Mike Scioscia provided a shot of perspective during the Los Angeles Sportswalk of Fame ceremony in San Pedro.
This was no surprise to those who followed him when he was behind the plate for the Dodgers and as manager of the Angels.
“I’ve been practicing for the most important thing a dad has to do,” he said. ‘Walk a daughter down the aisle.”
As nice as the Sportswalk honor was, as disappointing as it is to be the former Angels manager, the wedding of Taylor Scioscia was, understandably, at the top of a father’s priority list.
The attempt today is to bring at least a little perspective to seemingly disparate yet intertwined topics of – groan! – analytics, the hiring of Brad Ausmus as Scioscia’s replacement, and the World Series.
San Pedro native Joey Amalfitano, a former major league player, manager and longtime Dodgers coach, returned home from his current residence in Arizona to salute Scioscia.
“This guy is at the top of the bar,” Amalfitano said. “When he played, we had an extra coach.”
Modern application tends to treat players as robots.
Hitting home runs got the Dodges to the World Series.
Data excluded Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger, Joc Pederson and Yasmani Grandal, who were 1-2-3-4 on their home run list during the summer, from the starting lineups of first two games of the Fall Classic, each a Dodgers loss.
The Dodgers won Game 3, the longest game in postseason history in innings (18) and time (7 hours, 20 minutes), courtesy of Muncy hitting a home run. His becoming a World Series legend would not have been possible had Pederson not knocked one out in the third inning.
“With the analytics stuff, we forget the human being in that uniform,” Amalfitano said.
Challenged gently on front-office directives spinning out of data-based theories versus what a lifetime in the game and experience with a player tells a manager how to use that player, Ausmus had a wonderful non-answer.
“Baseball is America’s pastime,” he said Monday when anointed by the Angels. “Arguing about baseball is baseball’s pastime.”
Whatever the subject, there will be two sides. Sometimes 20. Or more.
The Dodgers inundate Dave Roberts, their manager, with data to a point where it appears he is assistant general manager to president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi.
Signs indicate Billy Eppler is taking the Angels in the same direction.
Speaking of Ausmus spending the past year as one of his assistants, Eppler said, “I really got to gauge his intellectual curiosity.”
This seemed to scream that a focus on the technical points of the game and understanding how to manage men take a back seat to a fantasy league approach.
Scioscia did not follow his former manager Tommy Lasorda’s reported reaction to a scouting report he tossed into a trash can. He believes in using data. Where he differs from some in management is he considers it a tool, not the tool that should rule every decision.
Ausmus is in so many ways a younger version Scioscia (49 to 58). Each was a catcher valued for his work behind the plate and leadership. Each at a certain point believes data should be held at an arm’s distance.
Sure, Ausmus knows new school baseball. He talks the analytical talk.
“That third time through the lineup thing, it’s real,” he said. “Those numbers don’t lie.”
The Dartmouth graduate can talk about algorithms. But he also will go old school. He knows there is more to baseball than those numbers.
“I haven’t forgotten how difficult this game is,” he said. “It’s easy to derive a number, but it’s a lot more difficult to apply the number unless it has a baseball application.”
And this promise: “We’re not going to be handling players lodes of data. Part of the job of the coaching staff and the manager is take that data and put it in baseball language so it is easy for them to digest and they can put it into play on the field.”
Was this the ghost of Scioscia?
Eppler identified Ausmus as a “department head.”
How about that as a subtle way of reducing the role of the manager?
Eppler talked about probability, league average context and percentages.
Do you wonder what the probability of getting a home run was when Lasorda sent Kirk Gibson hobbling up to the plate in the 1988 World Series?
There is a human element to be considered when the computers and other devices are turned off and the games are played.
Clearing out the mini-notebook
Etc.: Taylor Scioscia played volleyball at LMU. …
You never know dept.: Released by the A’s on March 31, 2017 at the age of 26, Muncy was headed back to Baylor to complete his undergraduate degree. “I kind of lost confidence in myself as a player,” he said in July. He gave it one more shot and, amazingly, at the age of 28 became a Dodgers legend. …
Bottom line: Muncy’s perfect reaction to hitting his epic home run: “Joy.”
Mike Waldner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.