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Angels' players staying focused

Dipoto's exit as GM unlikely to have a negative impact on performance

ANAHEIM -- Four Major League managers -- Ron Roenicke, Mike Redmond, Bud Black and Ryne Sandberg -- already have been replaced this season. The impact on each of the teams involved has been negligible.

The Brewers, Marlins, Padres and Phillies, respectively, are right about where they were when the changes were made.

There is no reason to believe the exit of a general manager should be any different. Logically, it is even less of a factor to players than the departure of the guy penning the lineup and structuring the bullpen.

Jerry Dipoto stepping down as Angels GM is a hot topic for fans of the team. But the players? They shrug and go look at video or take batting practice.

"We're not involved in it," Mike Trout said when asked prior to Wednesday's series finale against the Yankees about the report that Dipoto is stepping down as GM. "We don't know any of the details -- just what you guys have heard.

"We can't change our game. We're going to play our hardest and try to win game three of this series against the Yankees."

The Angels have won four games in a row, the past two against the Bronx Bombers. In spite of obvious offensive shortcomings, they are within four games of the first-place Astros in the American League West. Since June 11, the Angels are 12-7, more in line with their performance during last year's 98-win season, which was tops in the Majors.

The timing of Dipoto's exit prompts all manner of speculation -- not that the players are dwelling on it.

"We've got a nice little roll going," right fielder Kole Calhoun said. "We're throwing the ball extremely well. Once we start to get on base in front of Trout and get some timely hits, it can be special. This year has been win, lose, win, lose. Hopefully, we can keep putting up W's and get it going."

Manager Mike Scioscia, denying he prevailed in a clash of philosophies with Dipoto, is aware of how self-contained Major League players are. He was been one himself, with considerable success as a two-time World Series champion catcher with the Dodgers.

"I think our team's pretty focused," Scioscia said. "I think you can see that. We're playing well on the field. And, hopefully, that's our focus, to continue to do that."

The pervasive perception is that this was a showdown between Scioscia's old-school ways, rooted in experience and feel, and Dipoto's new-school methods focusing on analytics.

Scioscia said that wasn't the case, explaining how analytics are being used in positive ways on a daily basis by the Angels, as with every other club in the Majors. It is an oversimplification in a complex arena to suggest that this was the sole reason for a parting of ways.

More to the point is history. General managers and managers have been engaging in internal disagreements since the dawn of baseball time. One is responsible for assembling the talent, the other for making it function properly. Arguments are inevitable over how the personnel is deployed and motivated.

Complicating things, the Angels have been constantly integrating new pieces with an abundance of moves in recent seasons. Only Jered Weaver and Erick Aybar remain from the 2009 powerhouse. That club swept the Red Sox in the AL Division Series and appeared capable of winning it all before the Yankees prevailed in six games in AL Championship Series, going on to subdue the Phillies in the World Series.

From owner Arte Moreno's business perspective, standing by Scioscia is hard to second-guess. The Angels have become increasingly popular and profitable under Moreno's watch; he would command a fortune if he put the franchise on the market tomorrow.

Under Scioscia, Moreno's only manager, the team has won 1,372 games and lost 1,074 in the regular season, a .547 winning percentage. The Angels have won seven division titles in the manager's 15-plus years -- and the franchise's lone Fall Classic, in 2002.

Since that celebration, critics are quick to point out that Scioscia has not had the same postseason touch. He is 10-22, winning two of eight series.

Even with those disappointments, it's a lot of winning by a franchise with a previously undistinguished history. Before Scioscia's arrival, the Angels reached the postseason just three times since their 1961 birth. They ended a 13-year playoff drought in the magical 2002 season.

Baseball insiders like to call it a production business. If you produce, you stay employed. Scioscia can opt out of his contract after this season. Should he do so, he figures to be a popular commodity.

Lyle Spencer is a national reporter and columnist for Follow him on Twitter @LyleMSpencer.
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