Following the house cleaning of the Angels front office in 1999, general manager Bill Stoneman hired a new manager. The new on-field leader of the Angels? Tommy Lasorda.
Okay, we all know it wasn't Lasorda, but rather Mike Scioscia. But in all intents and purposes, it may have well been Lasorda as Scioscia's in-game management style emulates his former manager's. During his years with the Dodgers as a player (1980-1992), bench coach (1997 and 1998), and minor league manager (1999), Scioscia learned to manage using the "Lasorda Way" to major league success.
In Mark Saxon's article on Scioscia in the OC Register, it's speculated that Scioscia's management style is a result of being a catcher during his playing days,
Put yourself in Scioscia's old Dodgers cleats for a minute. Imagine the sweat trickling down your temples as you crouch, a nervous eye straying to Vince Coleman shuffling a step or two further from first base. You know that if you're perfect, Coleman might steal it anyway. If you're not, you could be embarrassed in front of 50,000 people.
Now, put yourself in Scioscia's spot on the Angels' bench. What kind of lineup would strike you as the most menacing?
While I don't disagree with Mr. Saxon's point of view, in fact I agree that Scoiscia's teams are built around aggressive base running, but his on-field management style is a clone of his former manager, the only major league manager Scioscia ever played for...Tommy Lasorda.
Prior to the hiring of Scioscia, the Angels were a slow-footed team having finished last in stolen bases in 1996, 11th in 1998, and 12th in 1999 (they finished 5th in 1997). Once Scioscia started running the offense, the team's stolen base rankings started to rise:
Angels' Stolen Base Rankings
Do you see a trend there? The first two seasons, the Angels were still rather slow, but when subsequent roster decisions were being made, players who could steal bases and go first-to-third started replacing the slower players. The Angels have been built around Scioscia's managing style.
Since the teams have been built to his speed/aggressive base running style, how does Scioscia use them? The same way the Dodgers used them. In the 1980's and 1990's, the Lasorda-led Dodgers were consistently among the league leaders in sacrifice hits, while almost always near the bottom in home runs. Even when the Dodger teams had plenty of power and were one of the best power hitting teams in the league, they were still at or near the top in sacrifice bunts:
|Sac Bunts||Home Runs|
The 1980 and 1990 Dodger teams loved to bunt, regardless if they had legitimate power in their batting order. During Scoiscia's playing days with the Dodger, the Dodgers ranked no lower than 3rd in the league in number of sacrifice bunts every season but one (in 1990 they ranked 8th):
Dodgers' Sacrifice Bunt Rankings
This trend continued when Scoiscia returned to the Dodgers as their bench coach under manager Bill Russell. In 1997, the Dodgers led the league in sac bunts and during the 1998 season, the Dodgers had the second highest total of bunts. In 1999, Scioscia managed the Dodgers' triple-A farm team in Albuquerque. The Dukes were an average offensive team, finishing the season in the middle of the pack in all offensive categories except two; stolen bases (3rd) and sac bunts (1st).
I'm not intending to rip Scoiscia or his management style as his track record speaks for itself. The Angels are a fun to watch and have enjoyed successes never achieved prior to his arrival. Yet, I always hated the Dodgers.