I guess at some point we all knew this would happen. It was inevitable that the rocky relationship between Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia and former Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto would end up in a standoff. Almost from day one, Scioscia and Dipoto were at odds. The war was won by Scioscia, but there were some casualties and more than anything it doesn’t bode well for the Angels organization as a whole.
Now, this latest scuffle between the manager and the general manager wasn’t their first. Go back to 2013 and you see the initial rift between these two, which was smoothed over by Angels owner Arte Moreno. In fact most of the issues these two had started when Dipoto fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, a longtime friend and former teammate of Scioscia’s. Hatcher’s firing did not go over well with Scioscia, despite the positive words Dipoto used to discuss Hatcher:
“Mickey is a terrific guy, well-liked, very energetic and hard-working. This is about providing a different voice for our offensive players,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “It’s a results-oriented business we’re in and we need to find a way to string together something better than what we are right now. It’s a decision to find a different voice.”
It should be no surprise that this “first shot” would be just the beginning of a power struggle that has split this organization. Things looked good throughout most of 2014, as the Angels would roll to the best record in baseball before being swept in the ALDS by the Kansas City Royals. So far in 2015 the Angels have been hovering a bit above .500 while looking up to the Houston Astros while Albert Pujols has looked like the Albert of old, the one the Angels thought they were getting when they signed him. But considering they had the best record in the American League last year, there is a feeling this squad should be doing better than they are. That thinking is what started this whole mess.
This most recent spat began a few weeks ago. The full story is up here but I will pass along the bullet points. A few weeks ago, Dipoto met with Scioscia and his coaching staff about relaying scouting information to the players. Dipoto has been trying to push for the coaches to use more advanced metrics when game planning and Scioscia and his staff are more old school, preferring to plan the way they always have. Apparently after this most recent meeting, one of the coaches responded angrily and Pujols even offered a “pointed rebuttal”. Dipoto would then go to owner Arte Moreno and things did not go Dipoto’s way. From the LA Times:
“Instead of Moreno realizing the tenuousness of the situation and mediating a truce, the owner simply backed Scioscia as he’s always done in making him arguably the most powerful single uniformed figure in all of baseball.”
It’s easy to see why Dipoto left. It’s easy to see the power that Mike Scioscia holds.
I am going to go on record here; I am and have been for a long time a big Scioscia fan. I have always supported his managerial skills(except for some of the bunting) and really feel he is National League guy managing in the American League. He has also long been a players manager, a guy who most of the players enjoy and feel he has their back. But there has been a feeling the last few years that Scioscia has been less player-friendly and the age gap seems to be widening by the day. Jeff Passan of Yahoo.com took a look at that this past week and how Mike has gone from a guy heralded in the clubhouse to one who rules with an iron fist. It’s been very well known for years that Scioscia has more control than any GM that is hired by the Angels and that has caused a number of problems over the years. Just look at Dipoto’s interim replacement: Bill Stoneman, a man who was in the Angels GM seat during their glory years in the early 2000’s. Stoneman is a man who worked with Scioscia for years, so to say he will probably let Mike do whatever he wants is probably a fairly true statement. The problem is that Stoneman has been out of the loop for a very long time and in a lot ways the game has drastically changed during his time away. The Angels will have a hard time finding a young executive to slide into the GM slot as long as Scioscia is around, and since his contract is a big part of the issue(he has 3 years and $18 million left on the initial 10 year deal) it’s hard to see things changing anytime soon. As much as Scioscia is a big part of the problem(and I fully acknowledge he is, as much as it pains me), the bigger issue in Anaheim is owner Arte Moreno.
Moreno is the one who has given Scioscia this power. He is an owner in the same vein of a Peter Angelos or George Steinbrenner; an owner who pokes his wants ahead of the direction the GM feels the team should go. Moreno is the one who pushed for the Pujols and Josh Hamilton signings .From the New York Post:
“In addition, Moreno is seen as the driving force — without his GM’s blessing — in signing Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $240 million contract and Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million deal. The Hamilton decision, in particular, blew up on the Angels. Hamilton had a substance abuse relapse, and Moreno essentially ran Hamilton out of town by eating most of his contract to trade him within the division to Texas.”
There are a number of faults in doing this. For one, he has superseded his GM, which has been the big part of this power struggle. It also puts Scioscia in a bad situation. Scioscia is a guy who likes to use speed on his team, like stealing bases and utilizing the hit and run. The last few years the team has added lumbering sluggers like Pujols and Hamilton, which make it a lot harder to use that speed. In some ways, the Angels have gone from an exciting offensive team to one that only moves station to station. To me, the Angels play in a big ballpark and need to use that to their advantage. Instead, with Moreno’s need for power(and obviously chicks aren’t the only one’s who dig the long ball), it has taken two of the main weapons out of the Angels arsenal–speed and Scioscia’s National League brand of baseball. At the end of the day you always need an owner who supports your team and is willing to go the extra mile to help your team win. But that support means very little when you aren’t allowing your manager to have the best team on the field to help them achieve victory.
So how should the Angels handle this dilemma? What would seem like an easy answer is to decrease Scioscia’s power and allow whomever is in the GM seat to be able to do his job accordingly. But if Moreno didn’t allow that to happen with Dipoto I doubt he would let anyone else. The best thing would be for someone interviewing for the Angels GM job to flat out tell Moreno they won’t take the job unless they are truly in charge. The likelihood of that happening? Nil to none. There is always the chance that Scioscia could leave after this season, as he does have an out clause in his contract. Once again, I just can’t see that happening. In some ways the best thing that could happen is to officially announce Mike Scioscia as the Angels GM, since in a lot of ways he already holds that position, just not in name. Otherwise, it looks like the Angels will continue to be relevant but fall just short of their true goal, a World Series title. A lot of the pieces on the field are already there; unfortunately management is blocking something greater.