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L.A. Angels faltering off the field

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are on the verge of an epic meltdown if they continue mishandling situations on and off the field.

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Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno at the news conference introducing free-agent signee Josh Hamilton at ESPN Zone, Downtown Disney in Anaheim, California, on Saturday, December 15, 2012.

Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno at the news conference introducing free-agent signee Josh Hamilton at ESPN Zone, Downtown Disney in Anaheim, California, on Saturday, December 15, 2012.

Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/MCT

Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/MCT

Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno at the news conference introducing free-agent signee Josh Hamilton at ESPN Zone, Downtown Disney in Anaheim, California, on Saturday, December 15, 2012.

Josh Barajas, Sports Editor

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The Angels are currently playing their best baseball of the season; they are on a four game win streak, have won eight of the last nine and have two starters in the 2015 MLB All-Star Game.

The Angels are also on the cusp of falling apart as an organization.

General manager Jerry Dipoto’s resignation last Tuesday was only the latest sign the end is nigh for the Angels. Dipoto and 15-year manager Mike Scioscia were never on the same page, the former being a more analytical mind and the latter taking a much more traditional approach to America’s pastime.

Scioscia, the longest tenured manager in baseball, is known for circumventing his GMs and making decisions on his own, much like Oakland A’s skipper Art Howe did in the film “Moneyball.” The difference here is that Dipoto didn’t have enough pull in the organization to make the same strong-armed decisions Billy Beane made in the film – and real life.

Dipoto decided to walk away from a team with the potential to be a baseball powerhouse, and lifted the mask on a dysfunctional team that is the Angels.

The mishandling of outfielder Josh Hamilton’s drug relapse before the season – the Angels openly wanted their own player suspended so they wouldn’t have to pay him while he conveniently recovered from shoulder surgery – was an early warning that something smelled foul in Anaheim. The signing Hamilton in the first place was an even earlier that something was rotten.

But, how is a team that won its division last year, a team with the best record in the entire league, a team with the reigning American League MVP, Mike Trout, in danger of such a collapse?

All the problems lead back to one man and his often-poor decisions. Unfortunately for the Angels, this man is team owner Arte Moreno.

Moreno took control of the Angels after buying the team from the Walt Disney Company – and it was a change welcomed by most fans.

Even though the Angels won the World Series in 2002, the team’s front office was always scrimping and saving and constantly fielding teams put together by scotch tape under Mickey Mouse’s ownership. When Moreno arrived in Anaheim, he made it a point to bring in big name players capable of taking the Angels back to the top.

Moreno hit a home run with his first big signing by bringing in four-time all-star Vladimir Guerrero in 2004. Guerrero immediately proved his worth and won A.L. Most Valuable Player in his first year with the Angels and won five division crowns in his six year stint in Anaheim.

Since then, however, Moreno has struck out more often than not. He continuously dishes out money for stars at the end of their careers like Bobby Abreu, Hideki Matsui, Gary Matthews Jr., Vernon Wells and none more head-scratching than the five-year, $125 million contract he gave to the 32-year-old, injury prone Josh Hamilton.

Hamilton brings us to Moreno’s other major flaw besides his impulsive acquisition of washed-up sluggers; his relationship with his employees. During his tenure as the Angels’ owner, Moreno has fired dozens of members of the front office. Moreno’s players have also felt the owner’s wrath, the latest being the troubled Hamilton.

Moreno knew what he was getting into when he chose to go after Hamilton over re-signing the much-needed arm of pitcher Zack Greinke. Hamilton has a history of substance abuse problems and had relapsed before the 2012 season, but Moreno took the risk anyway and signed the slugger 10 months later.

After two-years full of injuries and sub-par hitting with the Angels, Hamilton relapsed again in Feb. 2015 and Moreno wasted no time in cutting ties with the slugger. Fans, teammates and even Scioscia were about ready to embrace Hamilton, but Moreno saw Hamilton’s slip as a way of getting some of that $125 million back.

Hamilton was ultimately shunned by the Angels’ high command and shipped back to his former team, the Texas Rangers, in exchange for nothing. Moreno actually took a $68 million hit to deal Hamilton because tensions grew so high.

Moreno loves baseball, and he loves his team. But, it seems like these days he is smothering the Angels within his tight embrace. There are glimmers of hope like Trout, Albert Pujols and even young players like Garrett Richards.

The on-field performance of the Angels hasn’t been affected so far, but there is no doubt a storm is coming. Hopefully Moreno and Scioscia can right their ship before it hits.

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