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Thursday, February 16, 2012
Position previews: General manager

By Mark Saxon

Tony Reagins must be wondering where that $320 million was when he was still general manager.

Owner Arte Moreno's historic off-season spending spree came at the perfect moment to make his new GM, Jerry Dipoto, look like the smartest guy in the room. And signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson positions him to be the man who helped restore the organization's smudged reputation by getting the Angels back in the postseason after a two-year exile.

But not everything Dipoto has done can be attributed to writing checks. To a lot of Angels fans, just getting weak-hitting catcher Jeff Mathis out of the reach of Mike Scioscia's lineup pen (and finding a solid alternative in Chris Iannetta) was reason to cheer. Dipoto's season can probably be judged by his second-tier transactions, such as the acquisition of setup man LaTroy Hawkins, and the catching shakeup.

But his impact figures to extend well beyond the coming few months. By sweeping clean the front office and scouting departments to let Dipoto bring in his own people, the Angels demonstrated their long-term commitment to the new regime.

Dipoto has pledged to renew the Angels' focus on scouting after it had atrophied (in large part due to budget cuts) under Reagins. While some teams were spending as much as $3 million in the Latin American market last year, the Angels spent just $600,000, according to a source. Becoming more competitive in the market for emerging talent could establish the Angels as yearly contenders, not just the team that sweeps up aging veterans at inflated prices.

And, vitally, Dipoto's interest in newer forms of baseball analytics will bring fresh air into an organization that had staunchly refused to get with the times. He pledged to increase the Angels' emphasis in on-base percentage -- throughout the organization -- and, so far, all his moves have proven that commitment.

Dipoto's qualifications seem almost too good to be true. How many GMs had viable major-league playing careers, are deeply schooled in statistics and cut their teeth as scouts?

As usual, few fans will realize how many other people are involved in mapping things out besides the GM and manager. Dipoto's new second-in-command, Scott Servais, helped rebuild the Texas Rangers' farm system, making that team so difficult for the Angels to catch because of its overflowing reserves at Triple-A.

And none of this organizational overhaul would have been possible if Moreno hadn't recognized the business talents of John Carpino and installed him as team president.

It truly is a new era in Angels baseball, and Pujols is only the face of the sea change.

A lot can go wrong and, some would say, it usually does. But Moreno and Carpino clearly signaled their unhappiness with the direction of their business by hiring Dipoto to steer the baseball side back on track. So far, so good.