So, all during a disappointing first half and again at the non-waiver trade deadline, Angel General Manager Bill Stoneman described four young players -- catcher Jeff Mathis, pitcher Ervin Santana, third baseman Dallas McPherson and first baseman Casey Kotchman -- as being about the closest the organization had to qualifying as untouchables. Then he fired scouting director Donny Rowland, the man under whose auspices they were primarily acquired?
So, the scouting and development bible known as Baseball America ranked the Angel farm system last among the 30 teams before Stoneman hired Rowland in November 1999 only to elevate them 25 notches over the course of his four drafts. And still he was dismissed?
Well, sources say there was an issue with Rowland’s management style and a sense that he wanted to go higher in the organization, even if there were people in the way.
The few scouts who weren’t fired by Rowland or weren’t purged by former club president Tony Tavares found coping with Rowland’s micromanaging style difficult. One source familiar with the situation compared Rowland to a “little general” and “a lot like Tavares,” with whom he became card-playing close before Tavares left the organization.
The displeasure among the scouting staff was serious enough, sources say, that Rowland was almost fired a year ago before receiving a reprieve. However, he was definitely on probation.
Special assistant Gary Sutherland, who heads the professional scouting department that Rowland is said to have had his eye on, toured the Angel scouting ranks as a national cross-checker before the June draft and reported to Stoneman that the situation with Rowland was inoperable and his relationship with the scouts could not be saved, sources said.
Rowland has refused to comment other than to issue a statement to Baseball America that he appreciated the opportunity the Angels gave him.
There is speculation he will return to the New York Yankees, for whom he previously scouted.
Rowland’s firing underscores Sutherland’s stature as the Angels’ No. 2 man in baseball operations and his close relationship with Stoneman, a former Montreal Expo teammate.
It also underscores Stoneman’s willingness to correct what he perceives as his hiring mistakes -- Rowland’s firing follows that of minor league director Darrell Miller -- and the security he enjoys under new owner Arte Moreno.
He also has the security of knowing Mathis, Santana, McPherson and Kotchman remain.
Casden Meets Bud
It is difficult to measure the significance, but Commissioner Bud Selig confirmed that he was paid a “social visit” at his Milwaukee office last week by News Corp. chairman Peter Chernin and Los Angeles developer Alan Casden, who is bidding to buy the Dodgers.
“Peter simply wanted me to meet Casden,” said Selig, who refused additional comment.
Sources familiar with the situation said News Corp. has not reached an agreement to sell the team to Casden, nor has News Corp. eliminated Tampa Bay Buccaneer owner Malcolm Glazer, although Glazer continues to have trouble satisfying cross-ownership rules in baseball and the NFL.
“The Glazer situation is no closer to being resolved,” a high ranking baseball official said.
The sources also said that baseball is closely watching how a legal issue concerning Casden plays out.
The Times has reported that the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit and the city’s Ethics Commission are investigating whether subcontractors or employees of Casden Properties were improperly reimbursed for campaign contributions made in the 2001 city elections. Prosecutors recently served a search warrant on his Beverly Hills office.
Casden has denied violations and said a vice president at the firm was named in the search warrant.
Hot and Cold Corner
What’s that about sometimes the best trades are those you don’t make?
Both the Dodgers and Chicago Cubs were disappointed when the Florida Marlins took Mike Lowell off the market before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
The Dodgers, with no alternatives, stuck with Adrian Beltre, who began the weekend having hit six home runs and driven in 24 runs in August.
The Cubs went another route, trading for Aramis Ramirez, who has hit eight home runs and driven in 17 runs in that span.
Lowell, meantime, had hit only one homer and driven in only nine runs in August before breaking his left hand Saturday and being sidelined for about four weeks.
And then there’s Aaron Boone, whom the Dodgers also pursued vigorously before July 31, when he was acquired by the Yankees.
Clearly pressing in the Bronx, Boone began the weekend having hit .193 with one homer and eight RBIs in 25 games as a Yankee.
Hiking the Horn
* The slumping Seattle Mariners can boast that they have used only five starting pitchers all year, but they may be paying a price now. The five had reached the sixth inning only four times in their last 18 games before the weekend.
* In Pittsburgh, they’re comparing the trading of Brian Giles to that of Ralph Kiner and Dick Groat, a stretch, perhaps.
Since owner Kevin McClatchy claimed the Pirates would lose $30 million in a three-year span, General Manager Dave Littlefield has collected a roster of younger players by trading Giles, Mike Williams, Kenny Lofton, Scott Sauerbeck, Jeff Suppan, Randall Simon and Ramirez. Shameful, perhaps, but the Pirates weren’t going anywhere anyway.
“I’ve been asked why I didn’t build around Brian Giles,” Littlefield said. “But you need more than one player. You need eight or 10 to build around.
“We need to accumulate talent [and] trading Brian at this time was the best way for us to continue acquiring some of that talent.”
* It’s ridiculous to hear clubs complain about injuries and other hardships when the San Francisco Giants are running away with the National League West, even though Felipe Alou has had to use the disabled list 19 times, plug Tim Worrell into Robb Nen’s closer role all year, fill rotation gaps with rookies Jesse Foppert and Jerome Williams at times, replace a bereaved Barry Bonds twice and began the weekend having used 100 lineups. What does that say about the rest of the West?