Oh, Arte, this is quite the fine mess you've created. Thanks to the news that broke late last week, with a big assist from the Angels being wholly unwatchable, we Angel fans have nothing left to do with our pre-allocated baseball time but to ponder the great dilemma of the day: will Moreno fire Scioscia or Dipoto?
Fans, reporters and analysts alike have already taken up sides which is fun and all, but ultimately pointless. The one and only opinion that matters in all of this is the meddlesome Mr. Moreno himself and he doesn't give a good god damn what you or I think he should do.
The problem is we don't really know where his mind is at. In fact, the sources and insiders that have been feeding the media all of these rumors don't even know. Morosi's report was pretty stark in saying that one of the two will be fired. That's it. Arte's angry and someone is going to pay the price. Have fun figuring out the rest!
As challenging as that might be, I'm going to do my best to try and read into Moreno's thought process based on what other tidbits of information that have been made available to us. Here, to the best of my recollection is what we do know
Mike Scioscia is owed a lot of money still
We all know this to be true and it is something that will surely factor into the decision. It probably won't be a big factor though. With the kind of money Arte is already throwing around, having to eat Scioscia's contract is like a drop in the bucket.
The Angels considered firing Mike Scioscia last season
This is more rumor than fact, but it was widely reported enough to consider it here. Even if the idea of firing Scioscia was proposed by others in the organization, the mere fact that Arte entertained the proposal speaks volumes. We've heard for years how much he respects Scioscia. If that respect was going to prevent him from firing Scioscia now, it would have stopped him from letting this rumor get out of control now too. It has been days since the story broke and Arte has not come out to refute any of it.
Arte has been rumored to bad mouth Dipoto to others
Again, this is more of a rumor, but if it is true, it certainly suggests that Arte has lost patience with his GM. Maybe Moreno is just emotional and venting because of the team's struggles, but you don't need to be genius to realize that having your boss talk crap about you is never a good thing.
Moreno wanted to minimize Scioscia's influence in the organization
It was fairly common knowledge that when Moreno fired tony Reagins, he was searching for a GM who could provide a counter to Scioscia whom it was felt had gained too much influence in the organization. Hiring a sabermetric-friendly GM like Dipoto is a very good way to do that. Signing off on firing Mike Scioscia's BFF/hitting coach Mickey Hatcher is a way to really drive that point home. Firing Dipoto over Scioscia would only serve to give all that power back to Scioscia. Hell, if that happens Arte might as well just let Scioscia handpick the next GM.
Recent comments by Moreno suggest he thinks the problem is performance-related
While we haven't heard from Moreno since this broke, we did hear from him not long prior to it. When asked what he thought the problem with the team was, he had this to say:
I agree with that. It's a combination of things, and it's something I probably won't discuss in detail until the end of the season. We're 15 games out right now. Earlier in the week we played in New York, and everyone on the field was practically up from the Minor Leagues. ... It's a combination of injuries and not pitching well and fielding well.
He might just be exercising some diplomacy here, but he puts the blame on guys not playing up to their expectations. Fair or not, when people do that, they are usually blaming the manager.
Arte Moreno is not an idiot
While there has been plenty of fuel added to the "Angry Arte" fire of late, that doesn't make him stupid. Billionaires tend to be pretty sharp guys. If Moreno has a failing with his handling of the team it is that he can sometimes overreact emotionally. Given how long and drawn out this season's failure has been, the threat of an irrational knee-jerk reaction has probably passed us by. When he makes the decision to fire someone, it will be a decision based on a lot of thoughtful consideration.
There have been several reports of unrest in the clubhouse
We recently heard about the near-fight between Pujols and Hunter last year. It was only a few weeks ago that there were reports of a generational divide in the current clubhouse. There is also the lesser issue of the aspersions cast as Scioscia by former player Trevor Bell. Finally, there was also reports back at the start of 2012 from an anonymous current player that the clubhouse was not a happy place due to the iron fist of Scioscia. If there really are chemistry issues, that will not go unnoticed in this process. It could be a particular problem for Scioscia if one or more of the players, especially a star like Mike Trout, let's management know that they could be happier if Scioscia was gone.
So what does that all add up to? There are certainly a lot more points going against Scioscia, but the points that Scioscia has in his favor are pretty big ones. It is awfully hard to refute rumors claiming that Moreno is not happy with Dipoto. At the same time, all of these points against Scioscia are the same points that led to the common belief prior to Morosi's report that it would be Scioscia getting canned at the end of the year.
At this point I'd say it is probably a 65/35 proposition that Scioscia gets shown the door. He may like and respect Scioscia, but Arte wants the team to win immediately and that is going to be hard to pull off if he is overhauling the whole front office for the second time in three years. That's too much of a step backwards if the goal really is to contend in 2014. If Moreno is OK with punting on 2014, then maybe keeping Scioscia and taking a year to remake the roster in his image is a much more likely route.
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Nice analysis. Agree on all points. I agree with you that the money owed to Scioscia has been overblown as a reason to keep him. I would be surprised in a contract of that length if there weren't buy-out provisions of some sort, and even if there aren't, I would assume Scioscia would be able to get a job relatively quickly and that his new salary would off-set a lot of the money still owed to him by the Angels. And Arte has invested so much in this team already, I really doubt that he lets an amount of money about the same as he will be paying Vernon Wells this year and next not to play for him dictate his decision.
I'm wondering to what extent Arte has been bad mouthing Dipoto. I'm sure everyone remembers this interview he gave to USA Today just a couple of months ago where he said he really liked the analytical systems Dipoto has put in place and how Dipoto needs time to "get our system going": http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/angels/2013/06/23/arte-moreno-angels-josh-hamilton-mike-scioscia-jerry-dipoto/2450849/. I'm guessing Arte has been grumbling about signings like Blanton, but I would be very surprised and concerned if he fired Dipoto. It'd be hard to stay a fan if he fired Dipoto and kept Scioscia.