The careers and lives of Jered Weaver and Mike Scioscia are so intertwined, they’ve been known to bump into one another in the grocery store.
In the offseason, they live about three miles apart in Westlake Village, Ca. and so their meetings on the mound morph into meetings in the local Pavilions grocery store.
Weaver will spot Scioscia, turn his cart the other way as a joke and circle back to chat with Scioscia.
"That’s the kind of relationship we have," Weaver said. "We tease each other and joke with each other. When it’s time to turn it on and compete, there’s no other guy I’d want to go to war with."
Scioscia and Weaver go together like peanut butter and jelly, having formed a great partnership and friendship as they embark on 10 years together this season.
Weaver and Scioscia have formed the longest current pitcher-manager partnership on one team in Major League Baseball. Angels shortstop Erick Aybar has the same decade-long partnership with Scioscia as well. Like Weaver, Aybar was called up to play for Scioscia in 2006.
Scioscia is the longest-tenured manager with one team in Major League Baseball as he begins his 16th season with the Angels. Weaver is the Halos’ ace and back with the team for his 10th season.
These days, a decade-long partnership is unbelievably rare. Managers are hired and fired with regularity and players are traded or can sign as free agents, making partnerships likes this uncommon.
Over the last 20 years, Trevor Hoffman and Bruce Bochy have formed the longest manager-pitcher duo, according to STATS LLC. Hoffman pitched for Bochy for 12 consecutive seasons from 1995-2006. The last pitcher to start a game in at least 10 straight seasons for the same manager was Greg Maddux for Bobby Cox in Atlanta. Maddux pitched 11 consecutive seasons for Cox from 1993-2003; Tom Glavine had 13 straight seasons pitching for Cox from 1990-2002.
"Time seems to keep creeping forward," Scioscia said Friday from the Angels’ spring training complex at Tempe Diablo Stadium. "It’s been 10 years, I’m surprised to hear that. Seems like yesterday he was coming to camp with us and making his way to the major leagues and really having success.
"One of the toughest conversations I’ve had was sending him down to the minor leagues because of a numbers crunch when he was performing so well."
That was in 2006 and Weaver didn’t start the season with the Angels but arrived in Anaheim quickly. He was 6-1 with Triple-A Salt Lake before being called up. He was 11-2 with a 2.56 ERA with the Angels that season.
Fast forward to Weaver in 2014, when the ace won 18 games, tied for most in the American League.
"It’s werid to think this is my 10th spring, and I still remember standing up for the first time and he called me out in front of the meeting and I had to do some funny stuff like he does with all the kids," said Weaver, who now has two kids of his own. "It’s pretty crazy to think this is 10 springs with him. He’s taught me a lot. Obviously, being an ex-catcher there’s something you can always go to him about for the pitching aspect of things.
"He’s pretty wise as far as the whole game goes and anything I have. Nowadays, he comes up to me and asks me stuff, how I feel about this and that. We’ve formed a great relationship."
Scioscia had a similar streak with Scot Shields, who pitched for Scioscia for 10 consecutive years from 2001-10. When Weaver pitches his first game for Scioscia this season, he will tie Shields for the longest pitching streak under Scioscia, according to STATS LLC.
Since 1961, the longest pitcher-manager duo was Jim Palmer and Earl Weaver with the Orioles, according to STATS LLC –Weaver pitched 14 seasons for Palmer from 1969-1982. Another long-standing pitcher-manager partnership was the decade-long one between Fernando Valenzuela and Tommy Lasorda from 1981-90 with the Dodgers.
Weaver is 131-69 with a 3.28 ERA in his career with the Angels and even though the Angels were swept by Kansas City in the first round of the playoffs last year, Weaver did his part. In Game 1, he gave up two runs on three hits in seven innings, but the Angels lost 3-2. He was in line to pitch Game 4 on short rest, but the Angels lost the series in three games.
Weaver grew up in Simi Valley, Calif. and was a Dodgers fan, so he liked Scioscia — the former catcher — before he ever met him.
"I was a Dodger fan growing up and when I was younger I was a catcher, so I kind of looked up to him," Weaver said. "I loved the way he went about it. He was a hard-nosed competitor. Now it’s come full circle."
Those fierce, competitive vibes can rear themselves in chats on the mound, too. But any good business or personal relationship involves communication, and Scioscia and Weaver believe they have that.
"Early on, there wasn’t anything you could say really," Weaver said. "Now, he lets me have more say in things about how I feel. He trusts the way I feel and how I’m going about things. There are times when you just have to hand the ball over as well. Your competitive nature, you want to stay out there as long as possible. But I’ve learned in the grand scheme of things what’s best for the team is his decision."
Weaver was pitching at Long Beach State, 17 miles and just two freeways from Angel Stadium, when the two first met.
Their admiration for one another is mutual.
"I don’t know if there’s a player I’ve been around that I respect more than Jered," Scioscia said. "I’ve known him since he was in college. I’ve seen him grow not only into a terrific Major League pitcher but one of the top pitchers in our league.
They drafted me and were loyal to me, and I wanted to return the favor and be loyal to them. They bought me in here to add to their club and help them win a championship. I want to do that here.
-- Jered Weaver
"I’ve seen him have his hard times too when he struggled through some things. All through it, I think we’ve always had great communication. I think we’re both very candid with each other. When he’s upset, he lets me know and when I’m upset, I let him know. I think we have a great relationship."
The one thing that would make this dynamic duo a partnership for the ages is if Weaver and Scioscia teamed up to win a World Series together. Scioscia led the Angels to the organization’s first and only World Series title in 2002. Two years later, the Angels would draft Weaver with the 12th overall pick in the amateur draft.And two years after that, Weaver was pitching for Scioscia.
When he became a free agent, Weaver hardly wavered in signing a new contract, a 5-year, $85 million deal in 2011 with the Angels. He would play the prime years of his career for Scioscia and the Angels.
"That’s all I play for," Weaver said of wanting to win a World Series. "When the contract stuff came up, I might have been able to get more somewhere else but I knew the Angels put out a championship caliber team every year. Why pass that up for an opportunity to stay with a team like that?
"I grew up in an old school era. I watched a lot of guys stay with the same team for a long period of time. You don’t see that too much anymore. They drafted me and were loyal to me, and I wanted to return the favor and be loyal to them. They bought me in here to add to their club and help them win a championship. I want to do that here. That’s all I play for. I don’t play for the money side of things. I play for the competitiveness to go out there and win each and every day. It’s been nice to be part of some great teams. I owe the Angels a lot."
Scioscia has stuck with Weaver, even when Weaver went through struggles. The right-hander won just 11 games in 2013, but he rebounded with a grand season, going 18-9 with a 3.59 ERA. It was the third time in his career he won 18 games or more, having won a career-best 20 in 2012.
He’s back to lead a star-studded rotation with Matt Shoemaker — who dazzled his way to 16 wins in his rookie season last year — and Garrett Richards, who is back from knee surgery, along with veteran C.J. Wilson. The fifth starter spot could go to one of the young guns like Andrew Heaney or Nick Tropeano.
Heaney and Tropeano’s lockers are next to one another’s and near Weaver’s in the Angels’ spring training clubhouse.
Weaver was once a twenty-something, starry-eyed kid who was a bit intimidated by his manager.
"I remember my first spring here and being kind of star struck, if you will," Weaver said. "Over the years, we’ve grown a great relationship. We understand each other and what each other is about. I’m a competitor. He’s a competitor as a manager. Obviously, you butt heads just like anything else, but we have a great relationship. We joke with each other. He trusts what I do and how I go about my business. It’s been nice to grow a little friendship over the years, not only as player-coach but off the field as well."
Scioscia trusts in Weaver, and Weaver has delivered.
Neither has turned their back on their decade-long partnership, tied for the longest running duo in baseball.
Unless you count Weaver jokingly heading the other way down the aisle in those grocery store meetings.