Nearly two years ago when the Angels announced the signing of Albert Pujols, Arte Moreno and the Angels wanted us to believe that there had been a changing of the guard in Southern California baseball. The time of the Dodgers was over. This was to be the age of the Angels. Since Moreno purchased the Angels in 2003, one of his biggest goals was to surpass the Dodgers in the LA market. With the Dodgers coming off one of their worst seasons on and off the field with a giant ownership mess and a disenchanted fanbase, Moreno's dream was set to be realized now that he had his big free agent superstar and the lucrative TV deal the Pujols signing helped consummate.
Fast forward to today and the supposed age of the Angels is a stark lesson in being careful what you wish for. It turns out that the Angels have indeed surpassed the Dodgers, they just did it in all the wrong areas. The struggles of big ticket acquisitions Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson have been well-documented this season. What is relatively new though is all the internal turmoil that the franchise now finds itself embroiled in. This last weekend, the top got blown off all of that with this Jon Morosi tweet:
Angels are expected to replace either general manager Jerry Dipoto or manager Mike Scioscia before start of next season, sources say. (more)— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) August 23, 2013
To those that have followed the Angels through their struggles this season, that wasn't really news. It is a given that a team that has been so massively disappointing is likely to lay the blame on someone. What wasn't known was all the dirty laundry that would be aired as a result.
That Morosi story was quickly followed by a bombshell from Scott Miller of CBS Sports in which he details a fractured Angel clubhouse in 2012 that became so tense at one point that Torii Hunter and Albert Pujols, two players largely regarded as being good guys and team leaders, nearly came to blows. That story, while troubling, was about last year's team, so things must be getting better, right? Maybe not. This year's team has been dogged by persistent rumors that there is a divide in the Angel clubhouse between Pujols, Josh Hamilton and the veteran's of the club against Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo and the younger players with each side trying to assert their place atop the leadership totem pole.
But that power struggle pales in comparison to the cold war between long-time manager Scioscia and GM Jerry Dipoto. With this news that one of them will find themselves on the chopping block in a few weeks, that cold war could heat up in a hurry.
In a way, this conflict was almost unavoidable. Leading up to Jerry Dipoto's hiring before the 2012 season, the main concern amongst those in the know was that the Angels GM position may not be desirable because of the great power Mike Scioscia wields in the organization. At the time it was believed that Dipoto, who preaches a more sabermetric-friendly philosophy than the notoriously traditional Scioscia, was brought in specifically to challenge Scioscia and move the franchise forward.
Challenge Scioscia he did, but perhaps too much. Since day one there have been rumors of Scioscia being resistant to the modern philosophies of Dipoto. The relationship became especially strained when Dipoto fired long-time hitting coach and Scioscia confidant Mickey Hatcher. By the end of the 2012 season, speculation had already started that Scioscia or Dipoto would be let go out of fears that the relationship had become untenable.
If Morosi's report prove true, the two won't have to worry about patching things up, but that doesn't mean all will once again be well in Anaheim. The other report that came out of all of this is that Arte Moreno might well be the most meddlesome and impulsive owner in baseball. According to that Jon Heyman story, it was Moreno who ordered the signing of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. It was Moreno that quashed Dipoto's efforts to trade Ervin Santana and Bobby Abreu in 2012. It was even Arte Moreno who allegedly forced previous GM Tony Reagins to execute the much-maligned trade for Vernon Wells a few years back.
Oh what Angel fans would give to have the problems that the Dodgers had with the McCourts. A messy divorce, financial impropriety and miserly management of the team payroll would be a blessing compared to the mess that Moreno has on his hands now. All of these reports of Moreno's meddling and Scioscia's unwillingness to give up his power are only going to make it harder for the Angels to climb out of their hole.
If Dipoto gets canned, and most rumors suggest it will be Jerry taking the fall, what GM would have any interest in taking his place knowing that taking the position means inheriting a manager who already won one power struggle and dealing with an owner that will undermine you every step of the way and then fire you late if the moves he himself mandated don't work out. Oh, and let's not forget that you'd also be inheriting a bloated and inflexible roster and payroll and what might very well be the worst farm system in baseball.
Given that the original Morosi rumor still leaves Scioscia on the table as the one to be fired, there is a chance that Moreno might set aside his hubris and let go of the manager he is known to have immense respect for and eat all the money still owed to him on the ridiculous ten-year contract that Arte himself signed him to. That would only do so much good though if Moreno can't prevent himself from wresting away control of player personnel decisions from the front office.
No matter what happens, it is clear that there has been plenty of damage done to the Angel organization and that there is great deal of work that needs to be done for them to turn it around. With all the problems the club has, it is quite possible that neither Sciosca nor Dipoto will survive with the team long enough to see it through.
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