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Friday, October 28, 2011
Angels new GM fits the profile

By Mark Saxon

Early in the Angels' search for a new general manager, a source with knowledge of the team's thinking said, "It's so obvious they want to hire Jerry Dipoto."

But in the ensuing 10 days, the Angels went through plenty of due diligence. Owner Arte Moreno and team president John Carpino spent a work week in Florida, where they interviewed New York Yankees executives Damon Oppenheimer and Billy Eppler and wooed Tampa Bay Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman.

The Angels talked to Kim Ng, who would have been the first female GM in any major sport; they contacted Omar Minaya, who had been one of the game's few latino executives.

With free agency approaching and the Baltimore Orioles sniffing around Dipoto, they opted to hire a man whose resume seems to have been written to land him in Anaheim. Like manager Mike Scioscia, most of his coaches and former GM Bill Stoneman, Dipoto is a former major-leaguer. He pitched in relief for three big-league teams between 1993 and 2000.

In keeping with the Angels' emphasis on scouting over statistics, Dipoto's background is player evaluation. But unlike Stoneman or Reagins, Dipoto, 43, is connected to the new generation of GMs, primarily through his ties to ex-Arizona GM Josh Byrnes.

Even if Friedman had been the Angels' top choice, Dipoto might work out better in the long run. Remember when Mike Garrett couldn't convince Mike Riley to coach the USC Trojans in 2000? How'd that Pete Carroll thing work out?

Moreno hasn't made many missteps since he bought the team, but he clearly erred when he promoted Tony Reagins to be GM in 2007. It's not so much that Reagins was the wrong many for the job, but that it was the wrong job for the man. Reagins didn't have the right connections to enter the shark-filled waters with agents and seasoned GMs. He didn't have the experience to creatively administer payroll.

Worse, the Angels set him up to fail by structuring the GM position as a functionary between a powerful manager and a strong-willed owner. Eventually, Moreno simply took over the process of negotiating for free agents. That arrangement made it difficult for the Angels to land premium players because of Moreno's hard-line negotiating tactics.

Dipoto could be the smartest guy in baseball but it won't matter if the Angels don't give him more power than they invested in Reagins. His eclectic background and Moreno's apparent willingness to make sweeping changes suggest Friday's news will usher in a fresh arrangement at Angel Stadium.

The issue isn't Scioscia's meddling in personnel decisions. It's Dipoto's willingness to ignore it if he thinks he sees things from a broader perspective. There are myriad reasons why many GMs often make moves against a manager's wishes -- some financial, some statistical, some baseball-related -- but someone in that position has to have the power and courage to pull it off.

Dipoto won't have long to familiarize himself with his new surroundings. Free agency begins in early November and the Angels have payroll flexibility and needs. Priority No. 1 is a late-inning right-handed reliever. They are expected to look into acquiring a third baseman with some pop. They need to unload at least one veteran bat to make room for the return of Kendrys Morales and, maybe, squeeze in Mike Trout.

By the winter meetings in early December, we'll have a pretty good notion of whether the Angels found the right fit. Early indications are promising.