost. I know there’s plenty of Sosh hatred oozing around out there just waiting for an outlet. Well, here it is. Here’s your chance to let it all out. What pisses you off the most about Scioscia? Let the justifiably righteous loathing loose. If nothing else, it should be cathartic before we finally "turn the page" on this offseason.