Freshly Revealed Scioscia-Dipoto Rift Exposes New Depths of Angels' Dysfunction

Scott Miller@@ScottMillerBblNational MLB ColumnistJuly 1, 2015

Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Simple question, really, and hung like the moon in front of Angels manager Mike Scioscia before Tuesday night's game with the Yankees.

A moment earlier, the skipper had said his relationship with general manager Jerry Dipoto—historically fractured at worst, tepid at best—has "grown."

So. Would he say that relationship is good?

Pause. Long pause. Finally, words.

"We're a good team," Scioscia said of himself and the GM. "I don't know, you know, from when…the one real issue early was when they let Mickey go.

"But we've moved past that. Way past that."

Scioscia was furious when Dipoto fired Mickey Hatcher, hitting coach and the manager's consigliere, early in the GM's first year on the job in 2012. The relationship between the manager and GM became so toxic that the Angels were widely expected to fire one of them when a bitterly disappointing 2013 season ended.

Instead, Arte Moreno sat them down and ordered them to act like adults and work together. Coming from an owner who has made an art form of firing people during his reign of terror (since he took control of the club in 2003, he's fired roughly 40 members of the front office, baseball operations department and scouting and medical staffs), this was one hellaciously shocking plot twist.

Then the Angels won 98 games last season and everybody loved everybody. But before you could say "steamrolled by the Royals in the playoffs," here came 2015.

Tough summer so far for Angels loyalists, admittedly.

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But great news for hardball-soap-opera fanatics.

Baseball's most dysfunctional organization is at it again, in earnest, with a renewal of a longstanding rift between Scioscia and Dipoto, and with players caught in the crossfire pleading no comment to a sensational report from FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal.

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press/Associated Press

Multiple sources, both inside and outside of the Angels organization, confirmed to Bleacher Report a rekindling of the Scioscia-Dipoto blood feud Tuesday, which came to a head again last weekend over disagreements involving scouting reports, which information to give the players and how to best deliver it to them.

"It's bad," one industry source with close knowledge of the Angels said.

"I think this has to be the end for those two," another source told Bleacher Report. "One of them is going to have to go after this."

Late Tuesday, Rosenthal tweeted a new development:

As Rosenthal had written in his initial report, Dipoto met with Scioscia and his coaches last Friday to request that the staff do a better job of arming players with scouting reports and statistical information provided by the front office.

Then, on Sunday, Dipoto held another meeting, this time with the players, as well as Scioscia and his coaches. In this meeting, the GM told the players that the front office would provide them directly with the information, and it would be up to them to decide which parts of it to use.

The wall separating the suits and the uniformed personnel long ago came down in this age of advanced analytics.

But a GM entering a clubhouse to conduct a meeting is still almost unheard of, especially when it involves the clubhouse of a noted control freak like Scioscia.

Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Chris Iannetta all were among the players on Tuesday declining to discuss specifics involving last weekend's meetings.

"Whatever the meeting was about, I'm not going to comment on it," Trout said. "I'll talk about on-field stuff."

Pujols, though, did address the leaks.

"I can't control that," said Pujols, who slammed his 24th homer of the season in Tuesday night's 2-1 victory over the Yankees. "You've got 25 grown men in here, coaches, the front office.

"Whoever is the leak, that's really embarrassing. We're supposed to be a family in here."

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  Albert Pujols #5 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim celebrates a grand slam against the Oakland Athletics in the seventh inning to take a 9-7 lead at O.co Coliseum on June 19, 2015 in Oakland, California.   The Angels won 12-7. (
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Notably, not one person denied the general parameters of the story, that there is a fundamental disagreement between Scioscia and his staff and Dipoto and his staff involving scouting reports, statistics and how information flows to the players.

Scioscia, essentially, confirmed it.

At least, he confirmed that the club has made a midseason change.

"The only difference is getting the scouting reports to the players and bringing it back to the coaches," Scioscia said. "It's a slight adjustment. It was from the coaches to the players. Now, it's to the players [from the front office], and when they have questions, they'll bring it to the coaches.

"Everybody's going to have the same involvement."

Yes, but in different ways.

And players getting information directly from the front office is more unusual than running backward around the bases during a home run trot.

It will be interesting to see how the fiercely stubborn and proud Scioscia handles this latest "adjustment" to his empire. Moreno flamboyantly signed the manager to an unprecedented 10-year deal before the 2009 season, taking him all the way to 2018 and, thus, empowering him with extraordinary reign within the organization. There is an out clause after this season that Scioscia can exercise, though he would surrender $18 million if he does so.

Dipoto is signed through this season with a club option for 2016. He did not respond to a Bleacher Report request for comment Tuesday.

Much of the data in dispute is designed to help the club with defensive shifts and, as Rosenthal reported, how to pitch hitters in certain counts. The Houston Astros, leading the AL West, lean heavily on analytics and, as Rosenthal pointed out, started this week ranked second in the majors with 939 defensive shifts, according to STATS LLC. The Angels ranked 19th with 212 defensive shifts.

"All of the analytical data that we get has to get applied on the field or it's just numbers," Scioscia said before Tuesday night's game. "That's where the research comes in and coaches come in to apply it on field and give you an advantage.

"The biggest thing we've expanded is defensively, we've done a great job in the infield making plays. You want to use that the best you can and to play the odds to [attain] the highest percentage of making plays."

Certainly, however the players were receiving scouting reports last year didn't prevent them from going 98-64 and securing the best record in the American League.

One point Pujols did dispute in the FoxSports.com report is that he defended the coaches to Dipoto in the second meeting by saying this year's roster is inferior to last year's.

"I didn't say that," Pujols said. "I can tell you that. I've been in this game for 16 years. I wouldn't disrespect this team."

It is not the first time that Pujols has come under fire for what he's said in a team meeting. In one of the most illustrative examples of the dysfunction created under Moreno, just eight months after Pujols signed a $240 million deal in Anaheim, things in the organization were so sour that a players-only meeting was called, Pujols co-opted it and invited Scioscia and the coaches, and then-Angel Torii Hunter had to be physically restrained from punching out Pujols. I reported those details here.

Now, the latest fireworks between Scioscia and Dipoto come in a season in which Moreno ran Josh Hamilton out of town after the left fielder violated substance-abuse terms of his contract, creating a void in left field and in the batting order. The Angels currently are scouring the trade market to add another hitter, according to B/R sources.

Arte Moreno.
Arte Moreno.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It was Moreno who signed Hamilton to a $125 million deal after the 2012 season when key personnel in the Angels baseball department preferred to use that money to take a run at re-signing pitcher Zack Greinke, who wound up signing with the Dodgers as a free agent that winter. The Angels had acquired Greinke from Milwaukee in July 2012, but Moreno instead made Hamilton the priority.

Then, when everyone knew Hamilton's history of substance abuse, instead of looking himself in the mirror and taking responsibility for signing the troubled outfielder, Moreno blamed Hamilton for lack of "accountability" and tossed him in the garbage.

It's how the owner rolls, and it is why this organization has continued its downhill luge run, for the most part, under his watch. It is instructive to remember that when the Angels won the 2002 World Series, it was under the old Disney ownership, well before Moreno took charge.

Now, with a manager who long ago was given too much power and with a GM fighting a turf war while trying to live up to his responsibilities, baseball people again are wondering how much longer the two can co-exist.

As Scioscia said Tuesday, he and Dipoto have moved "way past" the firing of Mickey Hatcher. And regarding internal battles won and lost, that is not necessarily a good thing.

Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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