Mike Scioscia’s Emotional Season Ends with Manager of the Year Honors


Mike Scioscia added one more piece to his incredible 2009 season: He is your American League Manager of the Year.

A more appropriate choice there never was.

In a rollicking, emotional season filled with tragedy and triumph, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim won 97 games and another divisional crown, thanks in large part to their sound-minded skipper.

Scioscia’s award-winning fate was sealed on Sept. 28, when his Angels clinched their franchise record third consecutive AL West division title.

They would go on to sweep the Boston Red Sox in the first round of the playoffs before falling to the New York Yankees in a tough battle for the AL Championship.

But by that point, any postseason accomplishments were just the icing on the cake of a truly improbable season.

Few managers, if any, have had to face the trials and tribulations Scioscia was confronted with this season.

Fewer still could persevere.

Scioscia and the Angels began the 2009 season already two steps behind their competition when staff ace John Lackey and former All-Star pitcher Ervin Santana both landed on the disabled list in spring training, delaying their mound debuts for over a month.

Co-ace Kelvim Escobar, once considered an Opening Day replacement for Lackey, suffered setbacks in his recovery from shoulder surgery and was relegated to the bench yet again.

But the worst was still to come.

Barely three days into the season, and just hours after tossing six shutout innings in the best start of his big league career, rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed by a drunk driver.

The car he was traveling in was struck in the middle of an intersection. Two were dead on scene. Adenhart died a few hours later after being rushed to a nearby hospital.

His death shook the baseball fraternity as teams gathered all over the country to watch the news coverage and mourn one of their own.

For the Angels, the pain would last deep into the middle of the season.

By June 11, they were playing listless, uninspired baseball. A .500 record to their name and looking far worse, they languished in second place, five games behind the division-leading Texas Rangers.

That is, until Scioscia took his team to task.

Threatening to send veterans to the minor leagues and start rookies in their place, he led the Angels out of their two-month funk and inspired a campaign to play for Adenhart, rather than without him.

Suddenly, the Angels were working together as a team, believing they could overcome any adversity as they marched in lockstep behind Scioscia.

The Angels went on to set franchise records in a number of categories, including come-from-behind victories, as well as a Major League record for the most players with 50 or more RBI (11).

But being an effective manager has as much to do with crisis management as it does dealing with various personalities in unpredictable situations—and there was no shortage of those for the Angels.

Unshakable though, Scioscia’s steady hand kept his team focused and motivated, particularly when the Angels were battling with the Rangers for control of the AL West.

In late June, center fielder Torii Hunter and designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero each suffered injuries that put them on the sidelines for over a month.

This was the second DL stint for Guerrero, and it looked like the Angels might lose their edge in the division with their big sluggers on the mend.

Fortunately, new sluggers took their place.

Scioscia’s careful guidance and faith in his players allowed Kendry Morales to have perhaps the most surprising year of any player in the Majors, filling the void at first base left by Mark Teixeira and leading his team in both home runs (34) and RBI (108).

At no point in the season was his impact felt as greatly, or needed as much, as in the absence of Hunter and Guerrero.

Bobby Abreu, a veteran to the game but a newcomer to the team, also factored in huge during that time, and indeed throughout the season.

He seemed to do as much coaching of the hitters as Mickey Hatcher, but it was his breezy acquisition of Scioscia’s run-and-gun style of play that helped the Angels reach the postseason.

Scioscia’s Angels have made postseason appearances six times in his decade of service, three of those leading to berths in the AL Championship Series, and once leading them all the way to the organization’s only World Series title.

The Angels have become a powerhouse in the AL West and a perennial contender in the American League since Scioscia took over in 2000.

Prior to his reign, the team had only been to the playoffs three times in nearly 40 years and had never reached the World Series. Their past mediocrity has only been matched by their current success, and it can all be attributed to Scioscia.

His name has become synonymous with present-day greats like Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox and may one day be honored among the best of all time.

Mike Scioscia’s ascent from the darkest depths of tragedy to the heavenly resolution of a fifth divisional title in six years is one for the ages.

The Angels suffered through death, absorbed multiple injuries, used no less than 14 different starting pitchers, and still came away with a dominating season.

Manager of the Year is the least Scioscia’s accomplishments deserve.

The only question now is, who can compete with him for Manager of the Decade?