The Los Angeles Angels have one of the worst records — and highest payrolls — in the American League, but owner Arte Moreno said Wednesday that the job of manager Mike Scioscia is safe.
Moreno spoke to FOXSports.com outside Major League Baseball’s headquarters in New York, where he is attending this week’s owners’ meetings. He said the chances of an in-season managerial change are “right now, zero.”
“Mike has zero problems, OK?” Moreno said. “This is his 14th year. Mike goes beyond what he does on the field. He’s a good person. He’s a good person in the community, a very good baseball guy. You don’t have to ask me. You just ask other managers, other baseball people.
“Look at 14 years’ worth of productivity. Look at his record. He has two World Series rings with the Dodgers. He has one with the Angels. We’ve been to the playoffs.”
Scioscia, one of the highest-paid managers in baseball, is under contract with the Angels through 2018 — a significant disincentive for Moreno to fire him.
In addition to that, a number of baseball observers believe Moreno will be reluctant dismiss Scioscia because of the possibility the skipper could manage the Dodgers if they fire Don Mattingly. The Angels and Dodgers compete in Southern California for fans, sponsors and media attention, and it’s reasonable to assume Moreno would not want to help his rival.
Moreno acknowledged he’s aware that theory has been advanced in the media.
“I’ve heard it,” he said. “Whatever. You know what? To me, if you’re going to let someone go, you’re letting someone go because you don’t believe their performance is what your expectations are. If everybody on the team was hitting .300, and the pitchers were undefeated, and all our relievers had done a good job and we’d made no errors, we wouldn’t be in this conversation.
“Right now, in Mike’s job, I have no questions about Mike.”
The Angels entered Wednesday with a 15-24 record, ahead of only the rebuilding Houston Astros in the AL. Moreno also refused to cast blame on Jerry Dipoto, the team’s general manager since October 2011.
Of his conversations with Dipoto, Moreno said, “We have had zero discussions on anything other than who is going to be healthy enough to play. Jerry’s been here a year and a half. There are a lot of underlying things we need to fix and adjust in the organization.”
A depleted farm system is frequently cited as one such area of concern.
Still, the Angels are on pace to miss the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year. If that happens, Moreno said he wouldn’t interpret that as a sign he needs to make sweeping structural changes affecting Scioscia, Dipoto or both.
“I really don’t look at it that way,” Moreno said. “Don’t get me wrong: Our goal is not just to make the playoffs. It’s to win the World Series. There are just so many factors that come into play. Mike’s been there. This is his 14th year. I look at a lot of things that are beyond just making one call or two calls on the field. … Anybody that’s played baseball knows the manager can’t hit for you.
“I try not to live with that victim mentality that I want to blame everyone. If you’re going to blame anyone, you’ve got to blame me. I’m the one at the end of the day that has the final call.”
Moreno committed $375 million over the past two offseasons to superstar free agents Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton – signings that have failed to yield major dividends. Hamilton is hitting just .214 in his first season with the team, with Pujols at .242 in his second year as an Angel. Even with the expensive lineup, the Angels rank just 11th among 15 AL teams in runs scored.
Meanwhile, the Angels have the majors’ third-worst team ERA at 4.66, raising the question of whether Moreno would have been better off allocating money toward the pitching staff. Zack Greinke, who finished last season with the Angels, signed with the Dodgers for six years and $147 million – roughly what the Angels gave Hamilton per annum (five years, $125 million).
“It’s sort of like the last two or three stocks I bought,” Moreno said. “Anybody can go back and say, ‘We should have done that last night, or I should have done that two months ago.’ Hamilton is an Angel. We’re happy to have Hamilton.”
Moreno added with a smile: “Last night [a 6-2 win over Kansas City] was a beautiful thing: Albert, Hamilton, (Mike) Trout and Howie (Kendrick) hit home runs. Probably, all that was missing was (Mark) Trumbo. If you get all five of those guys to hit one every night, we’ll be fine.”
Moreno said he has no regrets about allocating so much of his payroll to Pujols, 33, and Hamilton, 31. Statistically, both are having the worst offensive seasons of their careers; Pujols has been limited by plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
“To me, Albert’s a franchise player,” Moreno said. “When you look at people and look at players, a lot of times it’s not just every at-bat, it’s what he means to the organization. When you make an investment in a player, it’s for the organization and fans and community.”
Moreno said he “loved” having outfielder Torii Hunter on his team and believed the Angels would retain him when he became a free agent after last season. “I thought we were going to get a one-year deal, but we didn’t get it done,” he said.
After Hunter signed with Detroit for two years and $26 million, Moreno gave Dipoto authorization to find a productive hitter elsewhere. Enter Hamilton, at years and dollars far exceeding what they were willing to pay Hunter. “We didn’t believe there were a lot of starting pitchers (available) last year on the free-agent market,” Moreno said. “We needed bullpen guys, which we went out and got.”
As for another popular topic in baseball today: Moreno remains a strong supporter of expanded instant replay, which is being discussed at this week’s meetings. “It’s not just an American sport – it’s a global sport now,” he said. “With digital television, all of the fans are seeing the right call. It’s just time. It’s past time.
“I’d like to see some kind of challenge (flag). You want to see the right call made, especially if it’s going to affect the outcome of a game, (like) a play at home plate. With technology, you are able to make the better call.”
Moreno hopes other owners aren’t deterred from expanding the replay program because of the cost involved.
“We’re all heavily invested,” he said. “The fans spend their money, and we look at fans as the most important part of our business. They have the right to see the right call made.”
The meetings adjourn on Thursday, the same day Moreno’s Angels begin a four-game series — including Saturday’s MLB on FOX game (3:30 p.m. ET) — against the Chicago White Sox on the other side of the country. Moreno expects some of the team’s injured players to return from the disabled list in the next week to 10 days. He appears confident more wins will follow.
“Last night I was up until after 1 o’clock watching the end of that game,” he said. “Give me another 80 of those games and everything will be fine.”