Stoneman the calming presence Angels need
Seamless transition can be expected for interim GM after Dipoto's departure
ANAHEIM -- At his peak, Bill Stoneman was an explosive right-hander for the Montreal Expos, throwing a pair of no-hitters and winning 17 games with 251 strikeouts in 1971 while also leading the National League in walks. He threw bullets, just wildly enough to get the attention of hitters.
As an Angels executive -- taking over as general manager in November 1999 -- a calm, resourceful Stoneman continued to deal, laying the foundation for the 2002 World Series champions. He was never known to make a rash move.
Given his resume, he seems the ideal choice to assume the GM role for the balance of the season. It was vacated by Jerry Dipoto when he stunningly decided to step down on Wednesday in the middle of the season.
It is back to the future with Stoneman and manager Mike Sciosica, the man he hired to manage the club as his first big decision just 17 days after his own appointment as GM.
Dipoto arrived on the scene at the 2011 Winter Meetings in Dallas and made one of the most dramatic splashes in baseball history with the club's free-agent signings of Albert Pujols and C. J. Wilson.
Bold moves continued through the former right-hander's 3 ½ seasons, peaking with the club's 2014 drive to a 98-win season, best in baseball. But the Royals' sweep in the American League Division Series was followed by fitful events -- notably the Josh Hamilton fiasco and a contentious team meeting four days ago -- that led to Dipoto's abrupt exit.
"Pitchers tend to gravitate to each other," Wilson said on Wednesday as the Angels packed for a weekend visit with Hamilton and his Rangers in Texas. "Jerry was one of the first people in the organization to reach out to me here, and we've had a good relationship.
"Differences of opinion are always going to exist, in the best of environments. It's a shame it came to this. As players, we can only control what we do on the field. We don't have a straw vote in these matters. We'll keep doing what we've been doing -- performing between the lines."
There was conversation among teammates, Wilson said, about what the change at the top would mean. But they can rest assured there will be no sweeping personnel changes. That is not Stoneman's style.
This is a patient, measured man who does not act or react swiftly or recklessly.
It was on Stoneman's advice that Scioscia, after accepting the job, placed a phone call to a longtime Angels employee, a Renaissance man who also had interviewed for the job.
Scioscia hit it off with Joe Maddon, who became his bench coach on a dynamic staff that would drive the Angels to a World Series championship in 2002. It was the third season of a wonderful group of leaders and teachers that included future managers Bud Black and Ron Roenicke, along with Mickey Hatcher and Alfredo Griffin.
Stoneman, on staff as a senior advisor since 2007, clearly knows talent and what to do with it.
The Angels' needs as he embarks on this undertaking are apparent to everyone in baseball -- which is part of the problem. Potential trade partners love to take advantage of favorable positions.
The Angels are lacking offensive firepower. Mark Trumbo and Howie Kendrick were traded in consecutive winters to create young pitching depth that should pay off for years to come with lefties Tyler Skaggs, Hector Santiago and Andrew Heaney.
But those lineup holes have not been adequately patched, leaving insufficient support for Mike Trout and Pujols.
Stoneman has a history of valuing young assets, not moving them for quick fixes. This pays off in the long haul but might not satisfy impatient fans.
Right now, with Dipoto assistants Matt Klentak and Scott Servais staying on board, Stoneman's main mission is to make sure everyone pulls together for the common good. His calming presence and firm hand are a nice combination to have -- especially in stressful times.
A good man stepped down, another good man steps up. This is what frequently happens in businesses, including baseball. There is every reason to believe the transition will be seamless.
Beyond this season, with Stoneman expected to return to a quieter life in November, club president John Carpino said he first will look within for the next GM. But a fascinating potential candidate lives right down Interstate 5.
Bud Black, dismissed by the Padres two weeks ago after making chicken salad out of largely unappealing ingredients for 8 ½ seasons as their manager, has close ties to the Angels' organization and embodies all the personal and professional qualities of a successful GM.
The only certainty is that it will be intriguing, as always, at the ballpark right down the avenue from Disneyland, billed as the Happiest Place on Earth.