Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cool hands of Torre, Scioscia reign in SoCal

Joe Torre and Mike Scioscia remind me of each other, because all these two men do is produce winning ballclubs. Their styles might not be mirror images of one another, but their results are.
Fans in Los Angeles are fortunate to have Torre and Scioscia in the dugout. They are two managers who make the right moves.
Yeah, of course, managers win with talent. Don't forget what the late Yankees manager Ralph Houk told a sports journalist who once asked him what it took to be a great manager.
"Great players," Houk replied.
His wasn't a flippant answer either, because, well, Houk was spot on. Torre couldn't make a team like the Cleveland Indians an instant winner; the same goes for Scioscia if he were managing the Washington Nationals.
What Torre and Scioscia can do, however -- and they do it better than nearly all of their coaching peers -- is take talent that they do have and squeeze the most out of it.
Look at what Torre did with these Dodgers. It was hard to see them sweeping the Cardinals. For that to happen, the Dodgers needed to beat Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, perhaps the best one-two tandem in the Majors. Both are legitimate candidates for the Cy Young Award, and if Carpenter doesn't win it, Wainwright will.
Against Torre's Dodgers, Carpenter and Wainwright came up empty. Both men pitched well; they always do. Yet Torre was able to get better performances out of the collection of pitchers he sent against the Cards. Three games, three wins for the Dodgers, and now on to the next round for Torre and his ballclub.
All Scioscia did was orchestrate a sweep of the Red Sox, winning Game 3 of the playoff series Sunday night, 7-6, in Fenway Park.
In some quarters, Torre has often been discounted as a manager. People were quick to point out that he had George Steinbrenner's millions behind him in New York, and even a lesser manager, critics would say, could have won with a player payroll as bloated as Torre had to work with.
Critics questioned Scioscia, too. How could he not win with Arte Moreno's willingness to spend on marquee players? All Scioscia had to do was get out of the way and let his high-priced talent do its thing, right? If that's all he needed to do, Scioscia did it, and he deserves people's applause for understanding what his responsibilities entailed. For he could have easily botched things up if he had a meddlesome bent to things.
He and Torre have achieved success in the face of such criticism that comes with managing high-profile Major League franchises. Neither of them can ever win enough to satisfy their teams' fans. Both tried.
Not that Torre is assured of winning the '09 World Series. Nor are Scioscia and the Angels assured of bringing another World Series title to Anaheim. What is assured, though, is that their respective teams will play with pride, with precision and with passion -- traits too often missing in the also-rans of sports.
Leading athletes to glory is a challenging assignment. No single approach works best, but the temperament of Jackson and Scioscia, two managers who seem unflappable inspite of the challenges put in front of them, looks as if it is the formula that works best.
In Torre and Scioscia, teams like the Indians can find models for their next coaching hires. The Torre-Scioscia model works. Teams should spend time dissecting what makes Torre and Scioscia effective in managing men.
Maybe the Ned Yost-Buck Showalter model might fit some circumstances, but how often do dictators win in pro sports? What a team owner should do is clone either Torre or Scioscia and his cool-hand leadership.
Whatever these two men have done should be examples to copy.
Now, Torre and Scioscia might not be perfect at what they do. What manager is? But they do their jobs at a level that makes it stupid not to follow their coaching philosophies. Why big league teams don't already is a joke without a punchline.
Maybe that explains why Torre and the Dodgers and Scioscia and the Angels remain alive in the playoffs while other teams like the Indians, the Nationals, the Kansas Royals and ... are sitting at home and watching the postseason on TBS.


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