No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five individuals by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while with that club. But for general manager, Bill Stoneman is the runaway top choice.
The Angels have had 12 general managers since their inception in 1960, but only Bill Stoneman can lay claim to the architect of a World Series winner.
Stoneman served as the club’s general manager from 1999-2007, and the Angels made the postseason four times during his tenure, including the Fall Classic triumph in '02. Stoneman, who was raised in West Covina, Calif., was responsible for hiring Mike Scioscia before the 2000 season, which changed the trajectory of a franchise that hadn’t reached the postseason since 1986.
The Angels made the postseason as the AL Wild Card in 2002 (long before the one-game playoff) and won the AL West in '04, '05 and '07 before Stoneman stepped down at 63 years old, citing his age and not enough energy for the job. Stoneman, though, remains in the organization as a special advisor and served as interim general manager in 2015, when Jerry DiPoto was dismissed from the post in July of that year.
Stoneman’s biggest move during his tenure was the hiring of Scioscia, who made MLB.com's all-time Halos team as the organization's best manager. But Stoneman also made several key moves early in his tenure that set up the franchise for long-term success.
The Angels already had a strong core in place when he took over as GM, as Tim Salmon, Garret Anderson and Troy Percival had entrenched themselves as cornerstones of the franchise, while Darin Erstad and Troy Glaus were on the rise. One of Stoneman’s first trades was sending Jim Edmonds to the Cardinals for Adam Kennedy and Kent Bottenfield, and while Edmonds thrived in St. Louis, Kennedy played a key role in the club’s World Series title, hitting three homers in Game 5 of the 2002 ALCS against the Twins.
Stoneman also signed first baseman Scott Spiezio and claimed shortstop David Eckstein and reliever Ben Weber off waivers in 2000 -- his first year at the helm. He signed Brendan Donnelly in 2001 and also made three key trades before the '02 season, acquiring right-hander Kevin Appier from the Mets for Mo Vaughn; trading for Chone Figgins from the Rockies for Kimera Bartee; and bringing in designated hitter Brad Fullmer from the Blue Jays for Brian Cooper.
Stoneman was also the GM when the Angels drafted Casey Kotchman, Jeff Mathis, Joe Saunders, Howie Kendrick and Jered Weaver, as well as signing Erick Aybar and Ervin Santana as amateur free agents. His biggest free-agent signing was Vladimir Guerrero in 2004 -- with a key assist from owner Arte Moreno -- and Guerrero went on to win AL MVP honors in his first year with the club.
Stoneman, though, was a conservative GM, who only made a few in-season trades and was reluctant to part with his top prospects. It led to a boatload of homegrown talent, but Angels fans also clamored for a big move for a bat to complement Guerrero that never materialized under Stoneman. However, there’s no doubt that Stoneman played a pivotal role in building the 2002 World Series roster and also set up the Angels for future success with his ability to build the farm system.