ANAHEIM, (AP) — For 3 1/2 years, general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Mike Scioscia managed to survive disputes and reconciliations in their arranged marriage with the Los Angeles Angels.
When that relationship abruptly ended Wednesday, Scioscia and the Angels insisted the longest-tenured manager in baseball wasn’t to blame.
Dipoto resigned, walking out on the Angels a month before the trade deadline. Former general manager Bill Stoneman will take over as the interim GM for the rest of the season, the Angels announced during their 3-1 loss to the New York Yankees.
Neither Dipoto nor his former bosses publicly gave a reason for the split beyond vague allusions by team president John Carpino to a recent team meeting that didn’t go well for Dipoto. Scioscia and Carpino flatly denied reports of renewed tension between the two, insisting he would have been glad to keep working with Dipoto.
“I can only speak for myself, (but) there’s never been a power struggle,” Scioscia said. “I understand what the role of manager is in the organization. I’m hard-headed. I have opinions. ... I understand that a manager gets the word, ‘No,’ more than he gets, ‘Yes.’ I understand that, and it happens here. There was no ego, no power struggle.”
Scioscia has been running the Angels’ dugout since 2000, and he has a lucrative contract through 2018. Dipoto was hired after the 2011 season, and his moderately successful tenure apparently destructed shortly after a contentious team meeting last weekend.
Scioscia no longer attempts to deny he clashed with Dipoto over philosophical differences at times, but he contradicted reports that the latest dispute concerned Dipoto’s thwarted desire for the Angels to play with more attention to statistical analysis.
Scioscia vehemently declared himself receptive to the changing baseball world, calling his old-school reputation “a naive response” and “fiction.”
“Not that I’ve been anything special, but there’s no way in the world you’re going to be able to stay in this position without evolving,” Scioscia said. “I guarantee you that. From even three or four years ago, the way we would prep guys and get information, and now it’s light years in comparison. ... To think that myself on a personal level or us as an organization hasn’t evolved is just really naive. There are analytics that go into every decision we make, and the last four years, Jerry brought a lot of this over to the party.”
But Dipoto is still leaving the big-budget Angels (41-38), who have won six of nine heading into a nine-game road trip before the All-Star break.
The 71-year-old Stoneman was the Angels’ GM from 2000-07, hiring Scioscia and presiding over their only World Series championship team in 2002. He has remained a consultant and adviser for the Angels since stepping down.
“Well, Bill and I have a little bit of history,” said Scioscia, who was hired by Stoneman. “One thing about Bill is he will be working from sun-up to sundown. That’s just the way Bill is.”
The Angels’ players learned about Dipoto’s impending departure from news reports, but they’ve endured their share of bizarre episodes with mercurial owner Arte Moreno’s franchise.
Earlier this season, an angry Moreno traded Josh Hamilton back to Texas, eating an astonishing portion of his $125 million contract just to be rid of the underachieving former AL MVP who was hoping for a comeback from his latest drug relapse.
“All around, a weird year in the front office with what’s going on with Jerry and then what happened with Josh,” left-hander Hector Santiago said. “Definitely one of the weirder years for me.”
Dipoto capably handled the pressure of working for the willful Moreno, who initiated and made the final decisions on the club’s lavish signings of sluggers Albert Pujols and Hamilton. The pressure of working with Scioscia might have been tougher.
“Any time you lose a manager or a general manager or a star player, something like that, it’s a difficult situation,” said left-hander C.J. Wilson, who has a friendship with Dipoto. “But as a player, I don’t have control. They didn’t take a straw poll. We didn’t get votes. We weren’t asked to go stay at Grandma’s house while Mom and Dad worked it out. There’s no role for us in this situation. Our only role is to play to the best of our abilities.”
The 47-year-old Dipoto is a former major league pitcher who briefly served as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ interim GM before the Angels hired him to replace Tony Reagins. Scioscia and Dipoto clashed in early 2012 when Dipoto fired Mickey Hatcher, Scioscia’s longtime hitting coach and friend.
The Angels’ poor farm system has been partially restocked by Dipoto, and he signed starting pitchers Wilson, Santiago, Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skaggs while rebuilding the bullpen around Huston Street and Joe Smith. He also signed AL MVP Mike Trout to a six-year, $144.5 million contract extension through 2020.
The Angels won 98 games and the AL West title last season in their only playoff appearance during Dipoto’s tenure. His contract option for 2016 was picked up earlier this season by the Angels, who are playing some of their best baseball of a mediocre season over the past two weeks.
“We’ve got a great veteran core on this team, a lot of veteran guys that can keep us focused,” Trout said. “We’re not going to worry about what’s going on.”