We have arrived.
After over a month, it comes down to THIS: the one last battle of this entire installment.
Ladies and gentlemen, you selected a winner of the challengers' bracket: Yesterday, in the finals of that bracket, Joe Maddon dispatched Omar Vizquel 67-18 in voting (79% to 21%). He comes to the big match today.
14 years we have spent with Mike Scioscia as the manager of our sometimes beleaguered, but always beloved Angels. He's brought us through triumph and trial. More often than not, lately, however, he's been bringing us the latter. This final battle has come, so let it commence.
JOE MADDON (TBR) vs. MIKE SCIOSCIA (LAA)
Joe Maddon is, let's just say, successful. And his name was always in the conversation of managerial credibility, even before the Tampa Bay job; he interviewed for the job that Grady Little left behind in Boston, and was the consensus pick for it before Terry Francona won the job. Two years after that, though, when Lou Piniella left Tampa Bay, Maddon was interviewed for the job and won it with ease. He endured his first two seasons of struggle before the 2008 campaign came along, when the team went down with the "Devil", changing their look and their name as the Tampa Bay Rays. The team, with a low-payroll mix of plentiful youth talent and sage veteran leadership, astounded all as Maddon took the team to the World Series, where they succumbed to the Philadelphia Phillies in five games. Maddon would win Manager of the Year for that magnificent turnaround, and again in 2011 when his Rays stormed back from 9 behind in the AL Wild Card at Labor Day to win the spot on the season's final day. His charges have won 90 games in five of the last six seasons, and his message his clearly well-received in the clubhouse, year in and year out. That team is The House that Maddon Built. What's unclear, however, is Maddon's adaptability. When he went to Tampa Bay, the team abounded with young up-and-comers such as Jorge Cantu, Joey Gathright and Carl Crawford, but was clearly not a contender. Therefore, the team had the opportunity to build, both in veterans and in organizational talent, around Maddon. The Angels would not be anything like that, in any regard. This is a team already built ready to win, in need simply of the right manager to guide them to success. Maddon wouldn't get to tear down and start over here. Would he be well-received and respected enough in the Angels' clubhouse to where he could replicate that Tampa Bay turnaround in Anaheim?
Mike Scioscia is...well...a managerial enigma. He has done quite a lot for us as our manager. Mike Scioscia had never had the opportunity to manage in the major leagues prior to the 2000 season, when a clubhouse mutiny ousted Terry Collins midseason, and the team opted not to stick with then-bench coach Joe Maddon as their manager (he'd performed the job on an interim basis for the remainder of the 1999 season). He came in and the team, in his first year, could very well have gone somewhere good...if the pitching performed at even an AVERAGE level. The team had a near-historic offense that season, and they were very much the kind of team that could've won plenty of games by 9-5 and 10-8 scores. However, the pitching that season was so horrific, that the team flopped and went 82-80. After a subpar 2001 season that saw the pitching slightly improve, but the offense naturally depreciate, was the improbable and completely awe-striking 2002 season. The only world championship in franchise history, the first in its then 42 years of existence. Scioscia easily won Manager of the Year. He guided a team not unlike Maddon's 2008 Rays all the way to the big show, and they won everything in a battle-tested seven-gamer over the Giants. After a very "honeymoon-is-over" type season in 2003, the team went on an unprecedented tear of success. Between 2004 and 2009, the team won five AL West titles and never won less than 89 games in any of those years--in other words, he did exactly what Joe Maddon did, winning 90 or more in five of those six years, including the team's best-ever record of 100-62 in 2008. However, after 2009 came the current era of Murphy's Law baseball. Kendrys Morales' freak injuries that cost him 2/3rds of 2010 and all of 2011. The team lacked a leader in 2010, after John Lackey, Chone Figgins and Vladimir Guerrero all left. The team head-scratchingly let Darren Oliver walk in free agency. Morales' injury completely depleted the team in 2010, and despite a decent couple of summer months that brought enough hope to turn the team into buyers, a late-season tank brought the team back down to an 80-82 record. 2011 was not a year to expect much from, and arguably the worst trade in franchise history sent the team's two biggest power bats at the time, Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera, up to Toronto for albatross Vernon Wells, but the team managed to go 86-76 and stayed in the wild card race until the season's final series. 2012, after the ousting of Tony Reagins, saw a seemingly new era of Angels baseball begin. Albert Pujols. C.J. Wilson. The team looked STACKED. But a stumble out of the gate, plus an illness-ridden Mike Trout being forced to AAA, caused the team to struggle long enough to put a damper on their playoff hopes, finishing the season 89-73. And this season...ugh. Another big money acquisition in Josh Hamilton ended up falling on his face for the first half of the season, and the team disappointed again. Currently sitting at 78-81, projecting to end the season at 80-82, just as they did three years ago. Suffice to say, Scioscia's time could be expired. Is his message growing stale? Tales of clubhouse anarchy suggest that he has no remaining ability to control his team away from the dugout, and results seem to show that he has little ability to control them INSIDE the dugout. But could our views be wrong? The team has had an almost unreal second-half surge good enough to keep them outside the bottom third of baseball in terms of wins and losses. An infusion of youth and a resurgence of veterans and a healthy pitching staff can be cited for that, but can Scioscia? His job has never been in more jeopardy than now. He has five years left on his contract, but does that matter? Will Arte send it down the shredder and pick a new man to right the ship?
This is the final match, so the poll will remain open until SUNDAY NIGHT. That's THREE DAYS to vote and discuss this one. Have at it!