The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim beat the Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles 5-1 last night at Angels Stadium to sweep the annual Freeway Series.
It was classic Mike Scioscia small ball (with a 5th inning Torii Hunter two-run smash thrown in for good measure), and as I gazed at the “3 Million Fans/8 Straight Years” banner in centerfield, this thought hit me:
What coulda been if the Doyers had followed the Tommy Lasorda plan.
The legendary manager, who lobbied the catcher out of Springfield High School in Delaware County to sign with the Dodgers after the 1976 amateur draft, later groomed his All-Star to succeed him some day as skipper.
But, after retiring as a player in 1992 and spending the next several years coaching and managing in the Dodgers' minor league system, ownership went a different direction. In 1999, Davey Johnson was named manager with the Dodgers. Scioscia signed on with the Angels the following season. Anaheim's gain has been Los Angeles' loss ever since.
The Dodgers, once known for keeping managers for decades (Lasorda, who skippered the team for 20 years, succeeded Walter Alston, who was at the helm for 22 years), have been led by Johnson, Jim Tracy, Grady Little, Joe Torre and now Don Mattingly during the seasons Scioscia has led the Halos.
Imagine all the inside stories Vin Scully would have been sharing with viewers and listeners about Scioscia the player and manager all those seasons? You'd definitely be hearing more Vinny because during that time, the Angels have won 38 more games, two more division titles (five to three) and one more World Series championship (one to zero wins or appearances).
You want heavy lifting: the World Series rings came after the Angels, as a second-place wild card team, had to play more playoff games. And that magical 2002 campaign was preceded by a league-worst 75-87 record and followed by another 77-85 stinker.
Meanwhile, the last time the Dodgers have won a World Series, let alone appeared in one, was way back in 1988. Scioscia was behind the plate to catch game one winner and eventual World Series MVP Orel Hershiser. Two other members of that '88 Dodgers championship team, Mickey Hatcher and Alfredo Griffin, now coach for Scioscia.
The show they put on last night in front of 27,779 fans at the Big A–which was filled with more red shirts than blues, although Dodger fans did manage a couple loud cheers along the way–was classic Scioscia, filled with strong pitching, strong defense, run-and-hit attempts and movement on the base paths (albeit reckless at times; the Angels could have scored more runs if Hunter and Howie Kendrick were not thrown out on their attempts). All that was missing was an Angel on third being squeezed home.
Still, the run production the Angels did get, coupled with starter Scott Kazmir and his relieving corps frustrating Dodger bats, was all that was needed in this Battle: Los Angeles. The host of the post-game show on KLAA (AM 830) put it best during the drive home: “There are a lot disappointed people with neck tattoos and blue shirts leaving Angels Stadium right now.”
The seven players the Angels left on base (versus the Dodgers' four) show LAA of A could use another bat or three. Thankfully, Kendrys Morales has been cleared to play ball and, hopefully, Vernon Wells will get healthy soon. As long as those arms hold up in the meantime, the Angels should be fine.
Steady Mike Scioscia always makes sure of it.