At the end of the 2012 season, Angels owner Arte Moreno resolved the tension between general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Mike Scioscia by retaining both and forcing them to keep working together.
Nearly three years later, that tension is back and far more pervasive, extending to the Angels coaches and even the players, according to major-league sources.
Emotions simmered in a series of meetings over the weekend when Dipoto expressed frustration with the coaches’ failure to convey scouting information to the players, sources said. At least one coach responded heatedly to Dipoto and first baseman Albert Pujols issued a pointed rebuttal to his GM, sources said.
The intervention of Dipoto in such a forceful manner is uncommon even in an era when GMs are exerting more authority over in-game strategy. It also comes at a time when Scioscia, the longest-tenured manager in baseball, could choose to make the current season his final one with the Angels.
Scioscia, 56, signed a 10-year extension with the team through 2018 in January 2009. The contract, however, gives him the right to opt out after 2015 and forfeit the $18 million that he is owed over his final three seasons.
Dipoto did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Scioscia, through a club spokesman, declined comment for this story, but told reporters after Monday night’s game, “There’s really nothing to say about anything that might or might not have happened. Jerry and I work together the same way we’ve worked the last couple of years, and that’s where we are.”
The rift between the two in 2012 stemmed in part from Scioscia’s resistance to data prepared by Dipoto and his staff. The current problems are rooted in a similar issue.
Dipoto, according to sources, believes that the coaches too often rely on “feel” while teams such as the AL West-leading Astros are at the forefront of incorporating data. The coaches, in turn, seemingly do not trust the information they are given, and either are not willing or able to translate it for the players.
The philosophical differences between the two sides were not as apparent last season, when the Angels won 98 games and reached the postseason for the first time since 2009. But the team’s mediocre performance amid high expectations this season have sparked fresh discord.
The Angels were 39-37 entering Monday’s play, four games behind the Astros. The team’s offense, even with two of the game’s best hitters, Pujols and Mike Trout, ranked 12th in the AL in runs per game.
One source raised the possibility that the various disputes ultimately could prove beneficial to the club, the way a series of family squabbles sometimes helps clear the air.
Others, however, viewed the eruption as a resumption of hostilities between Dipoto and Scioscia, who also were at odds in 2013 but seemingly had built a working professional relationship that appeared quite functional last season and as recently as spring training this year.
According to sources:
● Dipoto met with Scioscia and his coaching staff on Friday, and the exchange turned contentious when the GM asked the coaches to better communicate to the players scouting reports and statistical information provided by the front office.
● In a separate meeting with the players, coaches and Scioscia on Sunday, Dipoto informed the players that they would now be given the information directly by the front office; they then could decide whether or not to use it.
That meeting, Scioscia told reporters, “was just scouting information, scouting reports . . . we’re just getting reports to guys a little bit differently than we had before.”
● Pujols challenged Dipoto during that second gathering, saying that the coaches are working as hard to prepare the players as they did last season, but that the roster is not as strong as it was a year ago.
The data from the front office is intended to provide guidance on how to position defenders in shifts and how to pitch hitters in specific counts and locations, among other uses, sources said.
Entering Monday night’s play, the Angels ranked 19th in the majors with 212 defensive shifts, while the Astros were second with 939, according to STATS LLC. Scioscia and his staff, however, could argue that all of that shifting was not necessarily giving the Astros a competitive advantage over their own club.
The Angels, according to Baseball Prospectus, ranked third in defensive efficiency, the rate at which balls in play are converted into outs by a team’s defense. The Astros ranked fifth.
Scioscia, like most managers, is loyal to his coaches, and would consider an attack on them an attack on his own leadership. Dipoto angered him in ’12 by firing Mickey Hatcher, Scioscia’s close friend, former teammate and hitting coach with the Angels for 12 seasons.
The two also had other skirmishes that season, but Moreno refused to choose between them, leaving them with no choice but to patch their relationship. Moreno’s feelings on the current dispute are not known.
For the moment, Dipoto is trying to land another hitter to help fill a void created in part by Moreno’s decision to trade Josh Hamilton to the Rangers after the outfielder, a recovering addict, experienced a relapse involving alcohol and cocaine. The Angels’ offense also took a hit when Dipoto traded second baseman Howie Kendrick last offseason for left-hander Andrew Heaney, a highly regarded pitching prospect.
Should the Angels fail to reach the postseason for the fifth time in six years, Scioscia at least will be in position to re-evaluate his future with the team, knowing that a number of managing positions could open this offseason.
Scioscia, who is from a suburb of Philadelphia, could be attractive to the Phillies. He also could appeal to the other two teams in Southern California, the Padres and Dodgers, as well as other clubs.
Then again, after 16 seasons with the Angels, Scioscia might not be interested in going anywhere. The Phillies are rebuilding. The Padres recently fired his former pitching coach, Bud Black, as manager. The Dodgers, Scioscia’s only team during his 13-year playing career, seem comfortable with manager Don Mattingly and lean heavily on statistical analysis.
“I would never comment on anything regarding the details of my contract,” Scioscia told MLB.com in May.