On Aug. 24, I wrote the following at FOXSports.com:
The Angels are expected to have a new general manager or manager by next Opening Day because of ongoing philosophical differences between [general manager Jerry] Dipoto and [manager Mike] Scioscia, multiple industry sources told FOX Sports.
[Owner Arte] Moreno, who declined comment through a team spokesman, has not made a final decision about his management team for 2014. But it’s apparent to many in the organization that the status quo is untenable: A bloated budget, thin farm system, and fourth-place position in the American League West.
It is now Nov. 14. Dipoto is still the Angels’ general manager. Scioscia is still the Angels’ manager. With the Major League Baseball general managers convening for their annual meetings, it’s time to revisit the initial report.
In late August, multiple sources with knowledge of the organization’s inner workings told me the Dipoto-Scioscia philosophical divide had grown so deep that senior Angels management expected to replace one or both. The same sources said Moreno had not made a final determination, as I noted in the story.
Since then, two important things happened.
1.) The Angels played better and rose to third in the American League West. Beginning with the weekend the story ran, they won 23 of their final 36 games — the fourth-best record in the AL during that span. The .639 winning percentage was a marked improvement over the .437 that preceded it (55-71).
2.) Dipoto and Scioscia started talking more frequently and substantively — something sources said had not happened as often in the preceding weeks. Their baseball relationship started under unique circumstances, with Scioscia holding a lucrative, long-term contract and considerable influence at the time Dipoto was hired after the 2011 season. GMs usually have autonomy to hire managers upon joining new organizations; that was not the case for Dipoto.
During a break in Wednesday’s meetings, I asked Dipoto what changed after my report in August.
“We’ve had time to grow, time to understand each other,” he said of his relationship with Scioscia. “I think the last 30 or 40 days have been really healthy for the Angels organization, for Mike and I. At the end of the day, any time two people who did not otherwise know each other or have a relationship come together, there’s going to be hurdles to overcome and growing that needs to happen.
"I think that happened — for both of us. We have a better understanding of one another. Philosophically, we are operating in the same book. That’s a healthy thing. Now it’s just a matter of where we go from here.
“We’re all pulling on the same end of the rope. Mike wants to get better. He wants to win on the field. I know that’s Arte’s desire from an ownership level. That’s my desire, as well, from my position. We’ll continue to get better and improve. Sometimes the expectation of the relationship between Mike and I is a little different than it actually plays out. There’s been a lot said about it, but at the end of the day he’s good baseball man. I appreciate what he’s done. He’s had a terrific career, and he’ll continue to. We’re going to win, and we’ll win with him as our manager.”
When I asked Dipoto if there was a specific area in which he and Scioscia have evolved, he answered: “Communication. Communication. That’s where the last 30, 40 days have been really healthy. We’re communicating in a different way than we had maybe for the previous two years. That’s been a healthy improvement.”
Dipoto maintained there was “no seminal moment” or single meeting with Scioscia when everything became different. It was simpler, according to the GM.
“We’ve learned to communicate better,” Dipoto said.
And that’s good, because the Angels have plenty to discuss this winter — starting with a 4.23 ERA that ranked 11th among 15 AL teams in 2013. The Angels are trying to acquire rotation help, even though their payroll is heavy already (thanks to the Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton signings) while the farm system has left Dipoto with few trade chips close to the majors.
“We need to sort through our own pitching — depth, impact, all of the above,” Dipoto acknowledged. “It’s something that’s a great need for us. We’re focused on it this offseason. Frankly, we’ve been focused on it for a couple years and it’s eluded us. We plan on putting our resources toward improving those areas. On the field, that’s where our biggest changes are going to come.”