Anger Management

Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion. But when it gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems — problems at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your life. And it can make you feel as though you’re at the mercy of an unpredictable and powerful emotion.

American Psychological Association web site on controlling anger

Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke published an article Tuesday in which he quotes Angels owner Arte Moreno as saying he was “angry” and “disappointed” by the Angels’ 2010 season:

The tone was strange. The words were foreign. The call to action was almost unrecognizable.

Did I really just hear what I thought I heard?

Did the owner of an underachieving Los Angeles major league baseball team just tell me that he was angry, disappointed, and would spend whatever it took to return his team to the playoffs?

“Yes,” Arte Moreno said Tuesday. “That’s how I feel. That’s what I’ll do.”

This came on the same day it was announced the Angels had fired yet another long-time employee. This time it was head athletic trainer Ned Bergert, who’d been with the organization 36 years, the last twenty as Head Certified Athletic Trainer. Bergert began his career as the trainer for the Quad Cities Angels in the Midwest League in 1975.

That’s a lot of institutional knowledge to flush just because you’re mad.

In recent days, they’ve also flushed scouting director Eddie Bane; scouts Bart Braun, Jim Bryant and Jeff Scholzen; and major league scout Dale Sutherland.

No statement has been made as to why any of these people are responsible for the Angels’ 80-82 record.

None of them traded for Scott Kazmir, gave fat free agent contracts to aging outfielders Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui, or signed relievers Brian Fuentes and Fernando Rodney.

Jeff Scholzen signed Brandon Wood in 2003, but if you’re unhappy with Woody his name was called in that draft by Donny Rowland, not Eddie Bane, and Rowland was dismissed two months after that draft. The scouts simply report what they find. They don’t tell the scouting director who to pick.

I wrote on September 30 that Bane was handicapped by losing high-round draft picks most years as compensation for free agents signed by the general manager. Not his fault.

Arte Moreno is a billionaire and I’m not, so when it comes to life success he wins that contest, no contest.

But I’m really concerned by the actions taken in recent days, which suggest decisions are being made out of anger and not logic.

The people who made many of the critical decisions that led to this year’s downfall were actually chosen by Moreno.

It was Moreno who extended Scioscia’s contract after the 2008 season through 2018. So no matter how badly the team screws up, Scioscia is secure.

It was Moreno who replaced the retiring general manager Bill Stoneman with Tony Reagins. Stoneman was a “baseball man,” a phrase in the industry that refers to someone who’s spent his entire life in the game. He was a long-time major league pitcher, he was a banking executive, then went into the Expos’ front office before joining the Angels as GM in October 1999. Stoneman laid the foundation for the Angels’ most successful decade in their history.

Reagins obtained a marketing degree from Cal State Fullerton in 1991. He joined the Angels as a marketing/advertising intern and worked primarily in Marketing until transferring over to Baseball Operations in 1998. He succeeded Darrell Miller as player development director after the 2001 season.

Tony was in charge of the farm system for six years, the 2002 through 2007 seasons, developmental years for many players that critics claim turned out to be a “bust.” I don’t think Tony was responsible for any perceived failures during that period. Quite the contrary. He let the “baseball men” do their thing, stabilized affiliations that lasted an entire decade, and helped implement a consistent developmental philosophy. Perhaps most importantly, he established a high standard for player conduct on and off the field. You may not like the quality of talent emerging from the system, but the Angels don’t produce slackers or malcontents.

I’ve known Tony almost ten years, and this is absolutely not intended as a knock on him, but the consensus among most observers is that Scioscia is the one who runs the baseball side of the business, not Tony. I personally think the relationship is collaborative, but in any case Moreno created a situation where Scioscia was given a long-term contract and more power than most managers have. If Tony were to decide that Scioscia needs to go, that one of Mike’s coaches needs to be replaced, most people would probably agree that Tony couldn’t do it unless Moreno blessed it.

I don’t think Scioscia is a terrible manager. I think he’s a terrific manager. The Angels are lucky to have him. But when one person is given far too much power in an organization, there is no check or balance, and that can lead to problems.

Media reports suggested Bane was fired because a conflict of personalities with Reagins. Tony denied it. But there’s no denying it’s an authoritarian structure, and the authority is Mike Scioscia.

He was given that authority by Arte Moreno.

Power games are endemic to human nature. They happen in all organizations, large and small. But there needs to be a check on power, because we’re all fallible and therefore we all need to be open to other opinions.

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner hired Billy Martin to manage five times. He also fired Billy Martin five times.

A terrible mix, to be sure, but they won because both were strong authoritarian personalities and both pushed back against the other’s excesses.

The APA site quoted above has this statement:

Unexpressed anger can create other problems. It can lead to pathological expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behavior (getting back at people indirectly, without telling them why, rather than confronting them head-on) or a personality that seems perpetually cynical and hostile. People who are constantly putting others down, criticizing everything, and making cynical comments haven’t learned how to constructively express their anger. Not surprisingly, they aren’t likely to have many successful relationships.

None of us are privy to the reasons given for firing Bane, Bergert and Sutherland. Maybe they were caught stealing pencils from the office supply cabinet. But it does seem so far that there’s no rhyme or reason to the dismissals other than rolling heads to show the paying public that we’re angry.

The APA comments:

Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive — not aggressive — manner is the healthiest way to express anger. To do this, you have to learn how to make clear what your needs are, and how to get them met, without hurting others. Being assertive doesn’t mean being pushy or demanding; it means being respectful of yourself and others.

I fear the purge isn’t over. We’ve yet to see any heads roll in Player Development. October is the month when minor league managers and coaches are let go, or have their contracts renewed. Instructional league runs through October 16, so perhaps they’re waiting for that program to end before making more changes.

If the terminations were justified, great. But I’m of the philosophy that institutional memory is a value that can’t be quantified on paper, and when you throw out that knowledge without good reason you’re just making another mistake.

From my outsider perspective, my opinion is they need to calm down, stop firing people, figure out where they went wrong and fix it. The Angels have good, experienced, smart people in their organization. They didn’t all suddenly turn stupid.

1 Comment

I will be forwarding a copy of this to the Cubs and Carlos Zambrano. Anger management has seemed to do him some good, but time will certainly tell.

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