Posted August 23, 2013

The Los Angeles Angels: Come for the terrible long-term deals, stay for the clubhouse fights

Albert Pujols, Jerry DiPoto, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Mike Scioscia
Albert Pujols is out for the remainder of the season and Josh Hamilton has underperformed. [Jae C. Hong/AP]

Albert Pujols is out for the remainder of the season and Josh Hamilton has underperformed. [Jae C. Hong/AP]

Friday was an airing of grievances for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. A pair of reports surfaced today—one from FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi, the other from CBS Sports’ Scott Miller—that paint a picture of an organization rife with in-fighting, a meddling owner, and in one case, a near fistfight in the clubhouse involving the team’s superstar first baseman, Albert Pujols.

We’ll start with Miller’s piece, which brought to light an argument between Torii Hunter and Pujols during a players’ only meeting last August. The meeting, called by former Angels reliever LaTroy Hawkins, came in the wake of what players believed was out-of-line behavior from starters Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson. In particular, Wilson and Hunter got into a heated argument after the Gold Glove outfielder told the Angels’ lefty to shut up during a game against Tampa in which Wilson, on the bench, was trying to give advice to Los Angeles’ hitters. Though Wilson and Hunter patched things up after the game, Pujols lashed out at Hunter during the players’ meeting for starting the fight.

As Miller puts it:

“Albert, you’d better get your facts straight,” a seething Hunter told Pujols.

Pujols said something back, and Hunter jumped him for being a bad teammate and pouting all season whenever he failed to get hits in a game, even in games the Angels won … and now he was going to call others out?

“Shut up, Torii,” Pujols snapped.

It was then that Hunter, from across the clubhouse, lost it and charged Pujols. Hawkins and outfielder Vernon Wells had to restrain him.

The meeting proceeded from there, and when it was over, tempers still heated, Hunter had to be physically held back a second time from going after Pujols, who is described as wanting no part of the fight.

Miller then went on to rip the Angels’ front office, particularly owner Arte Moreno, noting that Moreno has fired an astonishing 40 front-office employees in a decade in charge, forced then-general manager Tony Reagins to trade for Vernon Wells and his horrible contract, and steered the team toward the huge nine-figure deals for Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Miller also notes the toxic relationship between general manager Jerry DiPoto and manager Mike Scioscia, including the report that DiPoto fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher earlier in the season without Scioscia’s knowledge or consent.

That dovetails nicely with Morosi’s reporting, as he tweeted that Moreno was likely to fire one of Scioscia or DiPoto before next season. Morosi cites “philosophical differences” between the manager and GM, and tweets that the “status quo is not tenable” in Anaheim.

On the surface, Scioscia would appear to have more job security; Moreno gave him a 10-year contract extension before the 2009 season, while DiPoto has just one season left on his original contract. And though it’s easy to rag on Scioscia for his infatuation with bunts, hit-and-runs and funny faces when those fail, DiPoto’s term as the Angels’ GM seems to leave him most likely to get the axe.

After taking over as general manager in October 2011, DiPoto immediately made a mark by signing Pujols and Wilson to long-term deals. Pujols’ struggles have been well documented—a subpar (by his standards) first year with Los Angeles, followed by an injury-shortened 2013. Wilson, meanwhile, managed just a 100 ERA+ in his first year with the Angels, and though his 2013 has been a much better campaign—a 3.30 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 166 1/3 innings—he’s still owed a whopping $54 million for the next three seasons.

Wilson wasn’t DiPoto’s only bid in rebuilding Los Angeles’ rotation. Right before the trading deadline in 2012, DiPoto sent three prospects to Milwaukee for Zack Greinke. At the time, it looked like a solid bid for a team making a second-half postseason surge, and Greinke pitched well in his L.A. stay, with a 3.53 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 89 1/3 innings. But Greinke was also a pending free agent, and in the offseason, the Angels—allegedly at Moreno’s insistence—targeted Hamilton instead of re-signing Greinke. Instead, Greinke went to the Dodgers, while Hamilton has managed a mere .704 OPS in the first year of his five-year, $125 million megadeal. What hurts more for the Angels is that one of the prospects sent to the Brewers was Jean Segura, who’s turned in a .791 OPS with 37 stolen bases as Milwaukee’s shortstop this season. Los Angeles, meanwhile, has had to tolerate Erick Aybar and his .313 OBP at shortstop.

That wasn’t the only poor decision by DiPoto. In the 2012 offseason, he flipped Ervin Santana to Kansas City for minor leaguer Brandon Sisk; Santana has a 3.13 ERA for the Royals. In his stead, DiPoto signed free-agent retread Joe Blanton to fill out the rotation; Blanton’s responded with a miserable 6.12 ERA and an incomprehensible 29 homers allowed in 129 1/3 innings. In November, DiPoto sent former closer Jordan Walden to the Braves for starter Tommy Hanson, who’s managed just 67 2/3 innings this season due to various injuries.

With Pujols entrenched at first base and the need to give at-bats to Hamilton, Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout, DiPoto was forced to move slugging first baseman Kendrys Morales, ultimately shipping him to Seattle for starter Jason Vargas. Though Morales hasn’t lit the world on fire with the Mariners, hitting .286/.342/.456 in 514 plate appearances, his presence would’ve greatly helped Los Angeles weather Pujols’ slow start and injury. Instead, the Angels have Vargas, who’s been thoroughly league average through 16 starts with an ERA+ of 96.

Through Friday, the Angels are 55-71, 18 1/2 games back of Texas in the AL West. The team still owes over a quarter of a billion dollars to Pujols and Hamilton going forward, not to mention a combined $118 million in long-term money to Weaver and Wilson, almost $20 million to Howie Kendrick, $17 million to Aybar, and $7.5 million to Blanton. That all complicates what will be the biggest issue for DiPoto or his replacement: Negotiating a long-term deal for Trout, who will be arbitration eligible in two years. Regardless of whether DiPoto, Scioscia or both end up ousted, it’s clear that whoever inherits the mess that is the Angels will have plenty of work to do.

53 comments
RandyHayes
RandyHayes

u get what u pay for or are suppose to at least.GM goes

jendall714
jendall714

If you are a pre 2002 Angels fan and not post 2002 bandwagon fan, you would already know that the Angels front office has always been a mess! The Angels have never done well with big name free agents and also let good players walk way, Nolan Ryan, Wally Joyner, Troy Glaus...etc.. The Angels misery this season is just another ordinary baseball season, if you have been a fan as long as I have! My favorite big name free agent bust was Mo Vaughn falling into the dugout, first play, first game of the season!

Richard B
Richard B

For all the talk about Hunter being good in the clubhouse, all I ever see is him saying negative things in the media. He's either talking about race or talking about teammates. Pujols is supposed to be the one who's strict and stern and people think he'll roid rage, yet he's not the one charging teammates to fights. Sure, he has a great smile but it doesn't match the words coming out of his mouth.

Charliegone
Charliegone

You really can't blame Scioscia for this, you really can't even blame the players. This is all on the GM. He went with big names to attract people instead of putting a working team on the field. They should have spent all that money on Grienke, pitching and bullpen. They had the offense already, why did they feel the need to add Hamilton and give Pujols that ridiculous amount of money at his age? I just do not understand. Scioscia is just becoming the scapegoat. Heck if you don't want him the Dodgers would gladly take him! I thought Ned Colletti wasn't that great of GM, but geez, DiPoto really takes the cake.

chrischan829
chrischan829

aren't all the "fights' and arguements mentioned from 2012?  why air them now

JohnHurley
JohnHurley

Worst front office ever!!!! Spend 25 million a year to replace Trumbo- he keeps hitting, Pujols does not. Spend a net difference of 13 million a year to take Hamilton over Hunter and then act surprised when Hamilton turns out to be a headcase.

GobiasBluth
GobiasBluth

Referring to the city of Anaheim as LA makes you look obtuse. I'm not talking about the Angels and their stupid team name either. When penning an article, you would look like a fool if you kept referring to Tampa as Miami. The Angels, despite their name, do not play in Los Angeles so you should not refer to that city when mentioning them. Apparently they don't teach common sense writing at The University of Phoenix.

SonoraDick
SonoraDick

And though it’s easy to rag on Scioscia for his... funny faces


One of the best lines ever! Whenever anything goes wrong for the Angels (which is quite often), poor Mike looks so perplexed and like he's ready to bawl at any moment.

John4
John4

I think the Angles still owe Pujols and Hamilton a combined (more than) $300 Million.  Pujols' first two years were relatively light, and Hamilton has $100 Million to go.  Pujols is certainly owed more than $200 Million over the next 8 years.  The contract for Blanton was foolish, AND they owe him $7.5 Million for 2014?!!  In the name of God, how?  Mark Trumbo has been good, but his BA is lousy.  The starting pitching is good when it's Weaver, not so much with any other pitcher.   The bullpen is one of the worst in the league.  The absolute WORST part of this whole fiasco?  No way in the world they will be able to afford Trout when he becomes a free agent.  Why would Trout stick around anyway?  The Yankees are SURE to come calling with potentially a $375 Million (that's not a typo) 10 year contract.  

BrianSpiegel
BrianSpiegel

Hindsight is fun, isn't it. What this article won't tell you is that both Santana and Walden were unreliable and subpar on the Angels and both were logical trades. Frankly, Santana was blowing games left and right during the closing stretch of last season. The Greinke deal was done by the Angels when they were in the middle of a pennant race last year and were only a few games out of the Wild Card lead. Greinke is all about money, and, frankly, was just going to go to the team with the highest payroll, i.e. the Dodgers, who probably would have spent twice as much for him. As for Pujols and Hamilton, well, maybe they are overpaid, but show me one person who would have thought they would have been this bad. It's fun to question moves in hindsight, but you should also show the facts at the time.

HOFPufnstuf
HOFPufnstuf

Arte cant sustain this much failure on this many fronts. this team was at least more endearing when they were the Anaheim Angels. Now with the Dodgers dominant again, the move to pirate the city name of Los Angeles looks foolish. He'll be selling soon.

MrTemecula
MrTemecula

Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford's contract will end just in time for Mike Trout's free agency. Heh, heh. I used to hate the Yankees when they could attract talent like him, but now we're the Yankees West and I don't feel so bad.

WilburFinklebaum
WilburFinklebaum

I have been finding it extremely difficult to cheer for my Texas Rangers because I am either choking back tears from laughter or gasping for breath and gripping my aching sides from said laughter as I watch the Angels this year.

At least when the Yankees pay money the team performs.

dinohealth
dinohealth

Well done, comprehensive, column.  Angels are a mess!  I wonder if Trout will be able to keep up his promising performance the next two years in such a sorry organization...

ILCardsfan
ILCardsfan

Where are all the Angel fans who were saying that the Pujols deal was a great signing when it happened?  

Thanks Angels for allowing the Cards to extend Allen Craig, Adam Wainwright, and Yadi.

charles1953
charles1953

As a lifelong Tiger fan, thank you Angels for letting us have Tori Hunter.  A couple years ago, Josh Hamilton beat out Miggy for MVP and Trout had his run last year. Anybody want Hamilton or Trout now over Miguel?

Theo
Theo

Scioscia has got to go. 14 years? Yes, I think it's safe to say he no longer has the ears (if he ever did) of the younger player. Trout is a throwback but that team should have a far younger and more strategically sound Manager. Old, angry, could never make the league today is done and should have been done 5 years ago.

QuikMix
QuikMix

As a lifelong Angels fan dating back to the early 80s, I can say that Arte Moreno has no baseball intuition whatsoever.  He might be a good businessman, but I'm ready to see him sell my team to an owner or a group that doesn't think they "know" baseball like they "know" business.

enough is enough.

stabmasterarson21
stabmasterarson21

I should be Angels GM!  Said they overpaid for C.J., the Pujols deal was dangerous and dumb and Hamilton deal was same, atrocious.  As far as Ervin Santana they should've traded him five years ago when they would've gotten some value out of him.  He wasn't going to work out in Anaheim, dude just couldn't become an effective top-of-the-line type starter or even a 4 or 5....just a mental midget with good stuff yet can't get 'er done!

Yah, Santana is doing fine in KC but he would not have done that in Cali, no way, he had plenty of chances to show he was that type of guy.  The Halos are screwed for quite some time, unless they got some more Trouts and Trumbos types down on the farm...

I personally think Pujols will NEVER again see the numbers he put up in StL.  If he hits over .300 with 30 homers or above I'll be very surprised.  Of course the foot injury is regrettable but even w/out that his batspeed is way down.

mwr5053
mwr5053

This is much worse than I ever exoected. Moreno must think he's a genius - until his accountant explains the books to him like a teacher to a second grader.

mpzz
mpzz

They've treated Trout like crap.  No way he re-signs

hight
hight

@Charliegone it's not even the GM's fault.  Moreno put this mess together.  He's competing with the Jets' Woody Johnson for the Al Davis award.

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

@chrischan829 Uh, cuz maybe they are long term signals of an organization in turmoil because of meddling ownership and those problems are carrying over to this year's team and affecting the future of a previously successful organization?

John4
John4

@TexasBorn Just the part where the Angels helped the Rangers by taking Hamilton off your hands and then paying him an in comprehensible $125 Million over 5 years?  It's one of the worst contracts in baseball history.  

WilburFinklebaum
WilburFinklebaum

@BrianSpiegel 

"
As for Pujols and Hamilton, well, maybe they are overpaid, but show me one person who would have thought they would have been this bad. "

Jon Daniels, General Manager for Texas Rangers
Nolan Ryan, Owner of Texas Rangers

There's 2 right off the bat without having to think.

WilburFinklebaum
WilburFinklebaum

@MrTemecula Are you seriously comparing the Angels to the Yankees? Read my comment below:

"
At least when the Yankees pay money the team performs."

Matthew F
Matthew F

@MrTemecula Umm, no you are still the Dodgers who will never have the clout of the Yankees.  Heck in two you years you will be back to cheering for Oakland or whoever the next front runner is.  Dodgers will eventually pay the price of overspending through luxury tax and go back to where the belong.

TCUfan
TCUfan

@WilburFinklebaum I agree. Good riddance to CJ Wilson in particular.  A whiny prima donna. And after all the Rangers did for Josh, he showed his thanks by running for a few extra bucks? Texas is a better TEAM for both of them being gone.

GeoffreyHolland
GeoffreyHolland

@mpzz yeah, nothing says treated like crap like being a starter near the top of the order.

MrTemecula
MrTemecula

@Matthew F @MrTemeculaUm, yes, if you got your head out of your cow's behind, you would have noticed all of the reports that the Dodgers are willing to blow past the luxury tax for a few years. You should have noticed that the Dodgers will be earning $350M from the their new regional channel in 2014 except for you being buried in Bevo's tush.

<got a pending notice...apparently '*as' or 'butt' is profane.>

HOFPufnstuf
HOFPufnstuf

Yup. The Angels have become the 'Mets West' managing each year to add another Jason Bay contract.

WilburFinklebaum
WilburFinklebaum

@TCUfan @WilburFinklebaum Couldn't agree more on Mr Post Season Fade Away Wilson. I'd have liked to see Hamilton stay for a reasonable price. I think the organization could have coaxed more out of him this year than a .220 batting avg. But with the facts as they are, you are absolutely right - Rangers are better without them. Just wish we still had Cruz in the lineup but Rios is still batting better than Hamilton so it's a fair trade-off there.

HOFPufnstuf
HOFPufnstuf

Maybe the most uninformed comment ive ever read. Yes, mpzz is absolutely right. After an mvp type season, the angels shocked trout by giving him a 10 k raise. trout was rightfully insulted. Nothing says dumb like a post that is trying to be clever and fails as poorly as this one.

WilburFinklebaum
WilburFinklebaum

@MrTemecula @WilburFinklebaum What standings do you look at? Which NY team has paid millions and tanked as badly as the Angels? You cannot compare the two at all.

And when you look at the payroll tied up in declining or lower middle of the road players how do you expect to be able to afford to bring in real, durable talent.

When LA can field a team that can win like the Yankees do when they over spend... OR... can field a team that can win like the Rangers without overspending like the Angels then you can talk.

Until then your argument holds absolutely no water.

WilburFinklebaum
WilburFinklebaum

@JimCatCabbage @WilburFinklebaum @TCUfan Hamilton was in decline for 3 years straight. My point above was that I feel the Rangers could have coaxed a productive season or two out of him at .280 avg or so and 20-25 HR's per season. And for a reasonable price I'd take that.

JimCatCabbage
JimCatCabbage

@WilburFinklebaum @TCUfan I watched every game last year. After June 1, Hamilton stunk the Ballpark. I couldn't have been happier than to see him sign with the Angels, because I figured the 4-month long slump last year was the beginning of the age-decline for Hamilton with his history of drug and alcohol abuse

HOFPufnstuf
HOFPufnstuf

whether you think he is gweedy widdle mikey twout or not in a few years the market is going to reward him and the poor widdle angey~wangels will be watching sign for the dodgers or red sox. the angels could have taken care of him upfront but instead decided, now after hosing down hamilton and pujols with money, to draw a line in the sand. Smart move

umpiresneedballs
umpiresneedballs

@GeoffreyHolland @HOFPufnstuf I think if you were given a 4% pay raise after a sensational 2012 rookie year and he's having another great year this year, you may say to yourself "this organization has no brains whatsover", and they don't.

GeoffreyHolland
GeoffreyHolland

@HOFPufnstuf Oh, woe is me. Poor little Mikey Trout. How can he live on only 510K? How much does his life suck that he has to prove himself to be more than a one year flash (which, admittedly, he is doing)? Did he already spend his 1.2 million signing bonus? Is he living in his car?

He'll get his money in good time. He knew the deal when he signed up. Anything else is just being a crybaby. If he can't understand the situation the Angels are in, that says a lot about his own lack of intelligence.