I was listening to ESPN radio the other day and the duo on the air was discussing the New York Knicks. One host pretty much ended the discussion with the following, which isn’t word for word but nearly so:
“At some point you just have to realize that some teams have bad owners. And when you have a bad owner that owner is going be bad at recognizing talent. So he’s going to hire the wrong people to run the team. Those people are then going to hire the wrong general manager who will then hire the wrong coaches and scouts who will then draft the wrong players and then be unable to coach them up once they are are there to get the best out of them.”
He couldn’t have described the Angels better had he tried. And had the topic been baseball, I’m sure the description of Moreno would have aligned with his description of the Knicks.
To really understand how badly Arte Moreno managed the Angels, let’s take a look back at the team he bought and the one he’s leaving behind. If you heard my interview on the Baseball PhD podcast I got into this a bit, but let’s dig deeper here.
Arte Moreno bought the defending World Series champions. A team of executives put in place by Disney had given general manager Bill Stoneman a budget and gotten out of his way. Arte installed his buddy Dennis Kuhl as chairman immediately despite having no baseball experience. Arte’s buddy John Carpino, also with no baseball experience, would be named President six years later.
But they were smart enough to keep Bill Stoneman around. While Stoneman had dismissed the scouting director who had scouted and signed most of the talent on those early 2000s teams, he was smart enough to keep that talent on hand and hire Eddie Bane as scouting director.
The talent Stoneman kept in the fold and/or drafted is astounding. Tim Salmon, Troy Glaus, Garret Anderson, Darin Erstad, Frankie Rodriguez and more were handed to him. The talent Stoneman’s team would bring in promised a bright future: Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Jered Weaver, Mike Trout, Tyler Skaggs, Mike Napoli and more. There were complimentary players like Casey Kotchman as well as highly rated prospects who went bust (Brandon Wood) or simply never played up to their ratings (Jeff Mathis).
Even less heralded acquisitions like Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders played notable MLB roles for years.
After the incredible 2009 season, Bill Stoneman resigned as General Manager and the above cycle began. Arte, fresh off of hiring a Chairman and President without baseball experience, then got with his team and named Tony Reagins as the General Manager.
It was the wrong hire. Made by the wrong people. Hired by an owner who could not see talent. Reagins had no executive level experience or training and was completely out of his league as a GM.
Tony Reagins is notable in Angels history for a lot of things, none of them good. Primarily he fired scouting director Eddie Bane. Bane went to Boston and was instrumental in building three World Series champions. Reagins missed the flight to the Winter Meetings, traded for Vernon Wells, and was fired within two years.
The wrong GM, incapable of seeing the talent in front of him then went on to hire the wrong scouting director, who brought in the wrong players, and you can see where this is going.
The glory days of the Angels were over the second Arte and his team were fully in charge. It took a while to manifest as the signings of Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter along with the home grown core had some success left in them, but make no mistake about it the organization was rotting from the top down. It just needed time for the stench to reach the field.
Team Arte seemed to rectify the Reagins hire by bringing in young upstart Jerry Dipoto as general manager in the Fall of 2011. He was brash, analytically minded, and ready to take on the world. Ultimately he quit because his voice wasn’t heard.
Arte chose to keep a manager who didn’t want to adapt to modern MLB methods over the man trying to embrace change. Since leaving Anaheim for Seattle, Jerry Dipoto has won more games than the Angels while spending significantly less money and built a top rated farm system.
Mike Scioscia managed for 3 more seasons without winning another division title or playoff game. Many from his coaching tree did embrace analytics and go on to great success. Joe Maddon took Tampa Bay to a World Series and won one with the Chicago Cubs. Bud Black won a Manager of the Year Award. I love Sosh as a person but he just stayed in Anaheim while his act got staler and staler.
That coaching tree was handed to Arte by the Stoneman front office. And every time a talented coach like Maddon or Black left for another organization, Arte’s team brought in lesser talent to replace them.
Team Arte has hired two general managers since Dipoto and three field managers and here’s what we have to show for it:
The Angels have a top 10 draft slot in 2023. This is the third consecutive year of having both a top 10 payroll and a earning a top 10 draft selection.
The Angels have a top 10 pick and a top 10 payroll despite having Shohei Ohtani cost controlled in three consecutive years. His highest salary in that stretch is this year’s $5.5 million.
Every one of those top 10 picks were earned with Mike Trout in his prime.
Despite having back to back top 10 picks and drafting in the top 10 3 of the last 5 years the Angels have the lowest rated farm system in baseball according to both Sports Illustrated and MLB.com.
And it’s not like the Angels were drafting at the back of the pack in other years. The highest draft spot in the last 6 years was 17.
I’d love to say the Angels farm system took a hit because some MLB studs arrived and are contributing here but that’s not the case. Going through the last 10 years of first round picks, the one with the highest WAR for the Angels is Taylor Ward at 3.3. That’s after a huge 3.8 WAR season this year took him into positive territory.
That level of failure within an organization is astounding. It takes years of mismanagement to reach the point where you suck on the field, in the front office, and on the farm. Team Arte has hit it.
Yet despite the huge decline in on field performance, the nearly billion dollars wasted on such dignitaries as Albert Pujols, Vernon Wells, and Josh Hamilton, not a singe one of Arte’s executive buddies has been shown the door.
And this is just the on field failures. Add in the stadium sale scandal, the Tyler Skaggs death and lawsuit, the lawsuits by the players in South America, having an employee sell sticky icky to opposing teams and now suing the team for wrongful termination, and you have a mess in all aspects.
A bad owner who couldn’t judge talent hired friends to run his baseball team. That talentless group chose multiple bad GM’s who chose the wrong coaches and scouts who signed the wrong guys who were coached by the wrong coaches so we never even got the best out of them.
More than anything else, that will be Arte’s legacy here. Failure.