Angels find a slice of heaven, but Dodgers neighbors helped

Discarded in L.A., Scioscia brings roots that bloom

World Series

October 18, 2002|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. - During the four decades that they existed as the unattractive sibling in the Southern California baseball market, the Anaheim Angels worked hard to create their own identity and emerge from the successful shadow of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

No one would come right out and admit it, but it was generally understood that the Angels suffered from something of an organizational inferiority complex. They rankled at the notion that only the rich team up the freeway really knew how to do things right and that the Dodgers' national reputation as a "first-class" franchise somehow relegated the Angels to perpetual second-class status.

They also stubbornly resisted the temptation to copy the Dodgers' blueprint for success, which only retarded their organizational progress because - for so many years - the Dodgers really did have the right ideas.

Now, finally, as they prepare for their first World Series, the Angels and their famous Rally Monkey are the toast of the Los Angeles metropolitan area - and they can only hope that no one dwells too heavily on one very ironic aspect of their arrival on baseball's biggest stage.

The sea of red that will greet the San Francisco Giants tomorrow night in Game 1 of the 98th Fall Classic is tinged with blue.

If not for a dramatic change in management and philosophy in the Dodgers organization in the late 1990s, Mike Scioscia and much of the Angels coaching staff might be working their magic at Dodger Stadium.

"I thought that could happen," said third base coach Ron Roenicke (the brother of former Oriole Gary Roenicke). "I think that was talked about when we were coaching there."

Scioscia, Roenicke and hitting coach Mickey Hatcher all came up through the Dodgers' organization and spent at least part of their major-league playing careers in a Dodgers uniform. Each of the three managed a team in the Dodgers' minor-league system in the 1990s.

Even when Scioscia was through playing for the Dodgers and signed with the San Diego Padres, it was understood that he would be back after he was satisfied that his playing days were over.

"We thought that Mike would be the heir apparent to Tommy Lasorda," said Angels director of publicity Jay Lucas, who worked in a similar capacity with the Dodgers until 1996. "Mike would pay his dues, do whatever he had to do in the organization and then he was going to be the next great Dodgers manager."

How he instead became the next great Angels manager is a study in corporate shortsightedness.

The Dodgers were sold to Fox Sports and the new management group brought in former Orioles assistant general manager Kevin Malone to run the franchise. Malone brought a new philosophy - and a new set of decision-makers - into the Dodgers' front office.

Scioscia's climb up the organizational coaching ranks suddenly was reversed and his autonomy as a minor-league manager came into question. Roenicke and Hatcher also could see the writing on the clubhouse wall.

"The new regime and management style wasn't for guys like us," Hatcher said. "When they took over, we just had a feeling that they didn't want us there. It was very frustrating, but we were able to come over here and work for a guy - Bill Stoneman - who I think is one of the best general managers in the business. Things worked out for the best."

The Angels, meanwhile, also had undergone a change in management and philosophy. The Walt Disney Co., which bought the franchise from original owner Gene Autry, showed none of the organization's former reluctance to embrace the Dodger Way.

Scioscia unapologetically drew from his Dodgers background as he altered the club's spring training regimen and worked to instill a winning attitude in the clubhouse.

"You can't separate yourself from what your roots are," Scioscia said. "We were very fortunate to come up through the Dodgers' organization and to be around great people at an impressionable time for us.

"When you come up in an organization where you can be around guys like Roy Campanella and Sandy Koufax and John Roseboro and Tommy Lasorda, that championship tradition is instilled in you. I don't know if we brought along anything that was not already here. I don't know if there is any irony there. We were just fortunate to be blessed with great baseball people who were willing to pass their knowledge along to a new generation of ballplayers."

The Angels are not without their own history and tradition. They won American League West titles three other times (1979, '82 and '86) but gained more notoriety in their well-chronicled playoff collapses in '82 and '86 and a late-season meltdown that kept them out of the playoffs in 1995.

"I think the Dodgers have had a great history," said former Angels (and Orioles) second baseman Bobby Grich. "They obviously started much earlier than the Angels and have had great players like Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. They go back farther than we did, but the Angels have been around for 40 years now.

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