There were many great battles in World War II that decided the fate of the world in which we all grew up. The fundamental structure of the Western and Eastern worlds seems solid but there were afternoons in which the fate of both floated in the wind like a helpless daisy petal. By night's fall an effort of years or decades was obliterated. Cultures established over centuries were wiped out in three-day pogroms. But amidst the violence, there were also history-changing meetings. They were not violent. Nobody would die in the half hour they took for a small group of men to agree on a course of action and leave to implement that vision. Nobody died at the Yalta conference but generations will feel its impact for longer than the sum total damage done by many wars since.
Well something like this just happened in Anaheim. There have been many great games in the past decade, games that changed the fate of the team, and altered the course of the franchise. But something happened recently... and it wasn't on the field... and, well, it is like we woke up to the end of an era. For perhaps the first time in history, there has been a successful coup d'etat without someone being deposed.
And again... it has happened recently. REAL recently. Let's back up.
On April 30 Mike Scioscia sent the defense into an extreme shift with Jered Weaver on the mound. When the move backfired, Weave had words for Soth. In the dugout. Captured by the cameras. Live on TeeVee. They were not nice words and the teammates seen in the footage went into slo-mo contortions of disbelief.
The last guy to go off like this on Scioscia in the dugout during a game was... Jose Guillen. You remember what happened there, right? Right.
But nothing happened to Weaver that even remotely resembled the punishment meted out to the insubordinate Guillen.
Four starts later Mike Butcher visits the mound with Weaver in a jam. Weaver asks to be taken out of the game. To the average baseball fan this is the minutia of the game that is barely noticed, a chance to grab a beer and see what unfolds with the reliever. But to hardcore Angels fans, this is two events of biblical proportion. Weaver asking to come out of a game? Butcher on the mound when a pitcher leaves the game? What is the sound of one hand clapping? What is a candle unlit in the dark? There was no guru to guide us, this territory was uncharted. Michael Kohn got out of the terrible jam that "TiredWeave" had created. None of us knew for sure what anything meant anymore. If the Angels had worn their green alternate jerseys the next day it would have made more sense.
Kohn came in when the game was at its tensest moment and the leverage of each pitch's impact upon the game was at the highest that could be measured... was it a coincidence? Was it a role? Everything in the universe up to that point had been a role. Frieri was suddenly in the eighth inning, Joe Smith was in the ninth but then, they were not and then they were again.
If pitching bullpen roles have been abandoned and defensive metric shifts have been implemented, if a veteran like Raul Ibañez is platooned with rookie C.J. Cron in the first week of MAY, if a gritty overachieving outfielder like J.B. Shuck is sent to the minors for batting under .200 but giving 110% then only one thing could have happened... Mike Scioscia must have been fired. There must have been a coup. Who took over?
Meet the new boss. His name is Mike Scioscia. Apparently when Mike Scioscia lost forty pounds in the offseason, the blood now flows to his head more quickly and he is able to absorb information that was comprehensible in 2003 to anyone with an internet connection and a desire to read about baseball, or in 1979 if you bought an annual Bill James Abstract.
Give him credit, he is slow to log in but when Mike does he learns the basics fast. In the past month alone he has shown that he grasps some core sabermetric concepts:
- The higher the leverage of a situation the more it calls for your best reliever no matter at what point in the game.
- Punish hitters with strong tendencies with novel defensive alignments.
- Dump grit and vet for talent.
- Chemistry comes from winning, not conformity.
Mike Scioscia has been managing the 2014 Angels like Bill James outlined thirty-plus years ago. And to have actually used the shift means he has employed the new school of defensive metrics - none of which are freely available on the internet like post-Jamesian statistical analysis renaissance of 1998-2004. Which means that the Angels are relying on information from someone or somewhere.
Maybe it is Jerry Dipoto, maybe it is Scott Servais. Maybe it is Patti in the Angel Stadium ticket office. Someone is telling Mike Scioscia how to manage and he is actually managing better, managing for 2014 and not for Tommy Lasorda. And the Angels look a little better because of it. Maybe there was a conference like Yalta and it might have lead to a tearing down of a wall, but whether it was a coup or a cerebral enlightenment, it is the biggest shift in the day to day management between the lines since every employee of the front office (besides Joe Maddon) was fired in October of 1999. This bloodless coup leaves no body but Smith facing tougher hitters than Frieri no matter what point it is in the game is the evidence.
Is there more? What can this great new manager comprehend?
I like this new Angels manager Mike Scioscia. He has ended the Scioscialist philosophy of the guy who had been making out the lineup card since 2000.