Manager Mike Scioscia and general manager Jerry Dipoto are getting another chance with the Los Angeles Angels.
Scioscia and Dipoto confirmed Tuesday night they will be back with the Angels next year despite the club’s worst season in a decade.
Hitting coach Jim Eppard and bench coach Rob Picciolo will not return in 2014, but Scioscia and Dipoto have been retained by owner Arte Moreno, who made no formal announcement of his decision. The Angels missed the playoffs for the fourth straight season at 78-84, producing their lowest win total since 2003 despite one of the majors’ highest payrolls.
”This is where I want to be, and I want to get things going in the direction they should be,” said Scioscia, the longest-tenured active manager in baseball. ”I’m happy to get another opportunity to do that.”
Scioscia has spent 14 seasons in charge of the Angels, and he still has five years and about $27 million left on the richest managerial contract in the sport. Dipoto, the former major league pitcher and Arizona assistant GM, is only under contract through next season – and he said his deal hasn’t changed.
”You know we had a very difficult season,” Dipoto said. ”We had issues to deal with both on and off the field. … As a whole, we’re looking to improve in all areas, and one of the things we’re trying to do is implement the same on-field excellence the Angels had from 2002 to 2009.”
Scioscia and Dipoto both took yet another opportunity to dismiss rumors they’ve struggled to work together, insisting they’re sticking to a unified plan to get Los Angeles back into World Series contention.
”There absolutely is no philosophical gap that is real,” Scioscia said. ”There’s a lot of chatter out there, and it’s just not accurate.”
The Angels turned into a high-priced mess this season when a slow start essentially eliminated them from playoff contention in July. They were never above .500 after opening day, eventually finishing third in the AL West behind Oakland and Texas.
A lineup featuring MVP candidate Mike Trout, three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols, former AL MVP Josh Hamilton, slugger Mark Trumbo and a solid supporting cast couldn’t overcompensate for a pitching staff that performed poorly and struggled with injuries for much of the Angels’ fourth straight season out of the playoffs.
Scioscia and Dipoto both agree the Angels need changes, but the Angels’ enormous financial commitments to 30-something sluggers Pujols and Hamilton will limit their roster flexibility for years. So Los Angeles will attempt to bolster Dipoto’s offseason moves by changing faces on Scioscia’s coaching staff.
Picciolo had been the Angels’ bench coach for three seasons, but Scioscia said third base coach Dino Ebel will be promoted to the role next season. The Angels haven’t decided on a new hitting coach or third base coach, and Dipoto said they’re likely to add one or two additional assistants to Scioscia’s staff.
”We feel like a different voice in some areas can be helpful,” Dipoto said. ”We’ve spent a lot of time talking over the last couple of weeks about how we can improve, and unfortunately good people sometimes have to suffer for the good of the whole, and that’s probably the case here.”
Scioscia and Dipoto effusively praised Eppard, who became the Angels’ hitting coach early in the 2012 season when Dipoto fired Mickey Hatcher, Scioscia’s longtime assistant. The move opened a rift between Scioscia and Dipoto, but both men have repeatedly said they’re past it.
”When Mickey was let go, we moved on from that,” Scioscia said. ”There’s nothing but us wanting to work as a team and get better, and that’s what we’re going to look to do. There’s a lot of great ideas floating around our organization the last couple of years. We’re going to continue to enact these ideas and harvest them and hopefully make ourselves better.”
Scioscia said he hopes Eppard will stay with the Angels organization in some capacity.
Dipoto and Scioscia deflected questions about whether Moreno has issued any ultimatums about their performance next season with the Angels, who haven’t been in the postseason since reaching the ALCS in 2009. Dipoto is headed for the Angels’ organizational meetings in Tempe, Ariz., this week as he works on a plan to get the team back in contention.
”Arte is as frustrated as we are with where we were and where we ended up, and where we’ve been,” Scioscia said. ”He’s frustrated, but very supportive and understanding that he has confidence in us that we’re going to turn it around and get to reach our goal.”