FIRE JOE MORGAN: The Fine Writing of America's Own USA TODAY


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Friday, August 26, 2005


The Fine Writing of America's Own USA TODAY

I yield the floor to Mr. Hal Bodley of USA TODAY:

The first pitch is seven hours away, but Mike Scioscia's mind is already at the ballpark, churning, plotting, fantasizing.

That's his job. He's the manager of a major league baseball team. Let's say the game starts at 7:05. That means that at noon, Mike Scioscia is thinking about baseball! A true inspiration to our children.

There's grind-it-out baseball, Moneyball baseball and three-run homer baseball.

I would love to hear Hal Bodley's definitions of these three kinds of baseball.

Scioscia says there's merit to whatever philosophy works for a certain team, but his approach that's kept the Los Angeles Angels in first place in the American League West virtually the entire season is even simpler: Get in scoring position, create havoc on the base paths - and win.

That approach has made the Angels the eighth-highest scoring team in the American League. Just ahead of the Tigers. Right behind the Devil Rays. But the D-Rays probably create way more havoc on the base paths.

The Angels are, however, a very good pitching team (third in the AL, behind the White Sox and the Twins). We should really be praising Scioscia for magically turning John Lackey from a guy with a 6.5 K/9 rate to a guy with a 9.1 K/9 rate.

In a restaurant high above Baltimore's Inner Harbor, million-dollar yachts look like toys in a wading pool. They move slowly, methodically across the water, much like a baserunner going from first to third.

Jesus. Jesus.

You just said the yachts were moving slowly and methodically! Wouldn't a baserunner going from first to third moving in the exact opposite way -- I don't know, fast?

Much, much later the Angels, behind Bartolo Colon, are in a tense scoreless tie with the Orioles in the fifth inning.

Orlando Cabrera works a walk from Baltimore starter Erik Bedard. With the dangerous Vladimir Guerrero on deck, Darin Erstad sacrifices Cabrera to second.

Isn't this second-guess time? Why would Scioscia order Erstad to bunt, thus leaving first base open and an almost-certain intentional pass for Guerrero, 2004's AL MVP? Take the bat out of his hands?

Yes, those are all good questions. I don't know why he would have Erstad bunt.

That's exactly what happens. Guerrero gets the pass and up comes Garret Anderson, who's been hurt and struggling.

Anderson drops a single to center, and the Angels are up 1-0. Before the inning ends, they score twice more, giving Colon all the support he needs for a league-leading 17th victory.

Okay, but that doesn't prove anything. Garret Anderson is a guy who this year makes an out 68.5% of the time. That's terrible. If Mike Scioscia had put in a midget batting with a piano leg as a pinch hitter for Vlad, and that midget raked a double, it would still be a questionable decision.

When you think of the current managerial elites, La Russa, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, Lou Piniella and Jack McKeon are often mentioned.

Put Scioscia on the list. He just might be the most underrated skipper in the majors.

Who's underrating him? How much press coverage of Mike Scioscia do you want?

"When we get into our game," Scioscia says, "we can play with any team in our league."

And that's called Sciosciaball.

What's called Sciosciaball? "Getting into our game"? "Playing with any team in our league"? That's quite possibly the most generic, boilerplate quote ever given by any manager, ever. Why would you close your article with that?

Well, at least you compared yachts moving in a harbor to guys moving from first to third.

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posted by Junior  # 3:15 PM
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