Angels need a new vision
The meeting was supposed to be an hour, two at the most. The prospective owner wanted to talk baseball with the general manager, to hear about how the team planned to sustain its success.
Arte Moreno and Bill Stoneman met for five hours that day. Moreno bought the Angels soon after, kept the baseball side of the front office intact, and the team won five of the next six American League West championships.
Now the time has come for Moreno to hold a series of five-hour meetings, to listen to candidates from far and wide propose a new long-range vision for the Angels.
There is no shortage of resources, but there has been a shortage of creativity and imagination. With the departure of Tony Reagins, Moreno has the chance to hire a general manager to get him to his first World Series.
And, at the same time, Moreno has the chance to declare that the man he believes is the best manager in baseball is indeed the manager, and not the player personnel director as well.
After all, in the aftermath of the debacle that was the trade in which Vernon Wells was imported and Mike Napoli was exported, Mike Scioscia said he was just the manager.
The way Scioscia explained the trade last week, Napoli was coming off an injury that might have restricted him to first base, where the Angels expected Kendrys Morales to play.
“We needed to get better in the outfield,” Scioscia told reporters, “so some decisions were made by Tony and Arte as to what the team would look like.”
That quote stunned some people in the Angels’ front office. A manager who takes great care not to publicly criticize his players appeared to be pointing a public finger at his bosses.
When Stoneman retired in 2007, Moreno replaced him by promoting Reagins from minor league director but said, “This will give Mike more responsibility, to make sure we give him what he needs.”
What the Angels need is some creative tension in the front office, to take Scioscia’s ideas and bounce them off a general manager with the authority to bounce back.
If Scioscia believes that batters should be evaluated in part by their average with men in scoring position, and that catchers should be evaluated by their earned-run average working with a pitcher, there ought to be a vigorous internal debate to ensure the Angels can identify and acquire the right players.
This is about far more than Scioscia, a rock of credibility for a previously wayward franchise. This is about an organization that has struggled to identify Plan B when Plan A fails, and has resorted to taking on money far too often.
Dan Haren? Worked great. Scott Kazmir? Not so great. Wells?
If Moreno is not going to win bidding wars in free agency -- and he didn’t with CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and Carl Crawford -- then he needs a strong general manager with a Plan B, C and D ready to go, to avoid another roster overloaded with slap-hitting infielders, old outfielders and middle relievers.
How about a three-way trade? On Monday, the Angels couldn’t tell us the last time they made one. Moreno needs a general manager with the vision to identify one, and the relationships within baseball to execute it. Moreno also needs a general manager who can build solid relationships with agents, since the Angels’ preferred one-and-done approach on offers to major free agents has largely failed.
Moreno has not spoken with reporters since Reagins vacated his position on Friday. He could hire one executive, or several.
The Angels dismissed veteran assistants Ken Forsch and Gary Sutherland on Monday, although former shortstop and current assistant Gary DiSarcina remains in the front office and could be a longshot GM candidate. So could Tory Hernandez, the Angels’ manager of baseball operations.
The Angels don’t necessarily need a big name, just a good one, and someone whom Scioscia respects and trusts. Two of his former coaches would be intriguing candidates. Joe Maddon would be perfect, if he were interested. So would Bud Black.
But, to those candidates from outside the family, Moreno ought to determine his response to the inevitable questions about whether Scioscia is the stealth general manager, and how the owner envisions the chain of command.
Moreno longs desperately to see his Angels in the World Series. There are eight teams that have not represented the AL in the World Series since he bought the Angels in 2003: the Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays are the others.
For Moreno, whose Angels aspire to be associated with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, the choice he makes now could be his ticket.