The eyes of the baseball world will be on Southern California this season as the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim field lineups full of superstars that must live up to their potential. Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and Angels skipper Mike Scioscia will be under intense pressure to go to the World Series. Underperforming this season may cost both respected managers their jobs.
For the Angels and Dodgers to succeed, both teams must play like their respective blue-collar managers did during the prime of their careers.
Mattingly and Scioscia are so similar. In the 1980s, Don “Donnie Baseball” Mattingly and Mike Scioscia were spiritual leaders on the Yankees and Dodgers, respectively. Mattingly endeared himself to Yankee fans by grittily playing the game the right way–like Derek Jeter does today–while Scioscia was the glue that held the Dodgers pitching staff together and was known for putting his body on the line every day by not giving up an inch at home plate while blocking it, which often resulted in some of the most violent collisions the game has seen. Mattingly passed the torch to the next generation of players–like Jeter. Scioscia, who also speaks Spanish, did the same, as the Dodgers used to have one of the most fabled farm systems that resulted from doing things “the Dodger way”
Many Yankee and Dodger fans believed Mattingly and Scioscia would naturally manage their respective teams.
Instead, both are now managing teams that were their rivals when they played.
The Dodgers passed on Scioscia in 1999 while he was in their organization, instead naming Davey Johnson as their manager even though Scioscia was coaching Albuquerque, their Triple-A affiliate. According to Vin Scully, not selecting Scioscia to be manager in 1999 was one of the three biggest mistakes, along with passing on Roberto Clemente and Vladimir Guerrero, that the Dodgers have ever made while he has been calling Dodger games for 64 years.
Scioscia resigned from the Dodgers in 1999 and the Angels hired him to be their skipper. The Angels have often looked liked the Dodger teams of old by manufacturing runs and out-hustling opponents to victories with Scioscia at the helm. The Angels have played “the Dodger way” in the face of their cross-town rivals as the Dodgers have struggled mightily the last decade while Scioscia’s Angels have succeeded.
The Yankees also passed on Mattingly in favor of Joe Girardi. And while Scioscia took the freeway and headed south to Anaheim when his team passed him over, Mattingly flew cross-country to Los Angeles, following Joe Torre.
As the Dodgers skipper, Mattingly has shown all of the interpersonal skills that made him a great Yankee and teammate. He connects with star players like Matt Kemp and seems to get more out of them in a way Joe Torre never could.
But this year, it will simply be all about winning for both managers. Nothing less will matter.
Mattingly and Scioscia are renowned for seeing the big picture and seeing the forest instead of the trees. But one must wonder if the pressure they are under this season may cause them, at times, to make decisions knowing they are both on hot seats.
The Angels, with all-world Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton, should expect nothing less than a World Championship for their owner, Arte Moreno.
The same is true for the Dodgers, with their monstrous payroll and roster that includes Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Zack Greinke, Josh Beckett, Clayton Kershaw, and Korean import Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Last season, there were rumblings about Scioscia’s and Mattingly’s job security as the Angels got off to a horrendous start and Mattingly got out-managed by San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy in crucial games down the stretch that cost the Dodgers a chance at winning the division.
How the Dodgers and Angels succeed may depend on their two prized offseason acquisitions–Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton, respectively.
Hamilton and Greinke will have to adjust to Southern California for opposite reasons. While Hamilton has often been paralyzed by succumbing to the temptations and excesses associated with places like Los Angeles, Greinke has overcome social anxiety disorder and will have to feel comfortable in a city that often requires its stars to be larger than life.
With their respective rosters, Mattingly and Scioscia seemed destined to either clash in a Freeway World Series or enjoy each other’s company in the unemployment line.
It’s unfair. But with their payrolls, superstars, and expectations, both must win now, or they’ll be forced to go home.