The turmoil surrounding the Los Angeles Angels reached a new level on Friday when Fox Sports Jon Morosi reported that the team was expected to replace either manager Mike Scioscia or general manager Jerry Dipoto before the 2014 season. Morosi noted that philosophical differences have made it difficult for Scioscia and Dipoto to co-exist, and Angels ownership realizes a change has to be made quickly to get everyone back on the same page.
I don't think anyone on the outside looking in would disagree with that assessment. Not after the Angels made another major splash in free agency, only to follow with a largely disappointing season that will again find them missing the postseason. But according to a separate report by CBS Sports Scott Miller, the cracks in the franchise haven't just existed between the front office and the manager's office, they've also existed in the clubhouse. And at one point the tensions almost boiled over into a physical confrontation.
Citing multiple sources, Miller says a team meeting last August nearly erupted into fisticuffs when Albert Pujols called out Torii Hunter for a dugout altercation with pitcher C.J. Wilson the night before. Hunter took exception to the comments, especially since he'd already buried the hatchet with Wilson privately, and reportedly lost his temper.
In a glimpse into how fractured the Angels had become, they could not even agree on a meeting format. Hawkins called for a players-only meeting. Pujols, insisting that manager Mike Scioscia and the coaches attend, wound up co-opting the meeting.
Pujols called out Weaver for showing up a teammate the night before. Then he turned his attention on Hunter, blaming him for the dugout altercation with Wilson.
What Pujols did not know at the time was that Wilson and Hunter already had made amends, with the pitcher apologizing to the outfielder for overstepping his bounds in the dugout immediately following the game.
“Albert, you'd better get your facts straight,” a seething Hunter told Pujols.
Pujols said something back, and Hunter jumped him for being a bad teammate and pouting all season whenever he failed to get hits in a game, even in games the Angels won … and now he was going to call others out?
“Shut up, Torii,” Pujols snapped.
It was then that Hunter, from across the clubhouse, lost it and charged Pujols. Hawkins and outfielder Vernon Wells had to restrain him.
Miller also referenced an incident in Minnesota where Hunter punched teammate Justin Morneau when he felt like Morneau wasn't receptive to his advice about being a better teammate. The confrontation would end up serving as a bonding moment for the pair, which cemented Hunter's position as a clubhouse leader. But it also illustrates that his anger sometimes gets the best of him. They may be part of the reason the Angels told Hunter they didn't have the money available to bring him during the offseason.
As for Pujols, it's said he wanted no part of the physical confrontation. Once cooler heads prevailed, there were no further troubles between the two men. In fact, Hunter was quoted in Miller's piece as saying the two remain friends and have talked frequently this season. Still, it gives us a glimpse at how unstable the atmosphere was in the Angels clubhouse last season, and points to why new leadership at the top may be necessary.